GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA, November 15, A Global Wellness Tourism Economy report has been officially released by SRI International, showing a never before seen rate of growth in the wellness sector, which in Australia is the result of a convergence of several new and existing travel trends.
The Healthy Hotels Certification was established in 2005 in response to travel consumers’ demand for healthy accommodation. Comprised of health researchers and marketplace education experts in the fields of environmental health, textile maintenance, nutrition and sleep hygiene, the program provides certification for products, services and over 4,000 accommodation guest rooms.
Last week in California, a Global Wellness Tourism Economy report, commissioned by the Global Spa and Wellness Summit, stated that wellness tourism as a category has grown to be valued at $US438.6 billion ($462b) globally and is predicted to reach $715.6b by 2017.
Findings in the latest research indicated that those seeking to maintain wellness while travelling represent 87 per cent of wellness trips whilst those travelling primarily for wellness alone represent only 13 per cent. Primary elements of wellness include environmental health such as air quality, followed by diet and exercise considerations.
Managing Director of Tourism Australia, Andrew McEvoy, agrees that wellness is core to the way many people travel today. "Wellness is a growing part of people's everyday lives and is becoming a key driver for people's holiday choices."
The domestic wellness guest has been found to spend on average 130 per cent more than a regular guest, making becoming “wellness relevant” a priority for accommodation operators more than ever before.
Daniel Gschwind, Chief Executive of the Queensland Tourism Industry Council, believes healthy travel will help Queensland in its goal to double visitor expenditure by 2020.
“To remain competitive as a destination we need to deliver what our consumers expect and we have to do it well.” Gschwind says. “We are fortunate to have a strong destination brand to build on and with a professional and consistent approach to delivering quality experiences in health and well being, we will be able to generate considerable growth in this expanding market.”
Australia’s largest tourism export market, New Zealand, exhibits a near identical priority on healthy travel to Australia. China is Australia’s second largest and fastest growing tourism export market and Chinese tourists are the second largest consumer of wellness tourism in Asia. More than half of the projected growth in wellness tourism is predicted to take place in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East/North Africa the latest report reveals.
Ben Dargie, Hotel Manager of 4.5 STAR Ramada Hotel & Suites in Ballina, wants guests to know their health is being taken seriously. “We want our guests to have peace of mind during their stay and return home feeling rejuvenated.” The property is a part of the Wyndham Hotels and Resorts group.
Due to a lack of independent certification overseas, several operators are taking their own measures to cater to the wellness boom. Intercontinental Hotels Group released the wellness dedicated EVEN Hotels concept in 2012 and plans to build 100 properties in the next five years, focussing steadfastly on diet and nutrition in the guest room offering. Trump Hotel Collection has introduced the Trump Wellness Program providing work out equipment and healthy diet options for guests. Westin Hotels and Resorts are providing guests with running shoes and the option of a concierge guided running tour, whilst Fairmont Hotels and Resorts have introduced Fairmont Fit, where workout shoes, equipment, mats and an MP3 player are delivered to guest rooms.
Healthy Hotels Program spokesman, Nicson White says, “Most accommodation providers are still developing their understanding of the difference between core wellness needs such as a contaminant free guest room and non-core offerings such as fitness equipment and exercise routines.”
Textiles such as mattresses and carpets that are not correctly maintained have been found to accumulate unsafe levels of fungal and bacterial growth, as well as volatile organic compounds and increased dust mite populations. “Our research confirms it is these contributors which give the guest room environment the greater potential for impact on the occupant’s health, than their activity or diet choices alone” said Mr White.
Research in Australia suggests that third party certification of health and hygiene is the most likely to be trusted by travel consumers. Tourism Accommodation Australia Managing Director, Rodger Powell has welcomed Healthy Hotels Certification saying, “Tourism based around health and wellness has played a major role in growing domestic and international business for Australian hotels. It is important for the industry that travellers have confidence in the products being offered. One of the best ways to achieve this is through accreditation by a respected and professional specialist wellness organisation.”