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Wellness tourism: tourists looking for new experiences

More and more travellers want to combine discovery and well-being during their holidays. This quest for wellbeing involves not only the choice of destination but also the choice of accommodation, and hospitality actors have understood that this market is growing rapidly and are developing more and more offers to meet the expectations and needs of these tourists. Thermal baths, spas, meditation retreats and yoga courses are all services offered to tourists wishing to fully recharge their batteries during a trip. What is the future for wellness tourism? What offers and services should be developed to best meet the needs of this clientele? How can we position ourselves in a market where there are already many actors?

A constantly evolving market

The Global Wellness Institute defines wellness tourism as "travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or improving personal well-being". However, there are two categories of wellness travellers, distinguished according to their intentions. While the so-called "primary" traveller considers wellness as the main motivation for the choice of destination and activities, the "secondary" traveller only seeks to include some wellness activities during their stay. This second category represents the majority of travellers. This distinction is important as the two profiles have different needs and expectations.

According to the latest figures published by the Global Wellness Institute, the global wellness market was worth €4,040 billion in 2017, with its value growing annually by +6.4% between 2015 and 2017. The wellness tourism market is worth over 609 billion euros. According to the Institute's figures, wellness tourism grew by 6.5% per year from 2015 to 2017, twice as fast as tourism as a whole. The institute expects growth of more than 59% and predicts that the turnover of this market will be around 7 billion euros in 2025.

Every year, wellness tourism has new enthusiasts who want to take care of their bodies and minds. A trend that resonates with the evolution of society. Indeed, living in an increasingly stressful and connected world with new technologies, the need to cut oneself off from this daily routine and to find the essentials is increasingly felt. The health crisis has accentuated this need to reconnect with oneself and with the environment. Nowadays, we even talk about "better-being", a trend that can be seen as the evolution of well-being.

According to a study published this year by Booking, health and wellness travel is a major trend for the year 2022. For example, 79% of French people surveyed for the study say that travelling contributes to their mental and emotional health more than other forms of rest and relaxation. 76% believe that their emotional health improves when they know they are going on holiday and 25% want to leave their comfort zone to reset the clock.

In December 2019, Accor published a strategic 2020 white paper in which the wellness business was listed as a priority. The group estimated that the budget of customers willing to indulge in wellness stays should enjoy a 178% increase over the year just ended.

An analysis of European traveller behaviour, using ITG Group's Travellyze tool, reveals that health and wellness are of great importance when Europeans choose a travel destination. Indeed, of the 23,000 travellers taking part in the survey, almost three out of ten tourists want to experience health and wellness when they travel. In terms of reference markets, the Spanish, Italians and Germans lead the way. Furthermore, wellness is no longer just for the wealthy, with 28% of European travellers who want this service when travelling earning between €18,000 and €36,000 per year and investing less than €3,000 in their travel.

Destinations focus on wellness

According to Atout France, France is one of the top destinations for wellness tourism thanks to its tradition of water-based treatments. Indeed, thermal baths, thalassotherapy and spas are legion in the country. France ranks fourth among the world's destinations in terms of revenue and fifth in terms of visitor numbers. France thus benefits from an image as an attractive wellness destination. 93% of customers have a positive image of France. They appreciate the good quality and diversity of its offer, as well as its upmarket positioning.

France is the world's leading thalassotherapy destination today, with 56 centres spread over its three mainland coastlines. The country also has nearly 4,000 spas, some of which are integrated into numerous thalassotherapy or balneotherapy institutes to complement water treatments. But France is above all renowned worldwide for its thermal waters, with no less than 89 resorts and 109 thermal properties in operation. Occitanie, Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes are the main thermal regions.

But this type of tourism is not the prerogative of France, other countries wish to position themselves more strongly on this market like Greece. As the Greek Minister of Tourism, Vassilis Kikilias, explained, his "main objective is the development of thermal or wellness tourism, which will attract new visitors, improve the sustainable management of thermal springs, contribute to the creation of added value to the GDP and to extraversion". To this end, it is envisaged that the company "Thermal Springs of Greece SA" will be established to design and oversee the development of the country's wellness tourism while ensuring that the revenues remain in the country. With funding guaranteed by the EU's Recovery and Resilience Facility, the company will be able to manage the country's thermal springs where municipalities cannot and distribute the revenues to local communities.

Some destinations are developing their brand image around wellness and have a national strategy. Such as Costa Rica's tourism board, which in 2018 developed the "Wellness Pura Vida" approach, inspired by its famous slogan Pura Vida. This approach is based in particular on the principles of responsible tourism, as the organisation wishes to make the local communities benefit from the spin-offs of this strategy. The actions are centred around the promotion of the wellness offer proposed by the inhabitants and that dedicated to local and indigenous gastronomy.

A large majority of American states also promote this tourism on their websites. One example is the Beverly Hills tourism office, which in 2017 launched a summer campaign entitled "City of Wellth", a neologism created from the words wellbeing and wealth, taking advantage of the health habits already well established among the city's inhabitants. The tourist office and hotels offered events, activities and themed packages. In addition, a quiz on the destination's website allowed people to find out their lifestyle score, and then recommended activities in the city that could make it healthier.

Customer well-being at the heart of hospitality actors' concerns

According to INSEE figures, 6% of 5-star hotels and 17% of 4-star hotels have a spa. This is a space that is increasingly sought after by travellers to enjoy a break from the daily grind during their stays, whether short or long. As a result, hotels and resorts that focus on wellness are on the rise. And partnerships between hotel operators and the fitness, spa, nutrition and cosmetics sectors are becoming increasingly common. It is now essential to distinguish oneself from the competition, so properties are developing environments and designs inspired by nature and promoting relaxation.

At AccorHotels, wellness has five dimensions: 

  • Nutrition 
  • Room environment 
  • Movement (physical exercise)
  • Spas
  • Mindfulness (meditation programmes and locations)

At the beginning of 2022, the largest intramural spa in France opened its doors after more than 14 months of work. The Lyon-based independent hotel operator Arteloge has invested 7 million euros in the expansion of the Lyon Plage Spa adjacent to the Lyon Métropole Hotel. This extension is synonymous with a move upmarket and new services offering an exclusive experience to its customers. 600 m² are now dedicated to well-being with, in particular, 3 hammams, 3 saunas, 3 sanariums, footbaths, a Stalagmit ice fountain and 6 infrared chairs. The aquatic area is completed by the Grotto, a 200 m² mineral pool equipped with waterfalls, hydromassage jets and bubble beds. The offer is completed by a new group coaching room and various areas dedicated to sports activities as well as a new 450 m² area dedicated to well-being and beauty treatments with 8 cabins. Guests can enjoy the property's signature treatments.

In the land of La Dolce Vita, Rocco Forte Hotels has been hosting Irene Forte spas since April 1, 2022, in four properties: Villa Igiea, Hotel Rocco Forte in Palermo, Verdura Resort in Sicily, Masseria Torre Maizza in Puglia, and Hotel della Città in Rome. Each spa works with the Sustainable Spa Association and has partnered with positive change providers such as First Mile to recycle all products, and B-Corp certified WAMI for water supply. Other sustainable initiatives include partnering with local artisans, eradicating single-use plastic and minimising the spa's carbon footprint. The spas offer a range of treatments, including therapies for cancer patients and those recovering from illness in partnership with The Amethyst Trust. The announcement of Irene Forte Spas follows the launch of Irene Forte Skincare two years ago. The core ingredients are harvested from the Verdura organic farm in Sicily, and the range now includes 26 products.

Across the Channel, London's Berkeley Hotel has teamed up with MOSS of the ISLES for a three-month wellness collaboration. From 1 March 2022, skincare brand MOSS of the ISLES will offer an exclusive range of body care products at the property's Bamford Wellness Spa. MOSS of the ISLES products are vegan, chemical-free and not tested on animals, and contain a majority of natural ingredients.

The Parisian hotel Chouchou has teamed up with Holissence to offer its guests a holistic aquatic experience. The property's three private baths are transformed into "cocoons of relaxation" thanks to the wellness expert Holissence, who has created two sensory escapes especially for Chouchou: Sound Healing and Aquatic Sophrology. The first experience combines body massages and sound baths while the second is a dynamic relaxation method combined with the benefits of water on the body and mind.

Mama Shelter has decided to launch its own organic skin care range called "Mama Skin". Developed in collaboration with the French brand Absolution, Mama Skin products will be available in all Mama Shelter properties worldwide. The range already includes a solid bar for various uses, a solid hand soap and a body cream. The products will be available in the room and for sale in all Mama Shops on site as well as on the e-shop. 

We are a forward-thinking brand, determined to push the boundaries of hospitality. With this new range of cosmetics, we wanted to amplify our environmental commitments already made within Mama. Solid is more than a trend, it is a concrete response to the environmental challenges of tomorrow. 

Cédric Gobilliard, Managing Director of Mama Shelter

The Maria Galland Paris brand, which is already present in many international spas, now wants to attract French hotel operators. Some hospitality actors are already working with the brand, such as the Relais et Châteaux, Relais du Silence and The Leading Hotels chains, as well as Swissôtels. Marie Galland has created a new menu of specific treatments for spas as well as a brand new body line "Source d'Énergie", launched in early January 2022.

Wellness experiences and retreats

In 2017, Hyatt acquired Miraval Resorts & Resorts, one of the leading brands in the wellness and spa industry. And this year, Miraval unveils the "Wellness Destinations" programme developed in partnership with luxury automotive brand Lexus. This new programme offers personalised wellness packages at Miraval resorts and spas, combined with complimentary transportation for each guest. This one-day experience is available at all three Miraval resorts, located in Arizona, Austin and the Berkshires, and includes a Lexus vehicle for use throughout the experience.

We are thrilled to partner with Lexus to offer our guests exclusive driving experiences at each of our resorts and spas. These new and unique offerings allow us to immerse our guests in natural and scenic off-property settings that encourage outdoor exploration and inner reflection space. We look forward to continuing our mission of providing authentic experiences that focus on the physical, spiritual and mental well-being of our guests. 

Susan Santiago, Head of Miraval Operations at Hyatt

Minor Hotels Group is offering a journey to mindfulness with holistic wellness practitioners at Anantara Hotels in Phuket. Known for its palm-fringed coastline and turquoise waters, Phuket, Thailand, is fast becoming the destination of choice for wellness travellers. Designed to complement Anantara's network of Masters of Wellness and in-house therapists, the new five-week residency programmes tap into the unique skills of three guest practitioners. Yogi Dheeraj Patwal who has experience in healing, breathing and spiritual traditions. Paramjot Singh Khalsa and Evelyn Wörz will offer lifestyle coaching and energy and sound healing therapies. Guests can choose individual therapies, such as "Touch of Soul" and "Office Syndrome", from the à la carte menu or opt for a three to seven day "Mindfulness Journey" package, which combines a selection of wellness services and spa treatments.

Terres de Yogascope, created by Léa Coutaye, offers coliving weekends to combine personal and professional development. The almost self-service programme alternates daily yoga and meditation classes with discussions with "Inspirational Speakers", all with full vegetarian board in an environment with all the facilities to allow teleworking. This offer corresponds to the rise of digital nomads but also to the normalisation of teleworking. Her innovative concept allows to combine working hours with yoga and/or meditation retreats. Léa Coutaye's aim is to "create journeys for the body and mind in sublime settings, where the joy of living breathes".

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