It’s been a stressful year for everyone all over the world; businesses have crashed, people have lost loved ones, and others have lost jobs, and are dealing with the financial distress that comes with it. The coronavirus has upended every aspect of life and heightened mental health concerns for most people. Given this, many people now desire to take wellness trips to renew their mental, spiritual, and physical wellbeing when the crisis is over.
When the outbreak started to worsen, health experts called for unusual health measures including social distancing, avoiding physical contact with people, and staying at home. These measures went on for several months, causing intense emotional and mental health distress for many. Add to this, the agony of losing friends and family to the disease and the pervasive anxiety and fear of contracting the virus. These emotions have remained with many people for much of the year and have revealed the need for balancing health restrictions with the need to provide adequate mental health support for people.
Consequently, people have placed a premium on boosting their physical and mental wellbeing for the days ahead. The fact that people with co-morbidities, such as high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes, have a higher risk of getting and dying from the infection has also lent significance to wellness as the world slowly recovers from the pandemic.
A recent UK survey found that more than 33 percent of UK consumers believe that health and wellbeing are a crucial part of their lives, as against 23 percent before the pandemic. Nearly half of the respondents say they crave breaks to deal with the mental health stress associated with the pandemic. For many of them (42 percent), the top priority for post-COVID-19 holidays is to recharge and rest, while 33 percent of the respondents say they would simply want to experience nature and get away from all the COVID-19 noise.
Another survey by the Wellness Tourism Association found that nearly 78 percent of people across 48 countries reported that wellness travel will be on their list of travel plans when restrictions are lifted. Most of the respondents indicated that escaping the stress of daily life in the context of the pandemic, connecting with nature, and feeling rejuvenated were the main reasons they would book a wellness trip.
This presents a great opportunity for key players in the wellness travel business to provide value to consumers and revive the industry.
In February 2020, the Global Wellness Institute projected that the wellness travel market will reach $919 billion, representing nearly 20 percent of global tourism. The institute also reported that the wellness tourism market will grow at an average annual rate of 7.5 percent by 2022. This means wellness facilities, spas, and alternative medicine centers will see an uptick in visitations and requests, reflecting the pent-up demand for wellness services as the pandemic eases.
Global key players in the tourism industry, including Accor Hotels, Rosewood Hotels, Radisson Hospitality, and Hyatt Hotels, have adopted new growth strategies to expand wellness offerings and build new business models to meet this growing demand for wellness. These hotels are now incorporating spa experiences, fitness classes, yoga sessions, and luxury picnics to allow guests to relax.
The Hotel Figueroa in Los Angeles, California, recently launched mindfulness classes, yoga, and sound baths for hotel guests looking to de-stress. CIVANA Wellness Resort and Spa in Arizona have also seen a sharp rise in the number of guests who visit to enjoy the report’s wellness-focused program. The resort offers private healing classes for people who seek private mind-soothing experiences.
Given the global acceptance of alternative medicines and holistic wellness treatments, travel destinations known for traditional medicines are also seeing a rise in demand for these wellness services.
For instance, hotels in the Maldives and Sri Lanka are already experiencing an upswing in requests for Ayurvedic and detox therapies since lockdowns were lifted in those countries. Shreyas Yoga Retreat in India stayed connected to its visitors via virtual yoga sessions and online consultations with Ayurveda and naturopathy doctors, and have begun to receive guests after local travel restrictions eased in June.
Last month, Minor Hotels in the Maldives reopened its portfolio of five island resorts, ramping up wellness facilities for guests. Kerala, which is known for its Ayurveda and herbal treatments, is also gearing up to promote its alternative medicine services for visitors in the post-pandemic era. Also, Karnataka’s Gokarna is opening new programs for tourists on wellness holidays.
The wellness tourism market has been dominated by countries in North America, Europe, and the Asia Pacific, with the US, Germany, China, France, and Japan accounting for nearly 60 percent of the global market. However, in recent years, China and India have shot up in rankings, offering Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic therapies that added a total of 39 million wellness trips between 2015 and 2017.
Traditional therapies, such as the Ayurvedic system, offer a holistic approach to treatment that involves boosting mental, spiritual, and physical health. Further, Ayurvedic therapies have been shown to boost immunity and lower the risk of chronic diseases, both of which are protective factors against the coronavirus. According to CB Insights, these holistic practices have gained global acceptance to build a market projected to rise to $8 trillion. These will be the key drivers of the surge in the industry in the coming years.
Essentially, the pandemic will cause a paradigm shift in health tourism. In the wake of the pandemic, people have become more health-conscious, and are doubling down on the narrative that health is wealth. Therefore, in the post-pandemic era, the need to maintain one’s physical, spiritual, and mental wellbeing will drive people to seek holistic approaches to health, boosting the global wellness tourism market.