While wellness tourism was growing rapidly before COVID-19 struck, last year saw a reported growth in internet searches about travel to “wellness destinations”.
Destination-wise, places known for yoga, meditation and pilgrimage routes, such as Chiang Mai in Thailand and Bali in Indonesia, stand to benefit from increased demand.
The Wellness Tourism market in the U.S. is estimated at USD 212.7 billion in the year 2020. The country currently accounts for a 28.9% share in the global market. China, the world second largest economy, is forecast to reach an estimated market size of USD 220 billion in the year 2027 trailing a CAGR of 10.5% through 2027.
To make sure of this, governments and tourism authorities need to optimise wellness tourism resources.
One widespread response to the pandemic was the rediscovery of local natural beauty. New Zealanders for example, prohibited from international travel, flocked to the remote and previously under-visited Chatham Islands. Cambodians capitalised on the absence of some three million annual tourists to visit the Angkor Wat World Heritage site.
Wellness can mean different things to different people and cultures. In Indonesia, the Balinese travel to religious or spiritual sites for rituals linked to their ancestors and families. This runs parallel to most western tourists’ experiences in Bali, who often visit centres targeted at their personal requirements, with spa treatments or yoga classes. Although westerners generate more profits than locals, it is important for the wellbeing of the surrounding community to ensure equal access to these sites.
Many high-value tourism businesses are owned by foreign investors without local involvement or economic benefit. Local governments, tourism authorities, large businesses and international organisations must support community-based, small-scale enterprises in remote areas to build a more comprehensive wellness tourism sector.
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