Wellness for all

09/02/2015 By Max Clapham

9 February 2015

It’s February in England. It’s a bit cold and a bit wet. Memories of the Christmas over-indulgence still linger. And optimistic resolutions for a fitter, healthier year with a better work/life balance have already been scuppered. Your mind and body are crying out for…. a ‘Wellness’ break.

If this is the case for you, you are not alone. Our findings from one of the first dedicated UK studies into Wellness Tourism revealed that 1 in 5 Britons now go on a wellness break at least once a year (research conducted on behalf of the National Coastal Tourism Academy (NCTA) at the end of 2014).

Wellness Tourism is very much in vogue at the moment and there remains a misconception that Wellness Tourism is the preserve of the elite. Picture the wealthy flying off for a spot of pampering, detox and a commune with their beautiful inner selves, to retreats at the foothills of the Himalayas, on the banks of Lake Garda or in dedicated Caribbean resorts. A lucrative niche for sure, however our study revealed as many C2DE Britons taking annual wellness breaks as ABC1. And interestingly, the majority of Wellness Tourism taken by Britons is actually taking place within the UK.

We have an increasingly vibrant array of hotels and retreats up and down the country catering in part for Wellness Tourists in the guise of the classic spa break, yet clearly the sector is much more multi-faceted than that…

In the study with the NCTA we defined a wellness holiday as one where ‘the primary purpose of the break was to take part in activities and/or use facilities that enhance health and well-being’. This definition may be too broad for some, too narrow for others, but one we believe works by correctly putting the emphasis on the consumer and their driving motivation for going on the holiday in the first place. It can encompass attributes of the classic spa and beauty, yoga/mediation and healthy eating type break, but also more generalist holidays focused clearly on mind-body wellbeing, fitness, eco/adventure and personal or spiritual growth. These are trip motivations that as a society we are much more comfortable and engaged with than ever before.

In 2013 SRI International valued Wellness Tourism as a $438.6billion global market and a rapidly growing niche within the $3.2 trillion global tourism economy. They estimated it then made up about 6% of all domestic and international trips and 14% of all expenditures. In our survey, focused on the domestic coastal tourist economy of the UK, we estimated 8% of such trips were the result of dedicated Wellness Tourism but that they also injected a like-for-like premium into local economies compared to other holiday types.

It is not difficult to see why the Wellness Tourist can bring more value to a local economy than other holiday makers. It is the type of holiday where one looks to participate more with the local cultural, sporting, adventure, learning/development, spa/beauty, spiritual opportunities on offer . Plus, for a significant minority, and from all backgrounds, a wellness holiday involves upgrading the level of accommodation people normally stay in. Crucially, no-one really opts to downgrade when booking a Wellness break.

It begs the question as to why more is not being done to position the regions of natural beauty around the UK as Wellness destinations. In our study the Lake District emerged as the only UK destination considered as possessing the attributes of a good Wellness destination by the majority of Britons. The truth is many other places have the potential to be rated so highly, not least many of our coastal regions.

Developing a strong wellness positioning in the marketplace should not surely have a downside. The positioning should help the off-season economy as well as bring in well-being infrastructure that can support deprived local communities.

The ‘Wellness Tourist’ lives inside everyone. People go on a number of different types of holiday each year and by and large all holiday makers seek to enhance well-being in some shape or form. This current tourism niche sits astride age, gender and socio economic backgrounds and there is little doubt the wellness attributes of a destination will only become more dominant in all holiday decision making in years to come.

Improving a destination’s wellness proposition should improve the perception of that destination for all visitors. For example, in certain cases achieving a strong wellness brand might simply involve re-presenting services rather than changing the quality of visitor experiences already provided. The key as ever is public/private partnerships working together in their regions to achieve these common goals and to project better sense of their region’s wellness offer. So that next time that you or I envisage a Wellness break, it should in fact be St. Ives, the Cotswolds, Buxton, and even Bournemouth or Scarborough that flash before our eyes!

You can find out more information on Wellness and other trends.  The latest version of our free report, Holiday Trends 2018, is available now.