Experience

Take Advantage of the Wellness Tourism Boom

Eamonn_Curley
Eamonn Curley
06 February 20
9 min read
four people relaxing on a hike

Travelling, either on vacation or long term, allows people the chance to destress and take a break from their day to day lives. For many, lazy days beside the pool with a drink in hand is usually favored. However, for a growing number of people, taking a vacation centered on fitness and wellness is a more preferable option. This preference for this type of vacation has led to the emergence and growth of what is known as wellness tourism. 

This industry combines two globally successful markets, the wellness industry (valued at $4.2 trillion) and the tourism industry (valued at $2.6 trillion) which makes for a profitable combination. In fact, globally, wellness tourism grew by 6.5%, from $563 billion to $639 billion between 2015 and 2017. The evolution of this industry has created a new subsection of holidaymakers called wellness tourists, who search the globe for the best wellness experience they can find. 

We have previously looked at the best fitness vacations to take in 2020, so now we will take a look at the industry as a whole. In this article we will talk about what wellness tourism is and the fitness brands involved in the industry. 

Skip ahead to

What Is Wellness Tourism? 

The Global Wellness Institute (GWI), a non-profit organization with a mission to empower wellness worldwide, describes wellness tourism as “travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal wellbeing”. Many around the world are taking this kind of trip, with 830 million wellness trips recorded in 2017. This is 139 million more trips than in 2015. The future looks extremely promising for this industry, with the GWI forecasting that there will be a 7.5% annual growth rate until 2022. 

There are two major factors driving the growth of wellness tourism. One factor is the increased accessibility to locations around the world. It’s now easier than ever before to travel halfway across the world on vacation. Apps like Skyscanner allow you to book flights quickly at discount rates. It’s growth and popularity is shown in the fact that it makes up 2% of the world’s GDP.

The other factor is the increased focus on fitness and wellness in general. People nowadays are more conscious about what they are putting into their bodies than they were previously. Worldwide, the IHRSA estimates the total fitness industry revenue at $94bn in 2018, an increase from $87.2bn in 2017.

How Fitness Brands are Getting Involved

Fitness Brands have recognized the value of this multi-billion dollar industry and are starting to diversify and form partnerships in the wellness tourism space. One notable and unique example involved American gym chain Anytime Fitness. They decided to become the world’s first truly global fitness franchise by opening a fitness center in Antarctica. The gym is based on the cruise ship the Magellan Explorer, which will be based on Antarctica’s King George Island for a few months during the year. Here are 3 other examples of fitness brands expanding into wellness tourism.  

Triumph Hotels and FitReserve

Traditionally, most hotels worth their salt will offer gym and spa facilities. However, due to the popularity of boutique fitness and group classes, people now want options outside the traditional gym. Triumph, a New York-based boutique hotel group, has identified this shift in fitness preference. Partnering up with FitReserve, a multi-studio fitness membership platform, they are now able to offer their guests access to New York’s top boutique fitness studios. Classpass rival FitReserve offers Triumph guests the Travelpak, which contains 3 classes for $54. 

Tara Stiles and W Hotels

Model turned yoga entrepreneur Tara Stiles was dubbed a “Yoga Rebel” in a 2011 New York Times profile for her unconventional approach to yoga. However, her rejection of the traditions of this ancient workout has made it more accessible to a global audience.

In 2014 she made her way in the world of wellness tourism when she began a partnership with W Hotels Worldwide. “FIT with Tara Stiles” is an in-room video series with tip cards that help guests get in shape both physically and mentally. As well as that there are a series of intimate and exclusive packages for guests to purchase. 

New Balance and Westin

Back in 2010, American sportswear company New Balance partnered up with Westin Hotels and Resorts. The idea was to offer its guests footwear and activewear for working out. The partnership allowed guests to pack lighter. It also allowed them to avoid the hassle of traveling with gym gear. The process is fairly simple, with a quick call to Westins Service Express, who turn up 15 minutes later with freshly laundered New Balance gear. As well as providing gear, New Balance also offers “Wellness in Travel” tips for guests. New Balance ambassador Holly Perkins has produced in room fitness routines that guests can follow without the need for equipment. 

Equinox Explore

Equinox, the US-based high-end chain of fitness clubs, has forgone partnering up an established tourism business. Instead, they have launched their own wellness tourism brand called Equinox Explore.

Explore’s target market is what GWI classifies as ‘primary’ wellness travelers, those who travel with a primary focus on a wellness-based experience. Started in 2019 with two launch trips to Morocco, the 2020 itinerary returns there as well as venturing to Florence, the Hudson Valley, and Costa Rica. This entry into the market by a high-end boutique brand could be the beginning of several more diversifying in a similar fashion. 

How Your Gym Can Get Involved

If you are a fitness business you may be wondering how you can get involved in the wellness tourism space. After all, you aren’t Equinox (yet). But that doesn’t mean you can’t develop a strategy to take advantage of this fast-growing industry. Here are three ways you can get your fitness business involved in wellness tourism. 

1. Partner up With a Local Hotel

It’s clear from the examples we have shown that hotels are open to diversifying their wellness offerings. With this in mind you should consider approaching local hotels in the area and offer to partner up with them. Hotels are always looking for new ways to create unique experiences for their guests and you may be able to help them provide this. Use the examples of W Hotels and Triumph Hotels above to show that this type of partnership has been successful before. 

A good first step is to offer a couple of classes on-site in the hotel to gauge if your fitness offering will be popular with guests. Like Tara Stiles, you can also look into creating simple fitness content that can be placed in each room. Moving on from this you can try things like offering discount sessions to guests in your location. 

2. Host a Fitness Retreat

One aspect of wellness tourism that is proving popular is the fitness retreat. A retreat can take place in and around a popular tourist destination or in a location more off the beaten track. Usually these types of retreats offer a specific type of exercise. Examples include HIIT, boxing, yoga and pilates. Often the attendees will stay on-site and there will be activities such as hiking, cooking classes and meditation mixed in with the main event. 

Obviously, if your business is located in a tourist hotspot you may find it easier to host a successful retreat. However, if your business is located in more normal surroundings, you can still find ways to use this strategy. Think of hosting the retreat in an area close to where you are that is considered scenic or popular with tourists. There is also the option of partnering with a fitness retreat. Take a read of our article on fitness retreats for more tips and some examples of the best retreats from around the world. 

3. Organize a Fitness Focused Trip

As we have seen with Equinox and their new venture Equinox Explore, a fitness studio organizing a vacation can be done. However, if you aren’t at the scale that Equinox is, you may need a helping hand in developing this strategy. Because it involves getting a group of people to a location and all the logistics involved with this, it’s best to call in the experts. 

Consider partnering up with a local travel agent to help you make sure your fitness vacation is a success. Not only will they be able to help organize the logistics, but their years of experience in the industry will help you avoid any pitfalls that may occur. For some tips and tricks to help you form partnerships with local businesses, take a look at our recent article on the topic. 

The Advantages of Wellness Tourism 

Here are three key advantages of getting into wellness tourism. 

Retention

If your members have the opportunity to go on a retreat or fitness focused vacation it will increase the value of your membership to them. This could be a great way to help get your retention rates up. It shouldn’t form the basis of your strategy but can help increase the appeal of your overall service to your members. 

Acquisition

If you’re going down the road of organizing a vacation, a good idea is to open it to the general public. This gets the name of your gym out to more people in the local area. It will also be a unique way to introduce your business to prospective new members. What better way to convince someone to sign up than a fun-filled fitness vacation!

Branding 

This is something that is key to the above. By diversifying your offering into wellness tourism, you give your brand a unique selling point. This will hopefully make you stand out from the competition, who will likely be still stuck in the departure lounge! 

In Summary

As we noted in the beginning, wellness tourism is an industry that is on the rise at the moment. And with studios, brands and influencers making inroads into this space, it’s clear there is a lucrative opportunity there. If you are considering getting into this space, make sure you have a clear goal in mind. Start small and experiment with local partnerships to see where this strategy can take you.