The transition from wellness tourism to well-being tourism - Part 1

8 min reading time

Published on 15/05/23 - Updated on 15/05/23


As the world picks up again following the pause caused by the health crisis, the need to disconnect and relax has never been stronger. In an increasingly connected and stimulating society, the time-out bubbles offered by the wellness sector are more valuable than ever. A sector that is also evolving with the needs of its customers and that now goes far beyond a simple massage or sauna session. A permanent reinvention that allows this market to grow from year to year, offering ever more experiential and personalised moments in institutes and hotels.

The wellness market is doing great

According to a study conducted by Fact.MR, the global wellness tourism market is expected to grow from a value of USD 880 billion in 2023 to USD 2.3 trillion by the end of 2033. The sector is expected to expand rapidly due to the growing demand for psychological, spiritual and physical activities.

In addition, wellness tourism is divided into several branches, including medical tourism, which has been gaining in popularity in recent years. Rika Jean-François, Head of CSR at ITB Berlin, points out that "medical tourism has played an important role in restoring the health and well-being of society, especially after the pandemic" and that it "grows every year and keeps up with the latest discoveries and technologies".

A new branch is also emerging within medical tourism, a niche called healing tourism. A market that is growing steadily in China, according to a survey conducted by the Chinese financial media Yicai. Some 87% of respondents to the survey said they were willing to spend on healthy products, and 55.24% said they would participate in healing tourism this year.

These are all facets of the wellness market that attract more and more travellers each year, but which are also attracting the interest of a growing number of destinations. Costa Rica, for example, has been recognised for years as a wellness destination par excellence thanks to its rich natural heritage and the lifestyle of its inhabitants, far from the stress of the Western world.

At the same time, other destinations are trying to break into this market, such as Greece, which, according to the president of the Greek National Tourism Organisation (NTO), Angela Gerekou, "has all the conditions to become a leading health and wellness destination and a hub for related investments". She added that "the Attica region has all the conditions to become a global hub for year-round medical tourism".

The Mediterranean destination thus aims to "become the world centre of holistic healing and rejuvenation, a world centre of authentic wellness". This was corroborated by the Minister of Tourism, Vassilis Kikilias, who also indicated that a draft law was being prepared, setting the conditions for the development of health and wellness tourism. "We want medical services to go hand in hand with the tourism industry. There are great prospects in this sector, especially after the pandemic," he said.

The hotel industry puts the emphasis on wellness

As the importance of the wellness market grows, hoteliers are increasingly incorporating this component into their offerings. This has been driven in part by the health crisis, which has led many people to place greater emphasis on their physical and mental well-being. As a result, according to a recent Hilton report, 50% of travellers would like to improve their physical or mental well-being during their trip.

With this in mind, Accor recently unveiled its white paper entitled "Roadmap to a Transformative Wellness Culture", which brings together the key ideas of the Health to Wealth programme to explore the current state of the wellness sector around the world and the key issues of our time. "Accor seeks to drive transformational change by supporting the emergence of a wellness economy, with a deep desire to help individuals, businesses and communities realise their priorities for personal alignment and success," says Emlyn Brown, the group's global wellness director.

The Health to Wealth programme can also be found in the form of podcasts highlighting the importance of integrating wellness into everyday life. "Wellness is no longer a passing trend, but has become a profound movement that is now part of our lifestyles," emphasises Sébastien Bazin, CEO of Accor. This commitment is reflected in the development of the Retreat by Raffles offer, wellness stays recently launched by the brand promoting "a holistic concept that combines active wellness, a relationship with one's own health and a link with nature".

"We know that customers travel for many reasons. Today, there is not only a growing number of wellness-oriented travellers, there is also a broader definition of 'wellness'. Therefore, it is now essential to meet customers' expectations where they are in their wellness journey. It is also imperative to remain flexible. Not all guests are interested - or interested in the same way - in wellness," says Amanda Al-Masri, Hilton's Vice President of Wellness.

Attentive to the needs of its customers, the American group concluded a partnership with the connected fitness platform Peloton at the end of 2022, which introduced Peloton bikes in all Hilton hotels in the United States. An offer that is now being extended to Germany, the UK as well as Canada with Peloton bikes in fitness centres in those markets. Travellers also have access to Peloton's extensive connected fitness content, providing a digital coach as well as live or on-demand sports or relaxation classes.

Proper Hospitality is beginning a national partnership with The Class, a mindful movement studio that blends cardio, strength training and guided meditation into a musical workout. Guests of the group's hotels will enjoy complimentary in-room access to The Class' Digital Studio, including the Travel Rx collection that helps combat jet lag, sleep better and manage travel stress.

Fitness is becoming an increasingly central part of the wellness offering of hotel groups, such as the Westin brand, which has WestinWORKOUT fitness studios, a healthy meal menu called Eat Well and the Gear Lending programme. Deployed in more than 230 properties since the beginning of the year, the programme consists of a library of sports equipment kits, including the Recover & Recharge kit with massage products and the Sculpt & Flow kit.

Hilton is not neglecting the holistic aspect in the development of its wellness offer, as demonstrated by the SALT room at the Waldorf Astoria Tierra Luna resort in Arizona, which is equipped with Himalayan salt, allowing halotherapy sessions to be carried out. Meanwhile, the Waldorf Astoria Cancun and Conrad Tulum Riviera Maya have their own shaman as a butler to the souls.

Holistic offerings are also at the heart of Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park London's new offerings through a unique partnership with Clinique La Prairie, the renowned Swiss medical clinic. Offering a holistic approach to wellness, the spa's experienced Clinique-trained nutritionists offer longevity workshops and nutritional consultations. At every step, luxurious and expertly led experiences will take guests on personalised paths to their own wellbeing.

Hyatt is playing the card of more unusual offers and services through the launch of the FIND platform. A concept aimed at members of the group's loyalty programme offering them more than 200 experiences in over 85 destinations in more than 30 countries. "The FIND platform offers more opportunities to enhance the well-being of World of Hyatt members through a focus on self-discovery," said Amy Weinberg, Hyatt's senior vice president, loyalty, brand marketing and consumer insight. The platform offers a wide range of wellness activities based on three main pillars:

  •     FEEL: Emotional wellness experiences through culturally immersive workshops, tours and activities
  •     FUEL: culinary offerings designed to nourish the body with fresh local ingredients and unique spirits
  •    FUNCTION: activities and adventures designed to move, restore energy and expand the mind

Caring for guests takes on a whole new meaning these days and is a priority for hoteliers. Where spas and other facilities were once the norm, they are now being complemented by more advanced and customisable offerings and services. This opens up almost infinite possibilities for the industry, allowing them to increase their rates and improve their occupancy rates. Hotels are also major players with Hilton and Marriott having a 0.24% share of the global wellness market in 2021, followed by Four Seasons (0.19%), Accor (0.14%), Hyatt (0.13%), IHG (0.13%), and Radisson (0.11%). These figures are expected to increase in the coming years.

Thermalism undergoes a rejuvenation cure

The great pride of France with its 90 resorts, thermalism suffers from an ageing image among a large number of people. Yet it is one of the oldest branches of well-being, proving its effectiveness over the centuries. Although the vast majority of spa visitors are senior citizens, the spas are doing their utmost to adopt their offers to a wider public. Thus 95% of them now have thermoludic areas including geysers, hydro-massage courses and bubble beds, and specific treatments for the youngest.

The French spas have also all begun major modernisation work to meet the new expectations of their customers. With this in mind, the government has launched the Destination Thermale plan to provide support on the engineering and investment side. On the investment side, various players have been mobilised to upgrade the French thermal properties, including the Banque des territoires and Atout France.

37 million loan from the Banque des territoires to the France Thermes group, as part of its thermal revolution project in Vichy. A pharaonic project aiming to modernise the town's thermal offer through the renovation of the three thermal baths, Callou, Dômes and Célestins, and the attached hotels.

Atout France is also unveiling a campaign carried out with 33 spa towns, 4 Regional Tourism Committees, 1 Departmental Tourism Committee and 3 spa tourism operators called "Villes d'eaux, villes de bien-être". Launched within the framework of the "Thermal Destinations" plan financed by the Avenir Montagnes and Destination France plans, the campaign aims to bring a new look to the spa towns in order to
diversify their clientele. By taking the gamble of renewing their offer, by associating care, well-being and fitness to meet new expectations, the French thermal spas hope to attract a younger clientele.

At the same time, mountain spas wish to bet on well-being in order to diversify the tourist offer and address a wider clientele, while embracing the current aspirations for a greener tourism. Among the 43 resorts in the region, 4 types of profile are emerging in order to best structure a mountain wellness offer: "disconnection" destinations, "relaxation" destinations, "health" destinations and "resourcing" destinations. A transition towards well-being which would thus pass by a collective mobilization to develop a common identity "mountain spa" which could be embodied in "a charter of the customer path".

The players in the sector are also acting on their own scale to give their sector a facelift. Like the Grand Hôtel Thalasso & Spa Saint-Jean-De-Luz, which has chosen to offer a special cure for men. Called "Svelte and tonic for men", this 5-day cure promises its clients to regain their shape and vitality through treatments adapted to their needs.

The Thermes Adour group is also following the CSR trend by deciding to remove the 170 tonnes of plastic film used for massages and mud applications from their treatment areas this month. This is an encouraging first step that suggests many other actions in this direction in an industry that consumes a lot of water and energy.



Hotel Group

  • Accor France
  • Offres d'emplois 32 currents job offers


Hotel Group

  • Hilton United-States
  • Offres d'emplois 12 currents job offers
Hyatt Hotels Corporation

Hyatt Hotels Corporation

Hotel Group

  • Hyatt Hotels Corporation United-States
For further

Every week, the HON team brings you an expert look at the world of hospitality. By becoming a member, you will have access to a complete ecosystem: exclusive content, jobs, etc.


Sign up to add topics in favorite. Sign up to add categories in favorite. Sign up to add content in favorite. Register for free to vote for the application.

Already signed up? Already signed up? Already signed up? Already registered?