27 Sep 2021 World leisure: news, training & property
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Leisure Management - Rest & Relaxation

Global Research

Rest & Relaxation

The Wellness Tourism Association’s 2020 Consumer Survey looks at post-pandemic wellness vacation motivations from more than 4,000 consumers around the world. Anne Dimon shares the highlights

Almost half of the respondents were men Kamil Macniak/shutterstock
Consumers are motivated by a desire to ‘return feeling rejuvenated’ Mariia Korneeva/shutterstock
Consumers said they are feeling a need to be proactive with their own health Anna Om/shutterstock
‘A desire to spend time in nature’ is a common motivational denominator across all age categories Maridav /shutterstock

As we anticipate the slow, smart and safe recovery of the tourism industry, many of us agree that health and wellness will be a continuing priority that may very well deliver a generous boost to the wellness sector, allowing it to rebound stronger than ever. With that in mind, the Wellness Tourism Association (WTA) set out earlier this year to discover the various motivations that might drive consumers to plan and book post-pandemic wellness vacations.

Incorporated as a not-for-profit in the US in 2018 with the mission to support and further the development of the wellness tourism industry for the global good, the WTA is, to date, a community of 100-plus members and partners from 22 countries.

The WTA 2020 Wellness Travel Consumer Survey collected responses from nearly 4,000 consumers from 48 countries and territories. Administered in collaboration with Professor Danny Kessler, PhD, from Youngsan University, in Busan, South Korea, the three-month (April, May, June 2020) online survey presented a total of 77 questions relating to basic demographics, quality of life, and subjective wellbeing, as well as wellness vacation motivations. A follow-up to the association’s 2018 survey, which explored the topic of ‘Top Must Haves for a Wellness Vacation', the 2020 survey was based on academic resources as well as industry data and expertise, and laid out across seven themes: movement and fitness, healthy food and diet, meditation and mindfulness, rest and relaxation, learning about wellness, nature and disconnect.

Each of the above themes was represented by four statements for a total of 28 possible motivations. The survey asked the question: When it comes time to book a wellness vacation/holiday, what would be your main motivation? In order to respond to that question, participants were asked to rate each of the 28 possible motivations on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 representing ‘Not Important at All’ and 7 representing ‘Most Important’). To ensure a group of qualified respondents, the survey was promoted with the help of WTA members and partners. To encourage participation, all respondents were told they had the opportunity to win one of five prizes selected at random from all those who responded.

Of the survey’s 3,931 respondents, a total of 85 per cent were US-based, 75 per cent were between the ages of 40 and 74 (Gen X and Boomers), followed by Millennials (age 26 to 39) at 20 per cent; 67 per cent indicated they had a Bachelor’s degree or higher, and 45 per cent had an income of US$75,000-plus. While 71 per cent said they had never been on a designated wellness vacation, close to 78 per cent indicated they generally include wellness practices and activities when they travel.

One surprise was the number of men who responded. In contrast with the 2018 survey, where the vast majority of participants were female, the 2020 survey indicated only a slim majority (54 per cent) identifying as female. Of course, the only thing we know for certain here is that more men participated in 2020 than they did in 2018. However, for those of us who remain optimistic, we might assume that more men are becoming interested in being more proactive with their own health.
Top wellness vacation motivations

Based on the 28 statements rated on the scale of 1 (Not Important at All) to 7 (Most Important) and across all age categories, the six top wellness vacation motivations were as follows:

To return to everyday life feeling rejuvenated: 6.1

To escape the demands of everyday life: 5.75

To experience activities outdoors: 5.65

To look and feel better: 5.68

To experience activities outdoors: 5.65

To connect with nature: 5.51

The next three most highly-rated motivational statements were: ‘To find peace and quiet’, ‘To get a better night’s sleep’, and, ‘To learn general ways to improve my health.’ When the top motivational themes were broken down by generational cohorts, the survey found that all three age groups (Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers) indicated ‘rest and relaxation’ as the top motivational theme. ‘Nature and disconnect’ placed second with Millennials and Gen X, and Boomers selected ‘movement and fitness’ in second place, with ‘nature and disconnect’ in third position.

It was interesting to note that the top two most highly-rated motivational statements were the same for both men and women; these were: 1. To return to everyday life feeling rejuvenated and 2. To escape the demands of everyday life.

Of those respondents who indicated they were currently planning a wellness vacation, 36 per cent were Millennials, 20 per cent Gen X and 18 per cent Baby Boomers, and the highest-rated motivational statements for these three groups were:

To return to everyday life feeling rejuvenated: 5.92

To escape the demands of everyday life: 5.70

To experience activities outdoors: 5.68

To look and feel better: 5.59

To experience activities outdoors: 5.45

To find peace and quiet: 5.41

To be at peace with myself: 5.39

To connect with nature: 5.31

To afford respondents every opportunity to express their personal thoughts and perspectives, they were encouraged to respond to the open-ended question: ‘As a result of COVID-19 affecting your life, what are some new motivations for going on a wellness vacation not mentioned in previous questions?’ This question generated more than 17,000 words from 2,435 individual respondents.

Top-line themes were:

• To be proactive with their own health

• To reevaluate and reset priorities

• To simply get away

• YOLO (You only live once)

• For mental health

• For social connection

• To spend time in nature

Certainly not a motivation but of equal importance was the emerging theme of 'safety and trust'. Comments from survey participants who responded to the open-ended questions indicated their safety concerns include 'I am more concerned with sanitising equipment and things I touch that do not belong to me.' 'Looking forward to going somewhere where strict protocols have been maintained.' And, 'Ensuring I do not bring illness to loved ones when I return.' One important result of the survey was that just over half of respondents indicated they would be either extremely likely (17 per cent), very likely (14 per cent) or likely (20 per cent) to book a wellness vacation within the next two years.

Where consumers are turning for information
When the question was asked about preferred sources of wellness travel information, the four top overall responses were internet search, friends and family, e-mail newsletter that they subscribe to and special interest brochures. It bodes well that 75 per cent of participants indicated they wanted to receive monthly information about wellness travel and wellness vacations.

Final takeaways
What are the main takeaways from this 2020 Wellness Travel Consumer Survey?

1. ‘Rest and relaxation’ was the most prominent motivational theme across all generational cohorts.

2. ‘To return feeling rejuvenated’ was the most highly-rated motivational statement.

3. The generation between the ages of 26 and 39 (Millennials) is the group most likely to be planning a wellness vacation in the next two years, and their top motivational theme, the same as that of Gen X and Baby Boomers, is ‘rest and relaxation’.

4. ‘Desire to spend time in nature’ continues to be a prominent theme, and is the common motivational denominator across all age categories. Compared to the 2018 survey, the 2020 survey reinforces the importance of nature/the outdoors as a key pillar of wellness vacations.

5. The motivation of a proactive attitude is expected to prevail post COVID-19 as people are more concerned about their health, learning about ways to keep themselves healthy, and boosting their immune systems.

6. Social connection has become a more important focus for wellness travel and might become a post-pandemic trend.

7. Safety and trust are major concerns for travellers moving forward

About the author:

Anne Dimon is a travel writer, journalist, owner/editor of the consumer-facing TravelToWellness.com and president and CEO of the Wellness Tourism Association

Originally published in Spa Business Handbook 2021 edition

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