Wellness Tourism: Creating Better Experiences, Increasing Revenue & Boosting Brands

By Camille Hoheb Managing Director, Wellness Tourism Worldwide | July 08, 2018

There's no disputing that wellness has moved from a trendy travel category to an industry powerhouse, changing the way airports, airlines, hotels and destination marketers respond to customer's physical and emotional needs and expectations. This article is based on previous research with important insights from other industry thought leaders along with a few new insights of my own. As a new travel category, it's still evolving and being shaped; therefore this is a critical time for wellness tourism. How it is understood NOW, will have a lasting impact on how it is being developed and promoted, affecting consumers, businesses, destinations and their communities.

Outdated Views of Wellness Tourism Require A New Perspective

Recent articles suggest that spas provide fragmented and disconnected services with a cookie cutter approach to programs. "Wellness washing" has crept up as a threat by labeling products and services as wellness, when they are not, as was the case when a major spa marketing company touted "wellness deals" including bikini waxes and hair color.

Prevailing definitions are already outdated. Take for example, "Wellness tourism is travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining one's personal wellbeing" focusing on a single person, reinforcing one dimension, when in fact, wellness is multi-dimensional. Humans are social animals, requiring connection to thrive. Loneliness is now considered a great danger to personal health and a growing threat to community wellness. Wellness is about how we relate to ourselves, to others and to the planet.

Introducing A New Definition Of Wellness Tourism

To move away from an outdated self-centered approach in a manner that addresses wellness as fully-functioning in the world, I'd like to introduce a new definition of wellness tourism based on a year-long review of wellness concepts, positive psychology, motivation theory and achievement theory, first published in Wellness Travel: Shaping America's Health & Economy.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.