Patients Beyond Borders, the US-based international medical travel publishers, say the world’s top destinations are (in alphabetical order): Costa Rica, India, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, United States…
Unsurprisingly, in our stressed world, wellness tourism is, says Lonely Planet, the industry’s fastest growing sector with a 10% rise in 2017 making it a plus $500bn market. Within that, the specialist medical segment is growing even more rapidly, as travellers attempt to cut bills or waiting times. Forecasts vary, but suggest that this is rising at around 20% annually and is currently worth $45 -$72bn.
“There are so many new combinations of travel destinations that focus on … ‘healthy’ experiences – that appeal to both men and women and come at much more affordable price-points,” says Susie Ellis, CEO of the Global Wellness Institute (GWI) on the growth in wellness tourism.
‘Mindfulness’, seems to be replacing ‘wellness’ currently, and no one seems to want to be without an offer. Even British Airways has a ‘Mindfulness of Travel’ programme”. This was aimed at creating a calm Atlantic-long-haul flight (though that may be a contradiction in terms) with meditative videos. Etihad, Emirates and Virgin Atlantic are among airlines with spa services in their lounges. Hyatt acquired wellness resort and spa group Miraval; InterContinental Hotels Group has its EVEN Hotels brand.
The US is the largest national wellness tourism market by far, but China is making huge gains.
Source: Global Wellness Institute
The US, says the GWI, is the largest national wellness tourism market by far (with an annual $200bn-plus when last counted), followed by Germany (with $60bn). But China has been making huge gains, the last figures showing an annual jump from $12bn to $30bn. Globally, most trips are domestic (83%) but international/inbound wellness travel has been growing at a much faster rate. The last figures from the GWI showed growth of 22% in trips and 20% in revenues for international, compared to 17% and 11% for domestic.
In the UK, which has the longest NHS waiting times in a decade, healthcare traveller numbers have risen from 48,000 in 2014 to almost 144,000. According to the Daily Telegraph a few weeks ago, medical travel website Medigo was reporting a 200% rise in queries about orthopaedic treatment and rising numbers going to countries such as France and Switzerland.
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