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Spa Business
2023 issue 1

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Leisure Management - Wellness Travel Consumer Survey

Research

Wellness Travel Consumer Survey


A general, overall reboot is the main motivation for wellness travel and nature/outdoor activities are the top must-have, according to the Wellness Tourism Association’s latest consumer survey, as Anne Dimon reports

Euphoria Retreat in Greece makes the most of outdoor space Photo: Euphoria Retreat (Sparta, Greece)
Consumers want self-guided programmes Photo: Canyon Ranch
Alba Wellness Valley in Vietnam offers free spa treatments as a USP Photo: Alba Wellness
*Source: Wellness Travel Consumer Survey 2022
*Source: Wellness Travel Consumer Survey 2022

With a view to helping spa, hotel and tour operators understand wellness-minded travellers, the Wellness Tourism Association (WTA) has just revealed the results of its annual consumer survey.

The WTA represents operators and professionals in the sector and the fourth edition of its Wellness Travel Consumer Survey is based on insights from close to 1,500 respondents (see p56). It underscores what we’ve all come to acknowledge: wellness travel, which enables people to support their healthy lifestyle and sense of wellbeing, is clearly in demand as people take to the road once again.

“Of the 100,000 trip pages created through our platform in 2022, 35 per cent of those were wellness-focused,” says Shayna Zand, head of partnerships at online booking platform WeTravel, which sponsored this year’s survey. “That’s a significant 25 per cent year-over-year increase in overall bookings plus wellness.”

This corresponds with WTA’s survey results. Close to 90 per cent of the respondents reported they now incorporate wellness activities when they travel. This is up slightly from the 2021 survey. More people accept the fact that they’re responsible for their own self-care and that becoming healthy and staying healthy is about being proactive.

But what are the wants, needs and demands of those planning wellness holidays? The WTA’s five key findings are detailed below.

1. Length of stay and price point
For those looking to book in the future, three to five nights is the preferred length of stay for most consumers (54 per cent), followed by seven nights (29 per cent). Shorter stays dwindle dramatically in popularity, with only 9 per cent of people considering a two-day, three-night package.

These same people have a clear idea of how much they’re willing to spend – only three per cent are prepared to pay more than US$5,000 for their wellness holiday. An overwhelming majority are looking to spend either US$2,500 or less (53 per cent) or between a US$2,500 and US$5,000 price point (44 per cent).

2. Nature rules (once again)
Since the WTA introduced consumer surveys back in 2018, the desire to be in nature continues to dominate. In the 2022 survey, 79 per cent of respondents rated “Accessible nature and outdoor activities” as a must-have (see Graph 1). Euphoria in Greece and the Garden of the Gods resort in the US are great examples of operators who are taking sessions outdoors.

Those looking to attract the growing number of wellness-minded travellers but not fortunate enough to have forest trails, thermal springs or mountain vistas in their backyard, however, need to accept the growing importance of nature and consider developing a quiet garden space and making it available to clients and guests as part of a wellness package.

3. Where spas fit
Number four on the list of must-haves – behind “Accessible nature and outdoor activities”, “A variety of healthy food options” and “Peace and quiet” – was “Access to spa treatments”. Consumers are beginning to realise that they can plan their wellness travels and holidays without including a spa experience. Now for those of you reading this who are spa operators, do not be discouraged. Treatments and the entire spa experience remain important aspects of the growing wellness tourism sector. While they’re not mandatory for wellness travel itself, they can certainly be built into wellness programmes and multi-day retreats.

At Alba Wellness Valley by Fusion in Vietnam, for instance, a free 50-minute massage per person is included in every resort booking. “We’ve taken the spa experience to another level,” says GM Hylton Lipkin, pointing out that this approach is a unique selling point for the resort which has “definitely been a contributing factor to the growth in occupancy”.

4. Self-guided programmes
When asked about their preference for a bespoke programme versus a structured one for a wellness holiday, the vast majority (just under 80 per cent) of survey respondents selected the “self-guided programme with an opportunity to pick and choose from a menu of options.”

WTA members are responding to this preference with packages that can be personalised according to specific goals and interests. Kimberly Rossi, director of Wellness at Art of Living Retreat Center in North Carolina, USA says, “Back in 2019 we began noticing that guests wanted more flexible retreats instead of structured signature programmes, so we created Rest and Relaxation, a self-guided offering and it’s quickly become one of our most sought-after retreats.”

5. Top goals
The survey presented a list of eight popular wellness holiday goals to participants and posed the question: “If you’re planning to take a wellness vacation in 2022 or 2023 what would be the one main goal?”

“General, overall reboot” topped the list (see Graph 2), followed by “Meditation/mental wellness/wellbeing” and, not surprisingly considering the pandemic, “Recover from a stressful time or personal loss”. We’re reminded here that by its very definition – a wellness vacation is planned with a specific intention in mind.

At the WTA’s 2022 International Wellness Tourism Conference in December, speaker Molly Anderson, vice president of sales and programming at Canyon Ranch, pointed out to attendees the need for a post-COVID shift toward more purposeful programming. She says: “intention-based guests are seeking guidance and many of our programmes are purpose-driven in response to specific goals.”

Flexibility is key
The overall conclusion here is that personal wellness is top-of-mind as travel resumes and consumers are much more demanding. Spa operators, retreat programmers, tour leaders and others in the wellness space need to accept that having some flexibility with offerings is key. Wellness travellers come from various demographics and with varying demands so one size, definitely, does not fit all.

About the survey
The 2022 Wellness Travel Consumer Survey collected responses from nearly 1,500 consumers across 49 countries and territories.
Demographics of respondents

68% of consumers were from the USA

89% of respondents were female

85% were either gen X or baby boomers

44% were married

37% preferred to travel solo

Conducted online over a period of three months (March to May 2022), the survey was administered by the WTA in collaboration with its research associate Danny Kessler, assistant professor and director of the Workplace Wellness Research Lab at Dongseo University, International College in South Korea. Results were revealed in December.

"90 per cent of respondents incorporate wellness activities when they travel" – Anne Dimon


Originally published in Spa Business 2023 issue 1

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