by Maria K Todd, MHA PhD
CEO & Founder
Mercury Healthcare International
Secondary wellness tourism, where visitors seek wellness experiences even when it is not the primary motivation for the trip, makes up the bulk of wellness tourism and is growing even faster than tourism with it as a primary focus. What is wellness tourism? Thanks for asking! Secondary wellness tourism is where visitors add healthful destination activities, treatments, and mind-body experiences (spa treatments, fitness or gastronomy and wines) into their overall leisure and business travel.
According to research presented recently at the 2016 World Travel Market in London, secondary wellness tourists accounted for 89% of wellness tourism trips and 86% of expenditures in 2015, up from 87% of trips and 84% expenditures in 2013. The wellness stakeholder complex includes, but is not limited to more healthful dining choices to state-of-the art gyms to a broad range of special fitness activities and classes, hotel and spa fitness concierges and on-site sleep experts. The luxury hospitality segment has been testing new innovations to meet the demands of more active, health-focused travelers.
Mice & Medicine®
Mercury Health Travel's Mice & Medicine® program was designed to meet the needs of the secondary wellness tourism market. Secondary wellness tourism destinations are abundant everywhere, and do not compete on the same basis (focused primarily on finding cheap prices) as their counterpart medical and dental tourism marketers are often focused. In fact, reports shared at the event in London indicate that the United States remains the undisputed powerhouse in wellness travel, with $202 billion in revenues.
We arrange fun + wellness trips
Wellness travel can mean a visit to a spa retreat, an executive checkup, or an "unplugged" adventure where there are no cell phones, emails, or Internet connections. Wellness travel can also include activities for social good. Our coordinators will arrange service and leadership retreats in conjunction with checkups scheduled at Approved Facilities. Typically, corporate meetings for small groups of executives or managers are arranged at Approved Hotels and a team building program of some sort is added to the agenda (e.g., confidence course program, leadership retreat, or voluntary service at a village, a wildlife sanctuary, or another interesting and unusual event or learning activity). The possibilities are endless and constrained only by your preferences, imagination, timeline and budget.
We are happy to arrange special needs checkups to meet requirements for musicians, dancers, and other performing artists, commercial drivers and truckers, pilots, offshore oil rig workers, police, fire, security and military and more. Our Approved Providers, hotels and arrange comprehensive executive checkups await your arrival at destinations and 5-star resorts, worldwide. Call us to learn more.
WHERE ELSE OTHER THAN THE USA?
China showed the most growth in wellness tourism, jumping from the ninth largest market in 2013, to fourth in 2015, with a 300% increase in revenues. With China's unique wellness assets from [traditional Chinese medicine] and herbal medicine, to energy work and martial arts there is enormous potential for China to become both an international and domestic wellness tourism destination.
Other Asian destinations include Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan, and the Philippines in SE Asia.
Europe offers many wellness options, with differences based on natural assets (thermal springs, lakes, balnearias, thalassotherapy resorts and more) geography, economic development support, and destination attractiveness.. Options must be accessible to the tourist visitor who is adding the secondary wellness tourism activities to their agenda rather than at some remote location that takes hours to travel to, and hours to travel back. In the Black Sea region there are many of these options but getting to them is the constraint that gives rise to market challenges.
LATAM and the CARIBBEAN
Mexico has been designated "magic towns" that offer thermal springs, food and beverage options, and some pretty inexpensive spa treatments and therapies. Colombia, Argentina, Costa Rica, and a few other destinations seem to be making new headway in the secondary wellness tourism marketplace. I've got favorites in each place.
My go-to places for spa and wellness tourism in Africa include South Africa, and Tunisia. I've been hearing more and more about Cameroon, Kenya, and Rwanda as up and comers lately, but have not yet been invited to make the rounds and explore the options in the latter three.
Australia and New Zealand are two other countries where I believe there may be some unique secondary wellness tourism offers, but there's not much coming out in the way of marketing or fam tour offers to go check it out.
Most people may not realize just how much “secondary” wellness tourism dominates – for both number of trips and total category revenues. Eighty-seven percent of trips and 84 percent of expenditures come from secondary wellness tourism, whether it’s that business traveler who takes on-site yoga classes at a “healthy hotel,” or that person who slips in a massage at a family reunion or at an airport hotel - like the one I had in Frankfurt outside the front door of the Sheraton. The therapist was from Thailand, the price was less expensive for a full hour than my lunch in the hotel.
Domestic Wellness Tourism trumps international every time, especially in countries that cover more land mass (China, USA, Russia, India, Brazil, or Indonesia, for example). The assumption is that people tend to travel domestically than abroad and include short getaways over the weekend or a long weekend. They add these activities to a visit to a destination for a business meeting, congress, event, or family gathering, and can usually do this more frequently and at a lower cost than traveling abroad for the same outcome.