by Anne Dimon
Wellness Tourism, as we know it today, is a relatively new segment of the very broad tourism industry. While the concept of wellness travel began to emerge around 2004 and 2005, the WTA and the Global Wellness Institute (GWI) agree that the terms and concepts around ‘wellness tourism’ really started taking off in 2008. Then in 2010, GWI research benchmarked wellness tourism as a $106 billion global industry. Their 2018 survey of the industry predicted that by 2022, global wellness tourism would near the $1 trillion mark. While the pandemic has taken its toll on the global tourism industry, it is believed that as the industry recovers, personal health will continue to be a top priority and the wellness sector may recover faster than other areas of the tourism industry.
Wellness Tourism vs. Wellness Travel
While the term “wellness tourism” is often interchanged with the term “wellness travel,” the two are not synonymous. The WTA defines Wellness Tourism as “A specific division of the global tourism industry that is defined by the common goal of marketing natural assets and/or activities primarily focused on serving the wellness-minded consumer and those who want to be.” Wellness Travel, on the other hand, is defined as “Travel that allows the traveler to maintain, enhance or kick-start a healthy lifestyle, and support or increase one’s sense of wellbeing.”
Wellness Tourism vs Medical Tourism
Other terms that tend to be confused are Wellness Tourism and Medical Tourism. The WTA looks at wellness tourism as being more ‘proactive’ with one’s own health and wellbeing and medical tourism being more ‘reactive’; reactive as in treating a medical condition or providing procedures that are more ‘invasive’, such as surgery. The two meet under the banner of Medical Wellness. The overlap occurs when and where the medical industry offers scientifically-supported proactive testing that can help identify a predisposition to a medical condition or an existing medical issue prior to symptoms being present, plus advise the client on how to possibly reverse the condition before it develops or worsens.
Since the WTA was launched with the mission to bring clarity and standards to the industry, one of our initial projects was to introduce the industry’s first Glossary of definitions which covers the various terms currently being used.
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Anne Dimon is co-founder, President/CEO of the WTA and the owner/editor of Travel To Wellness launched in 2004 as the first editorially-driven online travel magazine for the wellness-minded consumer.