By Thierry Malleret, economist

Barring a catastrophic deterioration in trade and international relations around the world, tourism in general and wellness tourism in particular, will continue to thrive and expand at a much faster pace than global GDP.

As a reminder, international tourism rose from 500 million trips in 1995 to 1.3 billion last year. With the explosion of the “emerging middle class”, the number is expected to rise to 1.8 billion in 2030. The figures for wellness tourism can be more difficult to compile and subject to methodological arguments, but they are rising significantly faster than for tourism as whole.

Tourism expansion is highly concentrated: 46% of all travellers go to 100 cities/destinations where tourism is growing 25% faster than the worldwide rate. This, in turn, poses the growing problem of over-tourism.

This summer, the global backlash against too many tourists seems to have surged (at this juncture, this observation is only based on anecdotal evidence). This year in Amsterdam for example, 18.5 million tourists will have “invaded” the 850,000 inhabitants, an increase of 11% compared to last year that leaves the local authorities unable to properly manage their crowded city.

How to deal with over-tourism? Apart from the obvious solution of imposing higher tourism taxes, sustainable and inclusive practices will have to become the norm. Conserving water, becoming a carbon neutral resort or hotel, focusing on local residents and workers alike by improving their working conditions (and hopefully their income) need to become standard responses. Because it attracts wealthier and higher-spending travelers than mass tourism, the wellness tourism industry is well placed to set an example by paving the way in such key and needed practices.

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