Forecast to reach $919 billion by 2022, the wellness travel sector is growing at more than twice the speed of tourism overall, opening up a wealth of opportunities for established businesses and budding entrepreneurs to snag their share of the market.
Wellness travellers are willing to spend big on destinations that cater to a desire to boost their wellbeing, whether that’s through wellness-oriented pursuits, health-focused amenities or eco-conscious practices. For travel brands that can offer the promise of guests leaving healthier than when they arrived, the pay-off can be significant. According to a recent report by the Global Wellness Institute, in 2017, on average wellness travellers spent $1,528 per trip, 53% more than the typical international tourist.
“Wellness, hospitality and travel are now converging in unprecedented ways, from the ‘healthy hotel’ concept going utterly mainstream to airports, airlines, and cruises injecting so much wellness programming, to the profusion of ever-more-creative wellness destinations, retreats and tours,” noted Katherine Johnston and Ophelia Yeung, GWI Sr. Researchers.
“The wellness concept is transforming almost every aspect of the travel industry—and wellness tourism will only grow faster in years ahead, as it lies at the powerful intersection of two massive, booming industries: the $2.6 trillion tourism industry and the $4.2 trillion wellness market.”
For Dervla Louli, founder of online booking portal and publication Compare Retreats, its growth has enabled her to fill a gap in the market, by providing consumers with in-depth reviews written by certified health and fitness professionals about the best wellness retreats and spa hotels in the world.
Having experienced firsthand the lack of trustworthy information related to wellness retreats and healthy holidays, she established the platform to meet consumer demand, with a vision to position it as a leading authority on the multi-billion dollar wellness travel sector.
Thanks to Compare Retreats, consumers can now read expert reviews via its online magazine, book a wellness retreat through its booking portal or get in touch with its wellness travel agency for a more personalised experience.
The business, which started life in 2018 has already been internationally recognised in publications such as Forbes and The Times, and in less than a year has worked with 150 of the world’s premier wellness hotels and resorts, ranging from traditional wellness retreats in Austria to luxury spa hotels in the Maldives including AMAN, COMO Hotels and Resorts, Mandarin Oriental Hotels, Four Seasons, and many more.
According to Louli, a former Digital Editor for Hong Kong Tatler, her strategy has been to partner only with brands and properties she’s been an existing client or fan of, in a bid to keep things authentic and credible.
“Our focus on quality over quantity, and the fact that every wellness retreat and resort in our invite-only collection has been vetted by a certified health and fitness professional,” has also helped the brand to resonate with consumers, she tells Welltodo.
Over 35,000 wellness travel enthusiasts per month currently use Compare Retreats’ digital channels to research and book their upcoming wellness travel. The brand’s luxury wellness travel club, which is segmented into major cities around the globe including Hong Kong, Singapore, New York, London, Dubai and Sydney has also grown to a collective of over 5,000 members.
Having cultivated its community organically, by offering valuable content and wellness travel advice that can’t be found elsewhere, Louli says that consumers have been drawn to them, thanks in part to the brand’s strong organic SEO strategy.
As a digitally native brand, creating a cohesive brand identity across all of its platforms, and following a rule that anything it posts on social media should inspire, inform or motivate its community have also helped the business to carve out a strong identity, she says.
Now, having set its foundations, Louli tells Welltodo that 2019 is the brand’s year for growth.
“There are approximately 15,000 wellness retreats happening in different forms annually around the world, and that number is growing every day but we will continue to focus on the leading 100-200 properties in this category,” she reveals.
“We will continue to focus on inbound and outbound travel in the Asia region and offer the best advice, rates and benefits to our community and clients too. The opportunities surrounding us are incredible, and we’re looking forward to seizing every one.”
Here Louli reveals the key wellness travel trends she’ll be keeping an eye on……….
Wellness travel in the age of digital
I’m particularly excited about shoppable experiences on Instagram which I hope will happen soon. I think social media and digital advancements in the travel industry have made the world a lot smaller and encouraged people to travel to places they never would have before.
Asia is poised for growth
Asia is a region to watch over the next decade as it is the fastest growing market in the wellness tourism industry both in terms of trips and expenditure according to the Global Wellness Institute.
Wellness is taking flight
Seeing what’s happening with wellness on private jets and airlines is fascinating. Cathay Pacific have Patrick Creelman teaching poses on a yoga channel, Canyon Ranch is now offering wellness services on Singapore Airlines, and I’m getting enquiries about how private jets can incorporate wellness into their journeys.
Consumers are driving new concepts
Compare Retreats clients would like to see more wellness retreats and spa hotels in the Maldives, more properties with plastic-free/sustainable policies and retreats focusing on improving mental health.