Wellness Tourism Initiative

2023 Trends

Wellness Tourism is consistently one of the fastest growing tourism segments. The Wellness Tourism Initiative is committed to helping the wellness industry understand that this is not a passing fad or static movement. It is a vibrant, creative, growing sector that will continue to lead the global tourism industry as more people worldwide seek healthier, happier lives.

TREND 1: In the search of longevity, wellness partnerships bloom

Living longer, staying active and engaged in life are fundamental wellbeing goals for so many. New partnerships are now thriving in this space with hospitality, wellness and medical companies teaming up to expand their services and enhance their value to customers. Hotel chains, especially in the luxury segment, are collaborating with clinics and medical experts. The Four Seasons Hotel Westlake in California has partnered with CHLI – California Health and Longevity Institute; the Mandarin Oriental Geneve is offering packages with the Aesthetics Clinic Geneva; while the Six Senses Ibiza introduces retreats with Functional Medicine’s Dr. Mark Hyman. Each partner has the expertise that adds value to the other but finding a way to merge these worlds in harmony can be a challenge. When large medical brands team with hospitality there is a growing expectation from the developer’s side that residential will have a role to play.  Clinique La Prairie announced its new projects in Saudi Arabia and China inclusive of residential, while SHA Wellness is heading to Mexico.

TREND 2: Making a splash – blue tourism and wellbeing

Blue Tourism relates to using beaches, oceans and coastal areas for recreational activities on and off the water. This type of tourism is highly dependent on the quality of natural ecosystems to attract visitors for mental, physical and social wellbeing pursuits.  The global coastal and maritime tourism market size was estimated at USD 2.9 trillion in 2021 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 5.7% from 2022 to 2030 * (Grand View Research, Inc. 2021) Blue tourism is a trend that continues to be redefined with tourism boards pushing sustainability as a key strategy to the longevity of their destinations and the safety of natural resources.

The Blue Tourism solutions coming to market emphasize eco, natural and community-based solutions where tourists are part of the solution rather than a contributor to the problem. Tourism fees are increasingly linked to this trend as destination governments are redistributing profits back into communities and offsetting costs for the maintenance of public facilities—the use of these taxes has shifted towards ‘building back better.’ Individual operators are also offering new bespoke on water wellness pursuits such as free diving and breathwork classes, yoga classes on paddle boards and regenerative ocean givebacks such as the successful Take 3 for the Sea global initiative.

TREND 3: Indigenous travel – a growing trend that holds value: past, present and future

Indigenous travel is all about experiences delivered and owned by Indigenous people that are focus on respecting and conserving the land and their culture through storytelling and authentic immersive offerings. What makes this such a valued and in-demand wellness travel experience is that it supports tremendous learning and growth for the traveller as well as supporting Indigenous cultures and their wellbeing traditions.  This type of travel empowers and respects local indigenous businesses and custodians of the land. According to the UN, only 5% of the world’s population are indigenous people and they manage 20-25% of the earth’s land surface.  While individual Indigenous operator-owned small businesses are increasingly in demand with travellers, larger scale operators like Australia-based adventure operator Intrepid Travel are also launching 100 new indigenous-led experiences in 2023. Costa Rica, Papua New Guinea, Guatemala, Mexico, Utah and Tanzania are all countries and regions that are gearing up to deliver more of these types of experiences. (Independent.UK, 2023)

TREND 4: Connecting to something bigger than ourselves one step at a time

Spirituality is a broad concept with room for many perspectives. The opportunity to travel and connect to something bigger than us continues to grow against a backdrop of a global pandemic and the associated mental and physical stresses experienced by so many. Spiritual journeys and pilgrimages have a long tradition in many cultures and countries, but it seems like interest is rising with younger travellers who are embracing this concept of travel to support their wellbeing.  Many are taking this spiritual journey one step at a time through walking holidays to aid in a truly immersive experience. Top wish lists include Spain’s Camino De Santiago, Japan’s Kumano Kodo, the Inca trail to Macha Pichu Peru, Adams Peak in Sri Lanka and countless journeys throughout India and Nepal.

TREND 5: Transformation + regeneration – the yin and yang of wellness travel

Regenerative travel demands continue to rise with an objective to make the travel industry more conscious and sustainability-minded. Often causing confusion, sustainable tourism aims for carbon-neutral practices, whereas regenerative travel shoots for carbon-negative.   The regenerative traveler is a pollinator, nourishing people and places they visit rather than exploiting and overwhelming them. These transformative travelers have a growth mindset and aim to uncover the deeper layers of their being. This leads to a renewed awareness that radiates positive impacts on others and the world.

The two worlds will continue to combine to build a healthy tourism industry that goes beyond just ‘remaining sustainable’ but truly making a positive contribution while travelers experience growth in themselves. It’s starting to happen and we need more of it! Lodges like Cherero Camp in Tanzania are redefining bush hospitality, employing and empowering an entire workforce of local Tanzanians including ex-poachers, allowing them a secure income and leave poaching behind. The property works with solar-powered energy, and glass refillables reduce the use of single-use plastics. As guests experience staying at the lodge, they get to engage in these initiatives which leave a mark on the people, the environment, and their hearts.

TREND 6: Let’s continue to bathe, soak and connect!

The tradition of communal bathing and using water as a healing force has been around for as long as we know, providing mental, physical and social benefits, but it seems to be gaining lots of new fans lately. The wellbeing benefits of hot and cold freshwater bathing have been researched extensively with industry expansion plans happening globally. Communal bathing developments continue in traditional locations such as Japan, Scandinavia, Korea, across Europe and Australia to name just a few.