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What consumers want

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


With a view to bringing information to spa, hotel and tour operators looking to attract and serve a wellness-minded traveller, the Wellness Tourism Association (WTA) has 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. It underscores what we’ve all come to acknowledge: wellness travel – defined by the WTA as “travel that allows the traveller to maintain, enhance or kick-start a healthy lifestyle, and support or increase one’s 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 the year 2022, 35 per cent of those were wellness-focused,” says Shayna Zand, head of partnerships at online booking platform WeTravel – the firm which sponsored this year’s survey. “That’s a significant 25 per cent year-over-year increase in wellness bookings.”

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 in their daily lives.

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

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 – just 3 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 US$2,500 and US$5,000 (44 per cent).

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).

Those in the spa and hospitality sectors 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 own backyard need to accept the growing importance of nature and consider developing a quiet indoor or outdoor garden space and making it available to clients and guests as part of a wellness package.

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 & quiet” – was “Access to spa treatments”. What consumers are beginning to realise is that they can plan their wellness travels and holidays without the inclusion of 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”.


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.”

Many of our 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 our structured signature programmes, so we created Rest & Relaxation, a self-guided offering, and it’s quickly become one of our most sought-after retreats.”

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 lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, “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.

The overall conclusion here is that personal wellness is top-of-mind as travel resumes,and consumers are becoming much more demanding. Those in the wellness space need to accept that in order to attract and satisfy the wellness traveller of today, 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.

*Source: Wellness Travel Consumer Survey 2022
*Source: Wellness Travel Consumer Survey 2022
About the survey

The Wellness Travel Consumer Survey 2022 collected responses from nearly 1,500 consumers across 49 countries and territories.

Demographics of respondents

• 68% of consumers were from the US

• 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.

About the author:

Anne Dimon is president & CEO of the Wellness Tourism Association

Consumers want self-guided programmes Credit: canyon ranch
Alba Wellness Valley in Vietnam offers free spa treatments as a USP Credit: Alba Wellness
Mental wellbeing is increasingly important Credit: Canyon Ranch
 


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Leisure Management - What consumers want

Global research

What consumers want


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

Euphoria Retreat in Greece makes the most of outdoor space Euphoria Retreat (Sparta, Greece)
Consumers want self-guided programmes canyon ranch
Alba Wellness Valley in Vietnam offers free spa treatments as a USP Alba Wellness
Mental wellbeing is increasingly important Canyon Ranch

With a view to bringing information to spa, hotel and tour operators looking to attract and serve a wellness-minded traveller, the Wellness Tourism Association (WTA) has 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. It underscores what we’ve all come to acknowledge: wellness travel – defined by the WTA as “travel that allows the traveller to maintain, enhance or kick-start a healthy lifestyle, and support or increase one’s 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 the year 2022, 35 per cent of those were wellness-focused,” says Shayna Zand, head of partnerships at online booking platform WeTravel – the firm which sponsored this year’s survey. “That’s a significant 25 per cent year-over-year increase in wellness bookings.”

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 in their daily lives.

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

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 – just 3 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 US$2,500 and US$5,000 (44 per cent).

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).

Those in the spa and hospitality sectors 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 own backyard need to accept the growing importance of nature and consider developing a quiet indoor or outdoor garden space and making it available to clients and guests as part of a wellness package.

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 & quiet” – was “Access to spa treatments”. What consumers are beginning to realise is that they can plan their wellness travels and holidays without the inclusion of 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”.


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.”

Many of our 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 our structured signature programmes, so we created Rest & Relaxation, a self-guided offering, and it’s quickly become one of our most sought-after retreats.”

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 lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, “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.

The overall conclusion here is that personal wellness is top-of-mind as travel resumes,and consumers are becoming much more demanding. Those in the wellness space need to accept that in order to attract and satisfy the wellness traveller of today, 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.

*Source: Wellness Travel Consumer Survey 2022
*Source: Wellness Travel Consumer Survey 2022
About the survey

The Wellness Travel Consumer Survey 2022 collected responses from nearly 1,500 consumers across 49 countries and territories.

Demographics of respondents

• 68% of consumers were from the US

• 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.

About the author:

Anne Dimon is president & CEO of the Wellness Tourism Association


Originally published in Spa Business Handbook 2023 edition

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