Breathe in, breathe out. Take a moment to yourself and for yourself. Self-care is the destination that so many are seeking, especially after many peoples’ mental health took a hit during the pandemic.

The Global Wellness Institute defines wellness tourism as travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal wellbeing. The wellness tourism industry is a growing phenomenon — a joining of the $2.6 trillion tourism industry and the $4.5 trillion wellness industry. Visitors worldwide desire to turn travel into an opportunity to improve their physical and emotional health while experiencing something that feeds their soul.

There are two types of wellness travelers:

  • Primary wellness traveler: someone who is motivated solely by wellness
  • Secondary wellness traveler: someone who wishes to maintain their wellness while they travel or participate in wellness experiences throughout their trip

Many destination marketing organizations (DMOs) have something unique to offer wellness travelers, whether it be scenic hikes, local fresh foods and flavors, spas that offer full-body wellness treatments, or experiences built upon healing mind-body practices, such as meditation and yoga.

All tourists, wellness-inspired or not, need transportation, food, lodging, and most likely shopping or entertainment, all of which can be supplied by the destination’s local businesses. Wellness tourists spend 130% more than the average tourist, meaning both international and domestic wellness travelers play a huge role in the destinations’ economies:

  • International wellness tourism expenditures: travelers spend about 65% more per trip than the average international tourist
  • Domestic wellness tourism expenditures: travelers spend about 150% more per trip than the average domestic tourist

In this article, we will showcase how DMOs are getting it right, and hear from Health & Wellness Ambassador Dr. Michele Reed from Discover Long Island

Wellness at Visit Greater Palm Springs

Visit Greater Palm Springs' brand promise is “find your oasis.” Their destination comprises nine distinct cities that offer a unique blend of natural beauty, outdoor adventure, recreation, and relaxation. For that reason, it appeals to a variety of travelers.

With a long history as a wellness getaway, the destination is home to some of the world’s finest spas as well as boutique mineral-spring spa hotels, where travelers can feel their stress and worries melt away. Based on visitor research and web analytics, the DMO knows prospective travelers are quite interested in the natural hot mineral springs. In fact, their ‘Hot Water’ Guide to Desert Hot Springs: Hot Springs in Palm Springs blog post consistently ranks among the top-visited pages on the website. 

“By leveraging these authentic wellness offerings and experiences, we can strengthen our destination brand regionally, nationally, and globally,” said Krystal Kusmieruk, digital marketing manager at Greater Palms Springs.

Her advice for other DMOs that want to promote wellness in their destination? “Promoting wellness is just like promoting any other characteristic or experience; it all comes down to storytelling,” she said. “Devote your message and content to what makes your destination unique in the wellness tourism industry, and try to resonate with travelers on an emotional level.”

Wellness Abroad

Although the United States remains the leading country in wellness tourism, accounting for $226 billion as of 2017, many people seek international wellness to experience a perspective they can’t find at home. With a prominent number of travelers packing their bags for worldwide adventures, DMOs in the UK are embracing and promoting the idea of wellness, drawing in tourists from around the globe. 

  • Visit East Yorkshire has a landing page called Time for You dedicated to travelers looking to take a break to relax, refresh, and reflect. The page spotlights wellness attractions like spas, scenic views, yoga classes, and restaurants for some spoiling-yourself experiences. 
  • Visit Lake District, Cumbria has a Hints and Tips Blog (Health & Wellbeing) that features places within the destination that promote healthy lifestyles. Wellness travelers can learn more about places to visit, like the most scenic hidden gems for hiking, or local shops like Pure Lakes, which sells skincare handmade from natural ingredients. 

Learn from the Expert

Our team sat down with Health & Wellness Ambassador Michele Reed from Discover Long Island to pick her brain about applying health and wellness to travel and how DMOs can play a part.

Given current times, how can wellness fit into peoples’ travel agendas?

“Wellness is something that people need to figure out and be more intentional about in travel, even if it is work-related travel. Whatever your wellness routine is at home, it is something you should be able to continue when you travel. Be intentional about exercise when you are away — whatever it is you enjoy doing, it is important to take that experience to wherever you travel to. As the first Health & Wellness Ambassador of Long Island … we are more focused on wellness aspects, not just going to the spa, meditating, or doing yoga, but being well and healthy.” 

What do health and wellness mean to you, and what inspired you to partner with Discover Long Island as the Health and Wellness ambassador?

“Growing up, we always had to be doing something physical — riding bikes, playing tag, etc. I knew the importance of being healthy as a child. As a doctor, I realized many people just saw doctors as someone they came to in order to get treated when they’re sick. Instead of just reacting to whatever is happening in our lives, I wanted to focus more on the prevention aspect: what can you do from the time you’re a child to the end of your life in order to prevent sicknesses and keep you healthy? And if you are sick, how can we treat you and maintain your health moving forward? Being from Long Island, it is an honor for me to serve the community and help keep everyone healthy and safe. This is what inspired me to partner with Long Island as their Health & Wellness Ambassador.”

What tips do you have for visitors who are traveling solely for wellness purposes/experiences? 

“I would encourage them to be open to trying different and new experiences. Especially with Discover Long Island, I’ve been encouraged to go outside of my comfort zone and try new things, and that inspires others to do the same. The fact that you’re traveling for wellness means you should be open and not judgemental — realize your limitations and be kind to your body, I think that’s always key.”

quote from Dr Michele Reed Health & Wellness Ambassador for Discover Long Island.  I would definitely encourage more DMOs to look into partnering with physicians to figure out how you can incorporate wellness into your destination.

To learn more about Dr. Reed and her position as Health & Wellness Ambassador, check out The Future of Tourism podcast.