Consumers are seeking whole-body health and wellness as well as fun and relaxation on their spa vacations, reports Amadeus, asking how this trend can improve the wellness of travel agents' business.
The wellness trend has piggybacked onto medical tourism, a $20 billion market that’s estimated to grow to $100 billion by 2012, Amadeus says, citing data from the Medical Tourism Association (MTA).
Around 1.3 million Americans journeyed abroad for health care and medical procedures in 2008, the MTA estimates, with the number expected to double in 2010. The synthesis of medical and wellness tourism lines up with the prediction of a “spa hybrid” trend, Amadeus says.
The spa-travel trend is shifting to “prevention” instead of mere pampering, SpaFinder president Sue Ellis said at a recent online conference hosted by the University of California-Irvine and cited by Amadeus. “Against the backdrop of a global healthcare crisis, prevention is poised to be the new ‘it’ word of the spa industry in 2010 and beyond,” Ellis predicts.
Since the early days of the Roman Empire, people have trekked to faraway, exotic destinations for the express purpose of pampering themselves with treatments such as mineral and mud baths, aromatherapy and massage, Amadeus says. Today’s consumers are continuing that centuries-old tradition, but many are now adding holistic health and wellness to their list of expectations. Spas and resorts continue to offer pampering services, but many are now also offering wellness packages that include yoga, therapeutic meditation, acupuncture, Pilates and more, according to Amadeus.
In search of such preventive health measures, consumers are flocking to destination spas that offer mind and body wellness vacations. Consumers also yearn for stillness to counter the stress and noise of their daily lives, says Betsy Isroelit, Spafinder’s senior vice president of marketing and communications.
“People want to pay and pay well to have peace and quiet in their insane lives,” Isroelit says. “More and more people want quiet during their treatments.” As an example, she notes that the menu of services at Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat in Australia includes periods of “dream time.”
“The modern spa is increasingly a hyphenated affair, with spas incorporating far more fitness, fitness centers incorporating more spa, hospitals incorporating spa elements, and spas bringing in more medical doctors and specialists,” Ellis says. “It’s one integrated human body. The pure spa is on the decline, while the hybrid spa is busy inventing new you-name-it plugged-in hybrid models.”
The spa industry has responded to consumers’ desires by discounting vacation packages and spa services. Expect that to continue and expect more travelers to book wellness trips instead of pure ‘spa’ vacations, Isroelit says.
According to a SpaFinder team of experts who visited thousands of spas:
* 51 percent of spas plan to discount at the same level as 2009
* 35 percent of spas expect to boost their discounts
* 66 percent of spas expect to increase their value-added promotions
Isroelit considers the wellness travel trend to be an excellent opportunity for travel agencies to increase their business. “I see spa travel as the cruise line business of a new generation, she said. "The opportunities are vast.”
Ellis agrees. “When it comes to spas, a lot of people do need help,” she said. “It’s not all that easy to go online and book a spa trip to another country. I think travel agencies can play a large role in assisting spa travelers. If a travel agent becomes more and more familiar with the options out there, he can be a big help to the consumer.”