In-depth | Wellness tourism to boom

2020-08-12 15:07:20 source: Jiang Yangyang, Lv Cenhua



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(Profile photo: A lady is taking pictures during her short stay at a pond in Yuhang District, Hangzhou)


Since the 'Healthy China' initiative was proposed, wellness tourism has become a powerful engine propelling the growth of the tourism industry. Wellness tourism means traveling with the purpose of integrating wellness, health-promotion, and improving the quality of life. It is an important sector of the wellness economy, which enables consumers to incorporate wellness activities and lifestyles into their daily lives. The Global Wellness Institute (GWI) defines wellness as the active pursuit of activities, choices, and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health. The goals of wellness include both physiological and psychological health, the improvement of living standards, and the enhancement of happiness.

 

The appeal of wellness tourism destinations is determined by their natural resources and the service quality at the destination. For instance, Yongtai County in Fujian Province is known as the "homeland of thermal/mineral springs in China". In addition, the history, culture, and featured industries could also enhance the attractiveness of a wellness tourism destination. For example, the City of Taizhou in Jiangsu Province vigorously promotes traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) tourism. 


In general, there are two major development modes in the domestic wellness tourism industry: 1) medical care + tourism and 2) wellbeing + tourism. The former provides medical services for tourists with health care needs, apart from leisure tourism activities. While the latter aims to help tourists adopt a healthy lifestyle, which involves the way of eating, playing, traveling, maintaining vitality, dealing with stress, and responding to the first signs of illness.

 

The COVID-19 outbreak has raised individuals' health consciousness and increased consumers' health-related expenditures. It is predicted that this pandemic will facilitate the expansion of the wellness tourism market. In particular, Chinese consumers show a growing interest in integrating wellness into homes and communities, work, and travel activities. Furthermore, in the face of longer lifespans, rising stress levels, and escalating chronic diseases, individuals have started to reexamine the lifestyle and refocus on wellbeing and longevity. Responding to these trends, the wellness tourism industry in China is expected to grow in the following aspects.

 

First, rural wellness tourism, a form of wellness tourism that is combined with ecological health, will recover quickly in the post-pandemic period. This is because this tourism form mainly serves tourists from nearby regions, and many tourism activities happen outdoors. This could, to some extent, curtail the spread of COVID-19. Moreover, because of the pandemic, there is a growing recognition of the importance of harmony between human and nature. As consumers have a stronger desire to connect with nature, they tend to give priority to nature-based tourist attractions. For example, forests and beaches could allow tourists to relax and find peace in mind. These nature-based wellness tourism destinations will gain popularity among tourists.

 

Second, given the growing wellness sophistication of tourists, the customer demand in the wellness tourism market will be more diversified. In terms of age, consumers born in the 1960s and 1970s focus more on acquiring medical care and proper medical treatments. Therefore, this consumer segment may require medical gear and personalized physical therapy services in their wellness tourism program. While consumers born in the 1980s and 1990s are more concerned about fitness, dietary balance, and sleep hygiene. Therefore, they might prefer mindfulness training, TCM tourism products, and sports activities. In terms of gender, women have a greater demand for beauty, anti-aging, and cosmetic products and services. Moreover, wellness tourism programs based on traditional Chinese culture, like Zen meditation, acupuncture, and Tai Chi, have aroused growing interest among tourists from various cultural backgrounds.

 

Third, wellness tourism is no longer a siloed industry. It will increasingly converge and collaborate with other industries to form a wellness ecosystem at the tourism destination. Specifically, the integration of wellness tourism and ecological agriculture cultivates organic health-care products. Information technology advancements will make the wellness tourism system smarter, based on big data and artificial intelligence. For instance, wellness tourism managers could leverage tourists’ behavioral data and their consumption history (e.g. booking history of fitness programs, usage of SPA services) and harness predictive analytics to design customized, health-focused amenities. As a combination of wellness tourism and the sports industry, new business models such as sports tourism villages, sports resorts, and sports wellness centers emerge. In addition, the collaboration between the hospitality industry and wellness tourism will promote the development of diet restaurants that offer food therapy and medical hotels that provide health-care services in a hotel setting by offering medical resources and hospital facilities.

 

As a result of consumers’ active pursuit of holistic health, the concept of wellness tourism will be enriched and new business models will keep emerging. The growth of wellness tourism could solidify the resilience and sustainability of the tourism industry and the wellness economy. It will also help consumers incorporate wellness activities and lifestyles into their daily lives. Going forward, it is important that the government, wellness tourism corporations, and destination marketing organizations make concerted efforts to establish the ‘demonstration destination of wellness tourism’. This involves creating the attractive core area of the wellness tourism destination based on the unique natural and/or cultural resources, and meanwhile ensuring the quality and variety of infrastructure (e.g., barrier-free design) to support the serviceability of the destination.

 

Furthermore, wellness tourism destinations should be committed to the sustained improvement of the physical environment quality, as it is essential to the wellness ecosystem that could nurture wellbeing and longevity. In addition, the collaboration should be increased between wellness tourism and other economic sectors, as well as other tourism forms such as sightseeing tourism, slow tourism, sports tourism, and eco-tourism. It is also vital to encourage individuals' proactive behaviors that could improve personal wellness and environmental health. This will create a powerful force to drive the development of wellness tourism.  


Authored by Dr. Yangyang Jiang, Assistant Professor of Marketing, Nottingham University Business School China, University of Nottingham Ningbo China; Cenhua Lv, Nottingham University Business School China, University of Nottingham Ningbo China

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1.png

(Profile photo: A lady is taking pictures during her short stay at a pond in Yuhang District, Hangzhou)


Since the 'Healthy China' initiative was proposed, wellness tourism has become a powerful engine propelling the growth of the tourism industry. Wellness tourism means traveling with the purpose of integrating wellness, health-promotion, and improving the quality of life. It is an important sector of the wellness economy, which enables consumers to incorporate wellness activities and lifestyles into their daily lives. The Global Wellness Institute (GWI) defines wellness as the active pursuit of activities, choices, and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health. The goals of wellness include both physiological and psychological health, the improvement of living standards, and the enhancement of happiness.

 

The appeal of wellness tourism destinations is determined by their natural resources and the service quality at the destination. For instance, Yongtai County in Fujian Province is known as the "homeland of thermal/mineral springs in China". In addition, the history, culture, and featured industries could also enhance the attractiveness of a wellness tourism destination. For example, the City of Taizhou in Jiangsu Province vigorously promotes traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) tourism. 


In general, there are two major development modes in the domestic wellness tourism industry: 1) medical care + tourism and 2) wellbeing + tourism. The former provides medical services for tourists with health care needs, apart from leisure tourism activities. While the latter aims to help tourists adopt a healthy lifestyle, which involves the way of eating, playing, traveling, maintaining vitality, dealing with stress, and responding to the first signs of illness.

 

The COVID-19 outbreak has raised individuals' health consciousness and increased consumers' health-related expenditures. It is predicted that this pandemic will facilitate the expansion of the wellness tourism market. In particular, Chinese consumers show a growing interest in integrating wellness into homes and communities, work, and travel activities. Furthermore, in the face of longer lifespans, rising stress levels, and escalating chronic diseases, individuals have started to reexamine the lifestyle and refocus on wellbeing and longevity. Responding to these trends, the wellness tourism industry in China is expected to grow in the following aspects.

 

First, rural wellness tourism, a form of wellness tourism that is combined with ecological health, will recover quickly in the post-pandemic period. This is because this tourism form mainly serves tourists from nearby regions, and many tourism activities happen outdoors. This could, to some extent, curtail the spread of COVID-19. Moreover, because of the pandemic, there is a growing recognition of the importance of harmony between human and nature. As consumers have a stronger desire to connect with nature, they tend to give priority to nature-based tourist attractions. For example, forests and beaches could allow tourists to relax and find peace in mind. These nature-based wellness tourism destinations will gain popularity among tourists.

 

Second, given the growing wellness sophistication of tourists, the customer demand in the wellness tourism market will be more diversified. In terms of age, consumers born in the 1960s and 1970s focus more on acquiring medical care and proper medical treatments. Therefore, this consumer segment may require medical gear and personalized physical therapy services in their wellness tourism program. While consumers born in the 1980s and 1990s are more concerned about fitness, dietary balance, and sleep hygiene. Therefore, they might prefer mindfulness training, TCM tourism products, and sports activities. In terms of gender, women have a greater demand for beauty, anti-aging, and cosmetic products and services. Moreover, wellness tourism programs based on traditional Chinese culture, like Zen meditation, acupuncture, and Tai Chi, have aroused growing interest among tourists from various cultural backgrounds.

 

Third, wellness tourism is no longer a siloed industry. It will increasingly converge and collaborate with other industries to form a wellness ecosystem at the tourism destination. Specifically, the integration of wellness tourism and ecological agriculture cultivates organic health-care products. Information technology advancements will make the wellness tourism system smarter, based on big data and artificial intelligence. For instance, wellness tourism managers could leverage tourists’ behavioral data and their consumption history (e.g. booking history of fitness programs, usage of SPA services) and harness predictive analytics to design customized, health-focused amenities. As a combination of wellness tourism and the sports industry, new business models such as sports tourism villages, sports resorts, and sports wellness centers emerge. In addition, the collaboration between the hospitality industry and wellness tourism will promote the development of diet restaurants that offer food therapy and medical hotels that provide health-care services in a hotel setting by offering medical resources and hospital facilities.

 

As a result of consumers’ active pursuit of holistic health, the concept of wellness tourism will be enriched and new business models will keep emerging. The growth of wellness tourism could solidify the resilience and sustainability of the tourism industry and the wellness economy. It will also help consumers incorporate wellness activities and lifestyles into their daily lives. Going forward, it is important that the government, wellness tourism corporations, and destination marketing organizations make concerted efforts to establish the ‘demonstration destination of wellness tourism’. This involves creating the attractive core area of the wellness tourism destination based on the unique natural and/or cultural resources, and meanwhile ensuring the quality and variety of infrastructure (e.g., barrier-free design) to support the serviceability of the destination.

 

Furthermore, wellness tourism destinations should be committed to the sustained improvement of the physical environment quality, as it is essential to the wellness ecosystem that could nurture wellbeing and longevity. In addition, the collaboration should be increased between wellness tourism and other economic sectors, as well as other tourism forms such as sightseeing tourism, slow tourism, sports tourism, and eco-tourism. It is also vital to encourage individuals' proactive behaviors that could improve personal wellness and environmental health. This will create a powerful force to drive the development of wellness tourism.  


Authored by Dr. Yangyang Jiang, Assistant Professor of Marketing, Nottingham University Business School China, University of Nottingham Ningbo China; Cenhua Lv, Nottingham University Business School China, University of Nottingham Ningbo China

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