Wellness Tourism Is Booming. What Is It, Exactly?
February 21, 2024
By Beth Rush

The pandemic brought several changes to the travel industry—one trend has linked traveling with well-being, giving rise to wellness tourism. Although not a new concept, it gained tremendous popularity after the pandemic as people seek unconventional ways to care for their health. Find out more about what it is and why many find it necessary.

What Is Wellness Tourism?

The Global Wellness Institute defines wellness tourism as a health-inspired form of vacation, meaning you travel to improve your physical and mental health. Initially, people visit tourist destinations for leisure, but many now hit the road to recover from stress, exhaustion, and other negative qualities, turning traveling into a holistic care experience.

History of Wellness Tourism

While many people think it’s similar to medical tourism, they vary greatly. The two are firmly related yet occupy separate markets. 

Ancient civilizations recognized the connection between health care and religion and believed in the therapeutic benefits of sacred temple baths and mineral thermal springs. The ancient Greeks even built the Asclepion Temples, which became the world’s first health centers and provided cures for people with ailments. 

Today, many tourism wellness activities draw on these old practices, such as bathing in a holy hot spring or traveling to a sacred place to receive healing. Instead of enjoying the beach, you may find volunteering at an elephant sanctuary in Cambodia more worthwhile because of the positive impact. If you search online, you’ll find countless centers or local businesses offering such wellness activities.

Benefits of Wellness Tourism

The wellness tourism sector is growing, with COVID-19 as one of its drivers. The market was valued at $814.6 billion in 2022 and is projected to grow by 12.42% CAGR from 2023 to 2030. The robust figures indicate the increasing demand for wellness tourism and the shift in people’s intent to travel. 

Wellness tourism benefits four life domains, contributing to the increasing demand:

  • Psychological fitness: These recreations enhance the mind-spirit-emotion connection through meditation retreats. Such recreations help reduce stress and improve mental state by learning to control the mind.
  • Quality of life: It refers to activities that positively impact overall well-being, including community involvement and life satisfaction.
  • Environmental health: Many wellness engagements inspire eco-tourism events, such as riding a bike or taking public transportation to a destination. 

Examples of Wellness Tourism Activities

Wellness tourism aims to improve health in any way which differs for each person. You can integrate this into your itinerary in different ways beyond swimming on the beach or hiking a mountain. Doing activities you love—like visiting renowned museums and natural landmarks to keep your love for science alive—is an excellent way to explore your passion and inject wellness into your trip.

Other examples of health-forward activities are: 

  • Yoga and meditation retreats in the mountains: Especially in Asia, several centers offer meditation programs, both free and paid, to anyone looking to immerse themselves in stillness and learn more about themselves.
  • Spa treatments: Services like massages, mud baths, oil therapies, and facials are soothing, stress-relieving, and restorative.
  • Hot springs: The Blue Lagoon in Iceland, Pamukkale Springs in Turkey, and Travertine Hot Springs in California are some of the most famous thermal pools where you can take a dip and relax while on vacation. 
  • Pilgrimage: Many people who have gone through this immersion-based religious event return with life-changing spiritual experiences. Going on a pilgrimage can strengthen your faith, connect you to your soul, and help you find meaning in life.
  • Plant medicine retreat: A common example is ayahuasca, where participants drink a psychoactive brew that alters the state of consciousness, resulting in hallucinations, euphoria and out-of-body experiences. It’s believed to treat mental health issues like depression, improve psychological well-being and protect brain cells. 

Wellness Tourism Is Part of Holistic Health

Taking care of your health requires you to look at it from a holistic point of view. Since the disease of the mind also affects the body, considering the physical, mental, emotional, and social factors are essential for optimal health. 

Wellness tourism is just one of the approaches to healing the body from stress, burnout, and other psychological challenges. Make it health-forward the next time you plan a vacation by signing up for a yoga retreat or trying a hot spring. You can leisurely enjoy a trip and make it therapeutic.

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About the Author

Beth Rush
Beth is the content manager and Managing Editor at Body+Mind. She is passionate about writing about travel, fitness, nutrition and mental health. In her spare time, Beth enjoys going for runs with her dog and trying out new recipes.