How Air Travel Is Tapping Into The Soaring Wellness Tourism Market

HONG KONG, Asia — With the wellness travel market growing at an unprecedented rate, an increasing number of airlines are incorporating health and fitness into their member benefits, and creating opportunities for wellness businesses to reach a new audience.

Last month Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific opened a dedicated 700-square-foot yoga and meditation sanctuary, having recently partnered with high-end fitness company Pure Group to offer gym and yoga facilities to its frequent fliers.

In 2016 the airline also gave its in-flight meals a nutritious makeover, recruiting TV chef Daniel Green – known in the US, UK and Asia for his clean and light dining philosophy – to design a healthy menu to be enjoyed at 30,000 feet.

Speaking to the South China Morning Post, the carrier’s CEO Rupert Hogg said the company is simply responding to passenger demand, but it aligns with last year’s findings by the Global Wellness Institute that the wellness tourism sector is booming – especially in Asia.

At $639 billion, wellness tourism was identified in the 2018 Global Wellness Economy Monitor as the third largest of ten markets comprising the global wellness economy between 2015 and 2017.

Read more: Wellness Is Now A Staggering $4.2 Trillion Industry

According to the report released by the Global Wellness Institute, travellers made 830 million wellness trips in 2017, 139 million more than in 2015, with Asia making the most gains in the number of wellness trips and wellness tourism expenditures.

London’s Stansted Airport is also getting in on the act. In January the airport – rather than one specific airline – teamed up with fitness brand FRAME to offer a host of free pop-up classes ranging from flow yoga to fascia release sessions.

And this coming June the first Equinox Hotel in New York City will open its doors, promising to “redefine travel as we know it” with rooms built for the ultimate in high-performance living. From the home to the office to travel, forward-thinking brands are building out a wellness lifestyle ecosystem that supports consumers no matter where they are in the world.

Shamir Sidhu, the Founder and chairman of London’s MoreYoga, believes consumers will increasingly come to welcome – or even expect – wellness solutions where they travel and work.

“In terms of travel and in the workplace, we think the new frontier of wellness brands needs to be offering holistic health solutions so people don’t have to put their wellbeing on pause when they are travelling or at work,” Sidhu told us, revealing plans to expand MoreYoga’s current offering into the workplace and with corporate partnerships, not ruling out a potential airline or airport collaboration in the future.

Cathay’s move follows in the tradition of San Francisco International and the Qantas lounge at
Perth International, which both feature dedicated yoga areas, but at present only frequent fliers or high tier members can benefit.

Cathay has released a series of in-flight videos called “Travel Well with Yoga” that all passengers can practise in their seats, but this merely highlights the huge as yet untapped potential for airport and airline wellness, a place where health-conscious consumers are currently poorly catered for.

In the Global Wellness Institute’s 2018 Global Wellness Economy Monitor, Senior Research Fellow Ophelia Yeung predicted the places where people live, work and travel would become increasingly integrated with wellness as the wellness real estate, workplace wellness and wellness tourism markets “become less siloed and more interconnected”. Cathay’s pioneering first steps are a significant leap in that direction.

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