Wellness Policy for WELLNESS IN TOURISM


Tourism is a massive global industry and a well-established field of government policymaking. While tourism brings valuable economic benefits to communities and regions around the world, it can also have downsides, such as damage to the environment and the local way of life when it is not properly managed. The COVID-19 pandemic brought enormous challenges to the tourism industry – disrupting visitor flows, decimating revenues, shrinking the labor force, and increasing business costs. After more than a decade of rampant growth, the pandemic also delivered a pause that spurred many to rethink their approach to tourism. On the supply side, many destinations and governments refocused their priorities toward responsible and sustainable tourism over mass tourism. On the demand side, travelers began to reflect on their intentions, values, habits, and priorities during travel, especially regarding health and wellness. Both of these developments point toward a growing convergence between wellness and tourism.

GWI’s policy toolkit on wellness in tourism introduces a new paradigm, which broadens the focus from wellness tourism to wellness in tourism. It advocates for policy approaches that ensure wellness and tourism will be mutually reinforcing: How can wellness support tourism? And, how can tourism support the wellness of travelers, destinations, and local residents? Even though wellness tourism has been a rapidly growing segment within tourism for more than a decade, it is still not well-understood by destinations and policymakers, and it is often viewed narrowly as visiting luxury spas and attending yoga retreats. GWI’s toolkit is NOT a wellness tourism development strategy that focuses on developing high-end resorts and destination spas and attracting high-spend tourists. Rather, the aim is to unite the concepts of wellness and tourism in the broadest sense, and to present policy ideas that can help everyone – from visitors to residents to businesses – reap more benefits from tourism.

Wellness tourism is sometimes conflated with sustainable and responsible tourism, or with other niches such as ecotourism. While wellness tourism often overlaps with these segments, they are not the same thing. The strength of wellness tourism is linked to the wellness of the destination. When wellness tourism is done the right way, it should enhance the quality of place for tourists and the quality of life for local residents. As such, wellness tourism can be a useful entry point to align the interests and values of many different stakeholders, including businesses, governments, local residents, and communities. Bringing more wellness to tourism will strengthen the overall tourism sector while simultaneously protecting its assets and its sustainability.

The wellness in tourism toolkit is designed to help anyone interested in policy approaches that embed wellness broadly into tourism, placemaking, and local development. The policy strategies presented cut across wellness tourism, sustainable and responsible tourism, equitable wellness, quality of life, placemaking, and placekeeping. As such, they can be pursued by those working in hospitality and tourism businesses, tourism promotion, destination management, economic development; those representing the well-being of workers and the community; and those advocating for the protection of cultural heritage and the environment.

Six Areas of Policy Action for WELLNESS IN TOURISM

GWI has identified six broad areas of policy action where stakeholders can promote wellness in tourism. These actions are summarized below and are explored in detail in our 2024 report, Wellness Policy Toolkit: Wellness In Tourism.

1. Expand the reach and impacts of wellness tourism.

Issue: Many businesses, governments, communities, and travelers have a narrow understanding of wellness tourism.
Action: Promote a broader understanding of wellness tourism and its potential among all stakeholders.

1.1. Expand the narrative on what businesses and assets are part of a destination’s wellness tourism offerings.

1.2. Integrate wellness tourism with broader tourism and regional/community development, for the benefit of both locals and visitors.

1.3. Use clear language and marketing approaches to differentiate offerings for wellness tourism, medical tourism, and hybrid medical wellness, in order to reduce consumer confusion.

2. Integrate the local economy with the wellness tourism economy.

Issue: Wellness tourism offerings are often siloed and separated from local consumers, businesses, and communities.
Action: Increase local business and consumer participation in the wellness tourism economy.

2.1. Strengthen local business participation in the wellness tourism value chain.

2.2. Support and welcome local consumers at wellness tourism establishments.

3. Improve the wellness of the tourism workforce.

Issue: The people who work to improve the wellness of others are not well themselves.
Action: Protect workers from harm and support their holistic well-being at workplaces.

3.1. Enforce labor and human rights protections for tourism, hospitality, and wellness workers.

3.2. Educate and engage employers in tourism, hospitality, and wellness sectors to elevate worker well-being.

3.3. Support career development for tourism, hospitality, and wellness workers.

4. Embed equity and sustainability in wellness tourism development and stewardship.

Issue: Destinations and local communities are often the collateral damage of the tourism economy, including wellness tourism.
Action: Protect environmental, socioeconomic, and cultural assets in wellness tourism development.

4.1. Engage all stakeholders to develop and implement a responsible destination stewardship strategy.

4.2. Craft a unique and authentic story of the destination.

4.3. Protect local and indigenous wellness assets.

5. Support wellness tourism with up-to-date wellness market knowledge and regulations.

Issue: Rapidly evolving wellness sectors challenge governments and policies to keep up.

Action: Collect and track important metrics, market information, and scientific research to inform policymaking for dynamic wellness sectors.

5.1. Educate wellness travelers on the regulatory and safety issues for hallucinogenic and cognitive enhancing drugs.

5.2. Update regulations and follow international best practices for regulating health and safety at thermal/mineral springs bathing establishments.

6. Ensure that technology enhances wellness for travelers.

Issue: Technology is pervasive in tourism, but it does not always enhance the wellness or experiences of tourists.
Action: Use technology wisely to support wellness tourism and the wellness of tourists.

6.1. Employ technology to improve communications, promote healthy behaviors, and enhance visitor interactions with the destination.

6.2. Protect the digital well-being of tourists.


For more information:

    • To learn more about wellness policy, see GWI’s 2022-2025 Wellness Policy Series. This series is a compilation of nine reports, which aim to define wellness policy, articulate why it is needed, and provide a framework and set of strategies for implementing wellness policies across many domains of wellness.
    • In 2018, GWI released an updated Global Wellness Tourism Economy report, which provides in-depth definitions, analysis, and data for the sector.
    • GWI’s 2020 white paper Resetting the World With Wellness: Travel and Wonder explores why the rapid growth of travel has resulted in an unhealthy industry and how wonder, awe, and connection can be wellness-enhancing and help us reconnect with our purpose for travel in a post-COVID-19 future.
    • GWI’s wellness tourism data are updated and released every few years in the Global Wellness Economy Monitor. For the most recent data and research, see Wellness Economy Data Series.