FAR from being a luxury, taking a holiday, especially to boost your wellbeing, is becoming much more mainstream, with Middle East destinations attracting a growing number of health-conscious travellers.
Of course, wellness tourism has been in vogue for some time. The global wellness industry grew 10.6 per cent to become a $3.72 trillion market in 2015. According to Global Wellness Institute (GWI), the strategic partner for the World Travel Market portfolio of events, spas are a key driver of this success. It follows then that, with a spa industry that’s expected to surpass $503 million by 2020, the UAE is perfectly positioned to leverage the trend.
Dubai currently has more than 200 spas in operation, with 25 new hotel spas expected to open this year. Attracting a larger slice of the wellness tourism segment will rely partly on the ability of these establishments to raise awareness of all they have to offer to both local and international visitors.
This is something that the dedicated Wellness & Spa Lounge at Arabian Travel Market seeks to facilitate, by providing the ultimate platform for discussion. This year, more than 35 exhibitors representing some of the world’s most recognised health and wellness hospitality destinations will attend – an increase of 40 per cent on last year’s numbers – which goes some way to demonstrating the surge of interest in this specialist tourism industry vertical.
In terms of the conversations taking place on the show floor, we expect accessibility to be a key topic. Indeed, as spas shake off their air of exclusivity and expand the offering with holistic wellness packages that incorporate treatments, healthy food and fitness activities, the new wave of health-conscious travellers are sitting up and taking note.
We are also seeing a rise in demand for spa and wellness packages that embrace the local culture, heritage and sights. The fourth annual Desert Yoga and Meditation camp that took place in Dubai in March 2016, for instance, shows a clear opportunity for the many desert resorts in the region to benefit from this trend by capitalising on the beauty of the natural landscape.
Medical tourism is another rising sub-sector. According to Dubai Health Authority, Dubai attracted more than 630,000 medical tourists in 2015, split almost evenly between international (47 per cent) and domestic (53 per cent) patients. With a growing number of world-class hospitals on the scene and sand, sea and year-round sunshine providing the perfect environment in which to relax and recover, the sector is sure to further raise the pulse of the wellness tourism industry in future.
Our first ever Wellness Symposium at Arabian Travel Market, which is taking place on the Tuesday afternoon in collaboration with GWI, will shine a light on all the latest developments while pinpointing what the future holds. As one of the fastest growing and most important elements of the travel industry, it's time we gave the region’s wellness tourism sector its annual check-up.
• Simon is senior exhibition director, Arabian Travel Market
By Simon Press
TTN is the most established trade publication in the Middle East distributed on a controlled circulation basis to members of the travel and tourism industry.
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