The Global Wellness Institute (GWI) defines wellness tourism as “travel associated with the quest to maintain or improve personal well-being.” Wellness tourism is a form of travel that focuses on improving one's physical, mental, and spiritual health. It can involve activities such as hot springs, day spa and hotel spa, thalassotherapy, and exercise. Wellness tourism is becoming increasingly popular as people recognize the importance of taking time to focus on their health and well-being. Vacations can increase physical well-being, happiness, and productivity by providing travelers with new perspectives and positively affecting creativity, adaptability, worry, and stress management.
Contrary to popular belief, wellness travelers are not just a small, elite group of wealthy leisure tourists. In fact, Latin America and the Caribbean is the fourth largest region for wellness tourism in terms of amount of travel and expenses. There are two types of wellness travelers: primary and secondary. Primary wellness travelers are those who travel specifically for the purpose of promoting health and well-being.
Secondary wellness travelers are those who incorporate some aspect of well-being into their vacation, such as getting a massage on the beach during an all-inclusive Mexican vacation. The most demanding and sophisticated wellness travelers are interested in what the destination offers that is different from somewhere else. For example, Iceland is a beautiful destination that offers many unique wellness activities. Wellness tourism is also a source of income for hotels and other facilities that offer these services.
Spas and hotels in Turkey and Hungary cater to wellness tourists, many of whom are subsidized by host countries such as Norway and Denmark. There is some overlap between medical tourism and wellness tourism. For example, DNA tests or executive check-ups may be offered in both contexts. However, medical tourists travel to receive treatment for a diagnosed condition while wellness tourists travel to improve or maintain their health and quality of life.
We measure wellness tourism by aggregating the travel expenses of people who define themselves as wellness tourists.