How is wellness tourism defined?
The definition of wellness tourism, according to the Global Wellness Institute, is “travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal wellbeing.” With overeating, lack of sleep, and other unhealthy habits that are associated with today’s travel, wellness trips are a chance to preserve and improve our holistic health.
Medical tourism is different than wellness tourism.
Oftentimes, consumers as well as destination marketers confuse medical tourism and wellness tourism as one in the same. In fact, they are not. The confusion stems from a lack of understanding of these markets and inconsistent use of these terms by destinations, government organizations, and promotion agencies. Sometimes, the term “health tourism” is used to encompass both medical and wellness tourism. Using this blanket term to cover services from both markets – from open heart surgery and dental cleanings for medical tourism and destination spas and yoga retreats for wellness tourism – results in this confusion. These markets operate in two different market sectors and cater to different consumers.
To understand the difference between medical tourism and wellness tourism, let us look at the two markets on a continuum.
- Poor health, injury and illness are the conditions treated in the medical paradigm.
- When you travel to another place to receive surgery or a dental treatment because it is more affordable, higher quality, or not available at home, you are embarking on medical tourism.
- When you travel to maintain a healthy lifestyle, reduce stress, prevent disease, and enhance your wellbeing, you are embarking on wellness tourism.
There is, however, some overlap with medical and wellness tourism in that some of the services, such as DNA testing or executive checkups. Both types of tourism rely on a region’s fundamental tourism and hospitality foundation and amenities.
Destinations each have something distinctive to offer wellness travelers.
Wellness travel is not the same at every destination. Each destination has something unique to offer in relation to wellness, combined with the destination’s culture, natural resources, and foods. A generic massage, exercise class, or smoothie might be enough for some wellness travels. But, more experienced travelers, oftentimes millennials, look for destinations that have something different to offer. What they have to offer may include the following: specialized health programs they can’t find at home, indigenous healing practices; ancient/spiritual traditions; native plants and forests; special muds, minerals, and waters; vernacular architecture; street vibes; local ingredients and culinary traditions; and history and culture.
Local benefit from wellness tourism.
The wellness tourism economy goes beyond the typical wellness activities, including spas, wellness retreats, anti-aging therapies and technologies, thermal/mineral springs and boot camps. Wellness travelers want to continue their health regime while traveling. This can include eating healthy, exercise/fitness routines, mind-body practices, nature experiences, and connections with local people and culture. This creates a need for businesses like yoga studios, gyms and fitness centers, healthy food stores/markets, events, arts and crafts, museums, and many others.
Because destinations, many times, have a seasonality of visitors, wellness tourism offers businesses the opportunity to offer services not associated with the seasons. For example, ski resorts can offer hiking and other outdoor activities in the summertime.