By Adrian Loveridge
The global wellness industry grew by 12.8 percent in the last two years, from US$3.7 trillion in 2015 to US$4.2 trillion in 2017, according to a recent report by Global Wellness Economy Monitor released by the non-profit Global Wellness Institute (GWI).
At a recent conference held in St Eustatius, founder of the marketing and business development consultants, Mind Body Spirit Network, Sallie Fraenkel, stated that the wellness sector is “three times larger than the global pharmaceutical industry and growing exponentially”.
With a nearly perfect year round climate, it would seem that Barbados and the Caribbean generally appear well positioned to capitalise on the enormous further potential to build this massive market.
To help define exactly what the general understanding and definition of the ‘wellness industry’ is and the revenue it generates, the Global Wellness Institute (GWI) states it includes the following key sectors:
Beauty and anti-ageing – US$1,083 billion; Healthy eating, nutrition and weight loss – US$702 billion; Wellness Tourism – US$639 billion; Preventative/personalised medicine and public health – US$575 billion; Traditional and complementary medicine – US$360 billion; Spa industry – US$119 billion; Fitness-Mind-Body – US$595 billion; Workplace wellness – US$48 billion and Wellness real estate – US$134 billion.
Perhaps a simpler definition may be ‘the wellness tourism economy is all expenditures made by tourists who seek to improve or maintain their well-being during or as a result of their trip’.
World travellers made 691 million wellness trips in 2015, which was 104.4 million more than in 2013.
The spa sector alone jumped from 105,591 worldwide locations in 2013 to 121,595 in 2015, employing over 230,000 workers.
Wikipedia lists the biggest individual country markets for wellness tourism as 1) United States 2) Germany 3) Japan 4) France 5) Austria.
By region, Latin America, including the Caribbean, is the fourth largest in terms of trips and expenditure, with Jamaica and the Dominican Republic being the only islands, rated in the top ten within this geographical category.
Every source researched concluded that wellness tourists are generally high yield tourists, spending on average somewhere between 130 and 165 percent more than the ‘typical tourist’.
Clearly, this is a market where we can do considerably better than at present. With our envious diversity and reach of airlift, especially from North America together with its proximity, what are the further opportunities?
In the United Kingdom, I was surprised that leading specialist tour operators including, Wellbeing Escapes, Health and Fitness Travel, Healthy Holidays and Spa Dreams did not feature Barbados at all, even though some did include options like The Body Holiday in neighbouring Saint Lucia.
Are we largely missing out on this huge high value source of additional visitors and what is the most cost-effective way to reach them?
Could a specifically targeted familiarisation (FAM) trip for those travel companies specialising in this market be a start, to help highlight our natural surroundings, healthy eating options, yoga and wellness locations and massive diverse water sports possibilities?