I had the privilege of attending a speech last week by a gold medal winning Paralympian, from the 2012 games. David A. Smith MBE has been on a heart-rending journey of discovery and self-driven accomplishment. He epitomises what can be achieved through the strength of our minds and our ability to endure. Filled with determination and pride that is as sobering as it is inspiring. The obstacles he overcame, his courage and his strength are humbling in the extreme and moving, beyond belief.
From the disabilities he was born with and a c-section tumor thirty years later, to paralysis from the neck down. Every time he hit an obstacle, he dug deeper within himself and finally, he made it to the highest podium, in every sense.
What does this have to do with Wellness Tourism?
Wellness can be misunderstood. It can be misinterpreted as something that is reserved as an indulgence or a luxury. It may even be thought of as only ‘physical’. David Smith could not have achieved such success without the healthiest and most ‘well’ of every non-physical attribute we have.
Wellness Tourism is travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal well-being. Wellness is in who we are and, increasingly, what we do each day. More and more people are pursuing self-initiated, ‘better’ health and they are not willing to compromise the good they are doing themselves simply because they are traveling. It is this increasing desire for overall wellness that wellness tourism is growing so rapidly.
Nothing has been invented or reinvented – the important thing to note is how much this segment is developing. Awareness of what better health means is more prolific than it has ever been. What might that mean for messaging and communication to would be travellers? For government strategy around tourism and health? These are higher yield travelers, domestically and internationally, how can we encourage more of them?
The thing that excites me the most about wellness tourism is its multi-faceted ability to impact commercially as well as socio economically. No one could fail to make the connection between the extremes we now find, between obesity, diabetes, chronic illness and disease and the global groundswell of consciousness for happier, healthier, more balanced lives. I see this antithesis as the reality framework for strategy. In some countries wellness is a much greater part of the culture – Eastern Europe and Germany spring immediately to mind. The UK, whilst boasting so much – from beaches and national parks to spas, fitness and lifestyle retreats – hasn’t yet embraced the ‘whole’ and inclusive wellness culture our European counterparts take for granted. It’s my own belief, alongside others in the industry that we may be missing a trick in the UK, particularly in terms of the potential of domestic tourism. Wellness and wellness tourism is not a niche market, it is mainstream. People want to feel better, they want to connect in a way that might elude them in their everyday grind. Could our messaging be better? How we position the advantages of a walking holiday or the benefits of a cottage by a lake could make a difference to how it is perceived to the consumer. Using wellness to help overcome seasonality is another strong aspect for the UK to consider. Embracing wellness is smart thinking in today’s context. It might take brand diversification and tweaked positioning, perhaps more personalised communication, but the upside of marketing to this growing and increasingly eager consumer audience means creating new demand to fulfil right across the consumer spectrum.
Figures source – The Global Wellness Tourism Economy 2013