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New Trend for 2014: Wellness Tourism

December 6, 2013 - Ernest Hohmeyer
The interest in wellness related activities is becoming big business for the travel industry.

A new term has arisen: “Wellness Tourism.” It is projected to be one of the hottest travel trends in 2014. It is great news for our region due to our history and blossoming wellness industry. To take advantage of it though, we may need to consider new partnerships among our businesses and communities.

And with climate change, the fine arts, culinary arts and wellness could become a greater opportunity.


My, have we come a long way from stereotyping who is interested in our area as simply skiers, hikers, paddlers or campers. We have all heard about recent trends in heritage tourism, agri-tourism, culinary and the arts.

We may have another opportunity, but first we may have to change some of our own stereotypes concerning wellness.

This month, New York City hosted the Global Spa and Wellness Summit. One of the highlights was a report by the Stanford Research Institute International (SRI) called “The Global Wellness Tourism Economy Study.”

In an SRI blog post, Ophelia Yeung writes that wellness tourism is not “medical tourism”, “nor is it simply super-expensive stays in exclusive spas.” Wellness Tourism is “travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one's personal wellbeing.”

What Is It

“Consumers have caught on to mindful vacations”, reports Vicky Karantzavelou in the article “Wellness Tourism Worldwide announces Top 10 Wellness Travels Trends for 2014.” Mindsets have shifted from what we might consider “typical tourist behavior” to vacations that search for deeper meaning for mind, body and soul. As noted in the Karantzavelou article the “Top 10 wellness travel trends” that were developed by the research team at Wellness Tourism Worldwide include: La Local Vita “Consumers have developed a deeper appreciation for locally relevant and authentic experiences with an emphasis on living “la local vita” (the local life).”

Breaking Bread with Wellness “Food tourism is a big trend intersecting with wellness travel.” More are taking advantage of farm tours, cooking classes and activities that “speak to the emotional, social, intellectual and sustainable aspects of well-being.”

Prescription Travel This is where doctors are suggesting “Take two weeks and call me in the morning” to help combat stress.

Slow Travel Travelers are tired of feeling like they need a vacation from their vacation and are “changing the pace in order to sip, savor and revel in the vacation experience. “

Big Business

Wellness Travel is becoming big business. According to the SRI Study the global economic impact of Wellness Tourism accounts for “nearly $439 billion and will reach nearly $679 billion by 2017.”

Other findings include America ranks #1 by a substantial margin, “for total wellness tourism trips taken”.

Also, “the United States will see the largest growth in wellness trips (adding 46.1 million more trips by 2017)”.

Finally, according to the study, “for Americans and Canadians, the most accessible and attractive wellness tourism options are short, domestic trips, weekend trips, and ‘city breaks.”

“Wellness tourists overall also tend to be “high-yield” travelers, spending 130 percent more than the average tourist” concludes the SRI study.

The SRI report also has interesting data on other fast growing tourism niches that “intersect” with wellness that is complimentary to the Adirondacks:

•Cultural Tourism: $800 billion to $1.1 trillion • Culinary Tourism: $350 billion to $550 billion • Eco / Sustainable Tourism: $325 billion to $480 billion • And Sports Tourism: $250 billion to $375 billion

The Adirondacks?

So what does this mean for us?

According to the SRI report not only does the emerging “Wellness Tourism” niche fit with the Adirondacks but other fast growing trends such as culinary, sports and eco-travel are right up our alley as well.

To take advantage of this though we may need to keep in mind several things.

Just as the largest market share in the emerging wellness tourism appears to be those that don’t seek a wellness vacation per say, travelers today don’t seem to be “single experience” customers. Yes, you have your die hard skiers, hikers etc, but today there are so many other places to choose from, it is often the other “amenities” you offer that can turn the tide. Visitors today want to be sure there are other things they can do.

What surprised SRI in their research were those travelers—whose primary purpose of their travel is NOT for wellness account for 85 percent of all wellness trips and expenditures.” They state “While it's not the sole purpose of their trip, these travelers have an interest in maintaining wellness during travel.” In other words, you are selling a "soft package" filled with other related "wellness activities."

For the wellness community in get involved with wellness tourism does it need to partner with lodging, food, local vendors, small shops and all those other experiences that make up the “Top 10 wellness travel trends”? Most of our wellness businesses are small shops just like many our other businesses in the Adirondacks. We tend to be micro-enterprises that have carved out a small “niche” in our respective industries. By ourselves can we get into this new billion dollar opportunity or would it be a more effective sell to suggest we can offer together the “Top 10 wellness trends”?

As we heard recently, we have a developing fine arts community. Perhaps it is time to gather the other “arts” in wellness, culinary and culture and tell the world we have what it takes to be their “Top 10.”

It is new opportunity but it may take all of us to benefit from its potential. Should we act now while the iron is hot?


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