What is the European market potential for wellness tourism?
Europeans have become increasingly interested in wellness trips as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, as many them want to recharge and focus on their mental health. The European wellness tourism market is very diverse and offers many opportunities, so it is important to get to know your European visitors well so you can better meet their needs. Promising trends include the holistic understanding of wellness, the increased focus on fitness and nutrition, and the influence social media has on booking a wellness holiday.
Contents of this page
1. Product description
Wellness Activities and Fitness refers to the range of activities undertaken in the pursuit of wellness whilst on a leisure trip. Wellness tourism has many specialist niches. The specialist niches are very different from each other and tourists can be looking for different things. It is important to be informed about the specialist niches so you can target European tourists effectively. You can find the different niches, what they mean, and examples in the table below.
There are eight dimensions to wellness tourism: Social, physical, spiritual, emotional, preventative, intellectual, societal, and financial wellness. This study focuses on physical, emotional, preventative, and spiritual wellness. Many of these dimensions overlap. Specialist niches can belong to one or more dimensions. For example, destination spas and hotels, hammams, hot springs, and wellness retreats fall under the physical, emotional and preventative wellness dimensions. Yoga or Pilates, ashrams, martial arts, and meditation contribute to physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness.
This study focuses on physical, emotional, preventative, and spiritual wellness.
Table 1: Specialist niches
Destination Spas or Hotels
Destination spas or hotels are for people that are looking for a few days of ultimate relaxation. A combination of baths, massages, saunas, and beauty treatments is often included.
Ciêla in Zambia is a resort and spa where people can enjoy massages, steam rooms, hydrotherapy and other wellness services. It works with local Zambian wellness products that are sustainably sourced.
Children can enjoy indoor and outdoor play areas under professional supervision.
Besides the spa, the resort also offers a golfing facilities, safaris, and hiking trails.
Wellness retreats often include a wellness programme with accommodation at a resort or hotel. The providers often have their own philosophies that underlie their offer. Wellness retreats can include fitness while spas will not include fitness.
Fivelements in Bali, Indonesia, offers Balinese therapies that have been applied for centuries.
The holistic element of their offers is key. Customers can expect a health reset for both mind and body.
Indonesian cuisine, fitness and healing all come together in this wellness retreat.
LifeStart Retreats offers a health programme in Zambia for people that want to improve their diet and fitness level. Tourists can expect a personal health assessment, fitness classes and healthy meals on the terrace.
Yoga and Pilates
Yoga and Pilates are exercises that aim to improve both physical and spiritual wellbeing. Yoga and Pilates focus on flexibility, strength and alignment. The exercises are practiced with a focused and relaxed mindset.
Made in South Africa is a South African tour operator that organises yoga safaris in South Africa and neighbouring countries like Botswana and Zimbabwe.
Tourists enjoy the beauty and adventure of the wilderness and the relaxation of yoga in a luxurious eco-retreat.
Inle Sanctuary offers a range of yoga practices in Myanmar. This is a place where yoga, meditation and breathing techniques come together. The package it offers includes workshops to benefit the women in the local community.
Thai Boxing, Karate or Tai Chi
Thai Boxing, Karate and Tai Chi are martial arts. They are combat training sports. Mindfulness is an important component of the martial arts.
Thailand’s Battle Conquer offers training packages for martial arts such as Thai boxing. Next to the boxing training, it offer tours to various temples, massage treatments and high intensity fitness trainings.
One-day spas are often located in or near the city. People will visit the spa for half or a whole day. Visitors can often decide if they make use of a package of services or roam the spa on their own. Spas often include baths, massages and saunas.
Mangwanani is located in the South African city of Johannesburg and offers day packages for visitors. It also offers individual treatments, such as massages, manicures and pedicures.
Couples can book a romantic spa package. In addition, it also offers night-time spa packages, full-day and half-day packages.
Hammams or sauna
Hammams and saunas are hot-air or steam baths that detoxify and cleanse the body. There are many different kinds, varying in temperature, steam density and complementary features like aromas.
Spa Laaroussa is located in Morocco where tourists can enjoy the hammam. The traditional steam bath can be followed by a massage by a professional therapist with essential oils.
Meditation is an practice that centres around observation, awareness and focus. At a meditation retreat, people will sit still and observe the mind for long periods of time. Meditation retreats sometimes include yoga or other mindful activities.
Sen Wellness in Sri Lanka is a meditation retreat that focuses on mindfulness meditation. It offers stays ranging from 1 to 14 days. It also offers meditation programmes where visitors train the mind under professional guidance. In addition, tourists can practice yoga at sunrise and sunset if they want to.
Vipassana Meditation offers multi-day meditation courses in Uganda to get familiar and improve visitors' meditation practice to experience the benefits of observing and understanding the mind.
Hot springs or thermal baths
Hot springs and thermal baths are sources of hot water in nature with healing minerals that are good for the body. Many of these hot springs have facilities built around them to accommodate visitors.
Jordan’s Ma’in Hot Springs offers access to natural pools and hot springs. Tourists can decide if they want to visit for a day or stay overnight in one of the luxurious rooms. It provides a lot of information on the healing properties of the water.
Family friendly activities are available for people who want to bring their children.
Timeless Ethiopia offers day trips to the healing hot springs. If tourists want to enjoy the hot springs for longer, they can extend their day trip to a multiday trip.
Ashrams are places where people go for spiritual or religious retreats. They are often remote monasteries where people pray or meditate. Sometimes people travel there on pilgrimages.
India’s AyurYoga Eco Ashram offers various courses on yoga, reiki and Ayurveda. It allows tourists to develop spiritually while practicing meditation, yoga and art.
Treatment tourism is where tourists travel to receive medical care for their condition or detoxify from certain substances. These tourists may look for alternative treatments or treatments that are only available in certain regions.
The Jordan Dead Sea Spa offers a medical centre for people with conditions that require water or mud treatments for their condition. They receive a specialised examination and advice from an accredited doctor during their stay.
Wellness tourists find it important to improve or maintain their wellness during a wellness holiday. Of course, people will have a varying idea of what ‘wellness’ actually entails, but it often includes a combination of physical, mental and spiritual health practices. European wellness tourists often look for relaxing, spa, fitness, religious and spiritual retreats to improve or preserve their wellbeing. Many tourists want to combine different wellness activities to feel optimally rejuvenated, reconnect with themselves, improve their health and get away from their busy day-to-day life.
Wellness tourists often enjoy adventure travel activities on the side, such as diving and wildlife watching. Wellness and adventure travel is often included in one package. Other combinations that are popular are food and wellness holidays and sports and wellness holidays. Wellness activities and wellness holidays are becoming increasingly popular among Europeans, offering opportunities on the European outbound tourism market.
This report addresses reasons for Europe being an interesting market for wellness tourism, which European countries offer the most potential and which trends offer opportunities.
- Read our studies on the markets that overlap with wellness tourism, like the European market potential for sport tourism, religious tourism and luxury tourism. This can help you better understand what Europeans find important during their wellness holiday.
- Read our studies on wildlife tourism, adventure tourism, food tourism and dive tourism to gain an understanding of what European tourists like to do in addition to their wellness activities. Offering a combination of wellness and other activities can make you stand out.
- Find out which specialist niches you want to target. The different specialist niches have very different demands and expectations. You need to know a lot about the tourists you want to attract and the services you offer. Europeans find it important to know that they are well taken care of, and your expertise is likely to gain their trust.
- Connect with experts in the field, like wellness experts and health experts. Wellness tourists have specific wants and needs, depending on the specialist niches, European source country, and beliefs about wellness. Advice from experts will help you develop your offer optimally.
2. What makes Europe an interesting market to target for wellness tourism?
Together with North America, Europe has the largest wellness tourism market, with almost 300 million wellness trips before the COVID-19 pandemic. Europeans are increasingly interested in wellness trips. The wellness tourism industry is expected to grow with 20.9% each year until 2025. Experts agree that spending on wellness treatments and facilities is going to increase. The number of wellness trips is also expected to increase. This means that many people will be first-time wellness travellers. There will also be an increasing number of non-wellness travellers spending one day or afternoon at the spa, getting a massage or following a day-programme as part of their holiday.
European wellness travellers are quite demanding but spend 53% more than the average tourist. Many are willing and able to spend a few thousand euros for a weeklong wellness holiday. In return, they often want to enjoy luxury and professional treatment. Especially Europeans that go to spa destinations and yoga or fitness retreats often spend a lot of money. Many ashram and meditation centres that are not about luxury but on self-development will be a lot less expensive.
Europeans’ wellness demands
Europeans care about personalised services, especially in wellness. Every European has a personal view on what wellness means to them. 29% of travellers want a personalised holiday package with special services that fit their needs. Packaged holidays have become especially popular during uncertain COVID-19 measures. Location and setting, brand and reputation, storytelling, and treatments and services are most important when attracting European tourists.
Everybody has different wellness needs and tourists want to be able to enjoy a combination of services that meet those needs. Some tourists find fitness very important, while others find a day at the spa important for their health and relaxation. Other tourists do yoga or meditate to ensure their wellbeing and reconnection with themselves.
This all means that wellness tourism has many opportunities, but you have to know your customers well to meet their demands. Europeans love to experience something unique. It is important to find out which practices make your destination unique and incorporate those in your wellness offer. These practices are important tools to diversify yourself and attract European tourists. For example, the South African wellness and safari tour operator Siyabona Africa offers treatments with red ochre. Red ochre is a restorative component in their body treatments and is an ingredient used by indigenous people in Namibia.
Figure 1: Red ochre is a natural resource highly associated with the African landscape
It is important to sell your services, treatments, classes or products well. Europeans find it important that they receive the services that they expect while booking their holiday. Attracting Europeans through storytelling is important, especially in wellness. Wellness holidays are largely about the atmosphere that the tourists want to experience. Make a story that creates an atmosphere that your products can actually deliver.
It is important to provide a lot of information about your services, what knowledge underlies it and why you are a suitable provider. Credentials, knowledge, experience and information increase trust among Europeans and make it more likely that they will choose your offer.
Most wellness travellers want all-inclusive holidays, including all treatments, accommodation, food and drinks all included in the price. The most popular wellness activity right now is yoga and Pilates with 67% of wellness tourist being interested in this activity. 42% are interested in spa treatments and 39% of wellness tourists are interested in meditation classes.
Different regions of the world usually attract different wellness tourists. For example, people interested in eco spas and adventure holidays in combination with wellness activities often travel to African and South American destinations. Europeans that travel to Southeast Asia are mostly looking for thermal baths, hot springs, yoga and meditation retreats.
Europeans’ motivation to go on a wellness trip
According to a study by the Wellness Tourism Association and Health Tourism World Wide, the most important motivations to go on a wellness holiday are de-stressing or recharging, relaxation, self-healing, self-development, fitness, escapism, self-reward, rejuvenation and pampering.
When the holiday is over, tourists want to feel rejuvenated, relaxed and relieved. It is important to create an atmosphere that reflects these characteristics. For example, including plants, earthy colour tones and soft or natural lighting in your facilities can be very important. These natural elements are important because many wellness tourists want to escape city-life and their busy jobs. Nature and privacy are the perfect way to do this.
Figure 2: A massage in a peaceful environment is included in many wellness packages
Source: photo by Karolina Grabowska via Pexels
Mental health is often the primary motivation for tourists to go on a wellness holiday, followed by physical health and spiritual health. Many tourists want to target different health aspects at the same time. They aim for a holistic holiday that targets their mental, physical and sometimes spiritual health. Yoga & meditation is becoming increasingly interesting for tourists. This is the case across all age groups. Provide tourists the option to go to yoga and meditation classes as a part of their all-inclusive package to attract Europeans.
Fitness and spa wellness holidays continue to be high in demand. Weight loss and detox holidays also continue to be popular, however, there is a shift in perspective. The focus on losing weight is shifting among Europeans towards a focus on becoming healthier instead.
COVID-19 travel restrictions and measures
The pandemic has resulted in many Europeans being more conscious of their health and wellness. People have spent more time outdoors, connecting with nature and themselves. Many people have enjoyed a more simplistic lifestyle and want to focus on healthy eating, a healthy mind and body, and healthy relationships with themselves and others.
In the short term, many Europeans will stay close to home for their wellness travels. Travel restrictions and measures are still very uncertain and travelling within Europe is easier and feels safer for them. Travellers are likely to pick up their travels to long haul destinations in the coming years. Since the pandemic, most tourists have been booking their trips more spontaneously and not as far in advance. This way they try to avoid the uncertainty of booking months in advance. Tourists try to minimise the chance of sudden cancellation because of COVID-19 measures.
COVID-19 has resulted in many Europeans wanting to escape the crowds. Trips to secluded areas are becoming more and more important. They want to immerse themselves in nature, and are increasingly looking for seclusion, and remote destinations. Europeans have experienced a lot of pressure during strict pandemic measures. Many have experienced depression and anxiety during the pandemic. The demand in wellness holidays has increased because many Europeans want to go on a wellness holiday to recharge and feel mentally well again.
Hygiene and social distancing are very important, especially during and after the pandemic. Elderly people in particular are at risk of getting COVID-19. Communicating the measures you are taking to your customers is very important in order to keep them informed and make them feel safe.
Lastly, tourists are 20% more likely to book their holidays through a booking professional than before the pandemic. This makes it more important for you to advertise yourself to tour operators in Europe to gain customers. The security of packaged travel is the leading motivation for Europeans to book through a tour operator during the uncertain pandemic times.
- Learn about managing the effects of COVID-19 in the tourism industry to find reliable sources on Europe’s COVID-19 situation. Read our article on how to respond to COVID-19 for a step-by step guide that can help you respond and recover from the effects of the pandemic.
- Get to know your customers to find out about their specific wants. Find out what their beliefs about wellness are and which needs they have. Connect this with what makes your destination unique to make your offer stand out.
- Find out what tourists like to do besides wellness activities. For example, read our study on ecotourism, adventure tourism, wildlife tourism, luxury tourism and sport tourism to learn more about other interests wellness tourists might have.
- Learn how to effectively market yourself through storytelling and offering a unique and personalised experience to attract European tourists. Read our study on how to be a successful tourism company online to find out how to effectively build your online presence and attract European tourists.
The European market for wellness tourism is diverse. The most important age-group going on wellness holidays are 25–45-year-olds. Different age groups are drawn to different things. Elderly people, baby boomers and millennials are often interested in natural resource-based treatments. These are for example, thermal water, hot springs and ocean-based treatments. Massages are also more popular among older generations.
Younger adults are often more interested in active therapeutic recreation, like fitness, yoga or nutrition programmes to improve their health. They are also more likely to go to festivals centred around spirituality and wellness. They enjoy being physically active and find this important to their wellbeing. An example that attracts younger wellness travellers is Bali Spirit Festival in Indonesia. They combine music with a range of wellness activities like martial arts, meditation, yoga and breathwork.
European wellness tourists can be divided into different groups: self-development travellers, escapers and treatment tourists.
Europeans that seek personal development are likely to go on a meditation, yoga, martial arts or fitness retreat. Ashrams also often attract travellers that are interested in understanding more about themselves. These tourists are most likely to increase spiritual wellness, in addition to their physical and mental wellness.
They often travel solo, with a partner or close friend. Meditation, yoga or fitness retreats are often very individual or intimate experiences. This makes it more appealing to solo travellers or those travelling with only close friends or partners.
Figure 3: Meditation in nature induces an inspirational setting for self-development
Source: photo by Noelle Otto via Pexels
Self-development travellers are highly interested in learning something new. Examples include different sports, cooking different dishes or practising a new approach to mindfulness. You can incorporate workshops or classes into your offer to meet these self-development needs.
Working from home has become very popular since the pandemic. Many Europeans decide to work from a holiday destination instead of their home desk. Europeans like to be productive but still reap the benefits of a wellness holiday. Flexible holiday packages that are suitable with a working traveller’s schedule is interesting for them. These tourists also tend to stay for a longer period compared to other wellness tourists.
Escapers want to take a break from their busy lives at home. Many of these tourists live in a city and have a demanding job. Relaxing and recharging are especially important for them. Families, couples and friends tend to go on these trips. These travellers tend to go on more generic wellness holidays like a destination spa or wellness retreat. Solo travellers also go on wellness trips to escape their everyday life. They sometimes reward themselves with a wellness outing when they have achieved or overcome something major in their personal or professional lives.
Parents with children often come during school holidays. This is usually during summer or winter. Families with children are likely to go to a destination spas, wellness resorts or take part in one-day wellness activities. It is important for families to have a programme that is suitable for the whole family. Activities besides wellness can be important. For example, a safari, surf lessons or a family cooking class can be interesting for this group. In addition, an animation team or a babysitter is important for parents to get a break from taking care of their children. Make sure that children are safe and entertained while their parents enjoy a massage, yoga class or a dinner together.
It is important for families on a wellness holiday to connect with their children and be able to relax without constant care for their children. Providing this balance is key if you target this group. An example package is Amatara Phuket’s package for families. They provide family breakfasts, a wellness consultation for adults, family yoga or Thai boxing class and a kid’s club.
A group of friends enjoying a wellness holiday together is more likely to consist of women than of men. These tourists either come with a group or in pairs. It is important for friends to spend time together during their wellness holidays. Larger accommodation or private workshops can be appealing for larger groups.
Some couples use wellness trips to reconnect and get some time off without children. These trips are also called romantic holidays. Couples’ massages, a private sauna and a private romantic dinner under the stars are examples of activities these travellers are looking for. Their priority is to connect with their loved one and relax. Luxury, being pampered and privacy can be important for these tourists.
Escapers can be divided into primary and secondary wellness tourists. Primary wellness tourists are motivated by wellness when planning their holidays. For example, these tourists book a complete wellness package at a spa retreat, go on a package martial arts trip or go on a medical trip at a treatment resort. Secondary wellness travellers include some wellness activities or a wellness day into their holiday. These tourists will, for example, go to an urban spa, attend a yoga class or attend a one or two-day programme at an ashram.
Both groups are interesting to target and can often be targeted at the same time if you provide different programmes.
Europeans going on a primary wellness holiday are often already familiar with wellness services such as spas and massages. Spas, massages, saunas, or practicing yoga or martial arts are usually steppingstones to a wellness holiday. Primary wellness travellers are often more knowledgeable about the treatments they want to receive. Secondary wellness travellers are often more open to trying something new and have fewer demands.
Secondary wellness travellers are an interesting market to target. Of all wellness activities, 85% of the expenditure comes from secondary wellness tourists. Keep in mind that secondary wellness travellers can become loyal customers in the future and often recommend their activities to their friends and family at home.
Figure 4: Martial arts focus on physical and mental growth
Source: photo by Cottonbro via Pexels
A primary wellness tourist will, for example, book a weeklong Muay Thai program to develop physically and mentally. Lionheart Muay Thai is an example of a martial arts retreat in Thailand that focuses on fitness and martial arts. Tourists are often already familiar with practicing martial arts and doing fitness before booking a holiday.
Medical wellness tourists go on a wellness holiday to receive treatment for disease or pain. Examples include tourists with rheumatism that go to a hot spring resort and tourists with chronic pain who travel for acupuncture treatments.
Being knowledgeable and certified is especially important if you want to target medical wellness travellers. It is best to approach tour operators that target this group specifically, because you can work together with other experts that are knowledgeable in the field. They are more aware of insurance coverage, criteria for you to adhere to and the demands of European treatment tourists. Some Europeans can get insurance for their trips abroad if their medical situation requires it. However, European insurance companies are the deciding in determining whether a patient’s insurance covers these costs.
Keep in mind that treatment tourists may stay longer than one or two weeks. This way they are more likely to experience the benefit of the treatment. Some of these tourists might be less abled because of their disease or pain. Adjusting the environment so that it is accessible to people with a disability is key. COVID-19 measures like increased hygiene standards and social distancing are especially important for this group as some tourists cannot afford to get ill.
Treatment tourists might travel together with their partner, a close friend, or a nurse that can support them during their holidays. This is highly depending on their illness and the severity of that illness.
- Read the Global Wellness Economy Monitor from the Global Wellness Institute to learn more about wellness and its different characteristics and dimensions.
- Work together with health professionals and the health sector. Employing and being associated with experts and health institutions with credentials is key to gaining Europeans’ trust.
- Market your offer according to the target groups. For example, travellers going to a spa may want to recharge, while self-development travellers want to learn and reconnect with themselves.
- Include non-wellness related activities in your programs to make the holiday unique and appealing to your target group. A safari, a day trip to the beach, a visit to a temple or an interesting workshop are examples of activities you can include to diversify yourself.
3. Which European countries offer the most opportunities for wellness tourism?
Germany, the United Kingdom, and France are the most important European source markets for wellness tourism, followed by the Netherlands, Spain, and Italy. People from Austria, Belgium, and Scandinavia are also interested in wellness holidays but are a smaller market compared to the top six countries mentioned above.
The various European nationalities that are interested in wellness tourism are quite different from one another. It is important to understand the different interests and behaviours of Europeans to accommodate their needs effectively.
Germans are experienced wellness travellers
Germans are regular and experienced travellers, and many go on wellness holidays. They are more likely to go on a medical wellness trip than other Europeans. German insurance companies also cover medical wellness trips more often than those in other European countries. This motivates Germans to go on a wellness holiday more and has allowed wellness trips to become part of the German culture.
Package holidays are popular among German tourists, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Summer holiday packages rose with 134% in 2021 compared to previous years.
German holidaymakers want a lot of information about their holiday package, the products and services that you sell. Provide information on how certain products and services are important. Scientific evidence on the effectiveness of the treatments and services they are receiving is interesting for German tourists and necessary to attract them. They will often ask questions about why the treatment is effective and how it works. Additionally, they find it especially important that you have the right credentials to provide the treatment and are more likely to ask for the certifications that you have.
Germany itself is a popular destination for wellness travel. This is a sign that wellness treatments and activities are prominent in the German culture. Going to the spa or thermal baths and having a massage are popular activities. Germans are also very sustainably aware and have high demands concerning sustainability. They are increasingly likely to book a package holiday if they are certain it is a sustainable choice.
Travellers from Germany who are interested in wellness are often motivated by a want to be pampered or to recharge. Both women and men are interested in wellness, as well as couples and families with children. German tourists are especially interested in spending time in nature. Natural settings and nature-based treatments can be especially important for them. They are also interested in going to spas and hot-spring facilities.
British tourists focus on their mental wellness
Two million British people were planning on taking a wellness holiday in 2020, before the pandemic affected Europe. In 2020, 19% of British travellers say wellness holidays were their main holiday. Improving their mental health was their main motivation for going on a wellness trip. British people are willing to spend a lot more on their wellness holidays compared to their other holidays. Many will spend up to 50% more than their usual budget.
Holistic packages, yoga and meditation retreats are interesting for British wellness tourists. They are also interested in fitness and weight-loss programs. They also like going to a spa and to be able to go to the gym during their wellness holiday. Like Germans, British people value nature and it is important for British wellness travellers to experience the local nature while on holiday.
British people are increasingly interested in the instant satisfaction of a treatment, such as a massage or a yoga class. Connecting with their feelings, emotional and mental health and breaking free from unhealthy patterns are motivations for many British people. The British people that are interested in wellness treatments are mostly women, couples or families.
French wellness tourists spend more money than other Europeans
French people spend their money more freely compared to other Europeans. Detox, Ayurveda, thalassotherapy and mud baths are popular among French wellness tourists, as are visits to a spa or wellness retreat.
In addition, the French are also increasingly interested in skincare and beauty treatments. Offer nature-based local products to these tourists that fit the wellness holiday theme.
French people often travel to French speaking countries such as Madagascar and the Republic of Côte d'Ivoire. Many French people don’t feel comfortable speaking English. Make sure to provide information in French if you want to attract these tourists. French people like to travel to faraway destinations.
Dutch tourists focus preventing to be overworked and improve fitness
Dutch people often go on wellness holidays to relax or get on track with fitness. Dutch people don’t go on medical trips as often as Germans. Wellness trips are rarely covered by insurance companies in the Netherlands. Dutch tourists might be interested in some medical wellness practices during their trip, but it is usually not their main travel purpose. They are more likely to take a trip to prevent being overworked and to relax. The Dutch are, however, health conscious and want to live a healthy lifestyle at home and on holiday including healthy food and fitness options.
Dutch wellness travellers especially enjoy destination hotels that include a spa, beauty treatment and a massage. Weight-loss programs are also popular among Dutch people. It is important for them that they get expert advice during their holiday. An programme to follow when they return home can also be appreciated by Dutch people who are working on their fitness and dietary goals. Dutch people have a lot less experience with wellness activities than Germans do. Going to hot springs, saunas and getting a massage is much more special to them than it is to Germans.
Dutch people are more conscious of their budget than other European travellers. They are often the ones to ask which holiday package or activity is the cheapest. On the other hand, Dutch people are experienced travellers and are open to trying new things. This makes them an interesting group to target for your wellness offer. Most Dutch people speak English well compared to other European countries.
Dutch women are more interested in a wellness activity than men; the market is around 60-40% women-men that go on wellness holidays. Most Dutch wellness tourists are 25 to 34-year-olds.
Spanish travellers are increasingly interested in wellness
Spanish wellness tourists are often interested in wellness retreats, spas, detox or fitness, and yoga retreats.
13% of Spanish people say they typically take a wellness holiday. This is an increase since 2019 when 5% of Spanish people said the same. It is likely that this will only increase more as a result of the pandemic. 60% of Spanish people said they were concerned with their mental health as a result of COVID-19 measures. Increased awareness about mental health and having spent a lot of time at home is likely to result in a higher demand for wellness holidays.
If you want to target Spanish wellness tourists, make sure to translate your offer into Spanish. Speaking Spanish or having Spanish speaking employees can make your destination more interesting for Spanish tourists.
Italian wellness tourists like to be pampered
Italian wellness tourists enjoy being pampered and consuming luxury services during their wellness holiday. Destination spas, thermal therapies and wellness retreats are especially popular among Italians. High-quality services, sitting back and relaxing is important for them. Italy itself is a popular wellness destination for both foreigners and locals. This shows that wellness practices are already well-known to Italians. Wellness trips are especially popular among Italian elderly people, couples and families.
Italians are interested in mud-based therapies, volcanic mud baths (fango). Like Dutch people, Italians are more conscious of their budget and are more likely to choose a relatively cheap package or activity.
If you want to target Italians, make sure to translate your offer into Italian. Speaking Italian or having Italian speaking employees can make your destination more interesting for Italians. Italians find good accommodation and good food to be very important during their holidays.
- Offer nature-based local products to your customers in addition to the services you provide. Especially French people are flexible with spending their money and most Europeans are willing to spend more money if it comes to their wellbeing. It is important that the products that you offer are safe and sustainably sourced.
- Inform yourself on what different European nationalities are interested in and connect that to your offer, communicating what is unique to your destination. For example, target Dutch and British tourists if you have a vast expertise in fitness programs.
- Make sure to attract Europeans by tapping into their interests, but make sure to differentiate yourself by offering something that can only be found at your destination.
- Connect with wellness experts and wellness tour operators in the European country that you want to target. This is key to understanding the European’s mentality about wellness and what current trends and demands are.
- Find out which European countries you want to target. It is important to find out what wellness activities they are used to doing in their home country and then offer them something different. For example, visiting a hot spring is a special experience for Dutch tourists because they don’t go to hot springs in the Netherlands. Germans are used to hot springs and are not likely to travel far away to enjoy a hot spring.
4. Which trends offer opportunities in the European wellness tourism market?
Europeans are increasingly interested in a holistic approach to wellness. Another important development is Europeans’ attitude toward fitness and nutrition. Having a healthy lifestyle is very important in their day-to-day lives, and that carries through to their holidays. Sustainability is becoming more and more important. Wellness and sustainability are closely associated by Europeans. It is very important to consider how you include sustainability in your strategy.
Many Europeans are eating more plant-based products and fewer animal products like meat, milk and eggs. Diet changes are an important way for Europeans to improve their physical and mental wellness.
Lastly, digitalisation and online platforms offer opportunities for you to deepen the engagement with your customers.
Holistic wellness holidays
A holistic approach to wellness is becoming increasingly popular among Europeans. Mind, body and spirit are central in holistic wellness. The busy lives of Europeans and the effects of the pandemic can make them feel disconnected, burnt-out and unhealthy. Travellers are increasingly interested in challenging themselves both physically and mentally in order to reconnect with and continue to develop themselves, as well as make them more resistant to everyday life at home.
Holistic wellness holidays often allow tourists to relax but also practise self-development. Yoga and martial arts are examples of a holistic activity as they are mindful physical activities. Many people practise yoga to connect with their spirituality as well.
Wellness retreats can also have a holistic approach. You could, for example, offer a programme that includes a morning meditation followed by a fitness class and a massage at the end of the day. Balance is key during a wellness holiday. It is important for travellers to sense they are working on themselves, while still having the feeling they’re on a holiday.
One in ten Europeans is interested in going on a holistic wellness holiday such as a reiki or chakra-balancing treatment. These treatments often fall into “New Age” therapies that are not entirely science-based but have ancient roots in many cultures where the body and mind balance is more prominent than in Europe, like South-East Asia. New Age treatments in South-East Asia are expected to grow even more in the coming years. Examples are meditation, astrology, chakra healing and alternative medicine. Many Europeans desire to connect with more spiritual and holistic practices like this and want to explore that during their wellness trip. It is important for European tourists and tour operators to know that the treatment you provide is entirely safe.
Figure 5: Reiki is a form of energy healing, transferring energy of the healer to the patient
The lines between different dimensions of wellness are getting increasingly blurry. This is a sign of a more holistic understanding of what wellness is and how mental and physical health overlap.
For example, Amatara Phuket in Thailand is a wellness resort that provides holistic treatments based on traditional practices that encourage self-healing, energetic healing and rebalancing. Besides this holistic treatment, tourists can enjoy cooking and making their own sustainable soap. Tourists can also enjoy day trips to another island and exploring the local lifestyle of Phuket.
More Europeans do fitness regularly
During the pandemic, Europeans have picked up fitness in great numbers. Europeans feel the need to be healthy and invest in themselves while they are spending a lot of time at home. It is important for tourists to be able to keep up with their personal wellness routine during their holidays. This means that you need to provide the tools that tourists have at home, so they can continue their practice and feel healthy. This is especially the case for secondary wellness tourists, who want to maintain their wellness on holiday.
For example, provide routes for runners and cyclists, a morning yoga programme for yogis, or a fitness area where tourists can make use of dumbbells or other equipment. Meeting the tourists at their current fitness level is key for them to maintain their health during their holiday. This way they will truly feel revitalised when they go back home.
Fitness used to be characterised by performance, strength and body shape. The motivations of many Europeans have changed over the past years towards becoming healthy instead. It has shifted from being a burden to something that makes Europeans feel good. 70% of wellness travellers would like to have a gym at the destination. This mentality shift has encouraged Europeans to take up fitness more and wanting to continue doing fitness during their holiday.
An example holiday that includes this mentality shift is provided by Eat Well + Live Well. They organise package holidays that focus on fun and sporty activities like paddle board yoga, cycling tours and surf lessons. Healthy vegan and vegetarian meals are provided every day. These package holidays are all about having fun, being active and eating and feeling healthy, rather than weight-loss and fitness. This can be more motivating for tourists.
Sustainability is closely connected with wellness tourism. At least 55% of travellers consider sustainability important when booking their holidays. It is important for them to know what sustainable practices you are applying. Many Europeans also associate sustainability with their own wellness. Including sustainability practices in your wellness offer is essential if you want to target European tourists.
Europeans associate your sustainability efforts with the quality of the wellness treatment they are receiving. Minimise plastic packaging, provide locally and sustainably sourced products, and optimise your accommodations to be as sustainable as possible. 73% of wellness tourists want an eco-conscious accommodation. Being sustainable is good for the environment and will also attract European wellness tourists.
Europeans also find it important that their holiday gives back to the local community of the destination. Providing local foods, using local professionals and offering local wellness products can greatly benefit employment rates in your area. Communicate to your visitors what you are doing to help your community thrive, so Europeans know that they are spending their money well.
An example of a sustainable destination is Mbuna Bay in Mozambique. They provide employment to locals in the area, decorate the lodges with carpets and pots made by locals, and provide locally produced vegetarian meals. Mbuna Bay offers hiking trails, wind surfing, yoga classes and the opportunity to relax in a nature-rich area. They describe their sustainable characteristics on their website and Facebook page through storytelling and pictures. This way tourists know what they can expect and find out about how their trip is contributes to improved agriculture, economy and employment in the area.
Bio Hotels is another example of sustainable eco-friendly accommodation, products are locally and sustainably produced and the food is organic. Their website explains in detail how both visitors and the environment benefit from a sustainable hotel. Bio hotels are increasingly popular destinations among Europeans. Certification can help communicate your sustainability and market your offer to tourists. You will have to meet sustainability standards and pay a fee in exchange for the certification.
- Learn how you can improve your sustainability by using biodegradable materials, reducing plastic and reducing CO2 emissions. Read our study on how to be a sustainable tourism business to understand how you can best include sustainable practices and communicate this with your tourists.
- Include as much nature in your environment as you can. Europeans love to immerse themselves in nature and love to be surrounded by plants, natural water and natural lighting. For example, offer an outdoor terrace, a nature-based treatment or an afternoon hike in a nature reserve.
Vegetarianism and veganism
77% of Europeans want to stay healthy or improve their health during their holidays. A healthy diet is essential in improving health. Europeans are increasingly aware of their food choices and want to continue to be healthy during their holiday. Recent years have made Europeans a lot more conscious of the unhealthy impact of eating meat. Many Europeans are eating less meat or have stopped completely.
Many Europeans are vegetarians or vegan already. People who are vegan don’t eat any animal products, which includes meat, cheese, milk and eggs.
22.9% of Europeans are flexitarians, which means that they don’t eat meat every day. 57% of these Europeans want to become vegetarians and 8% want to become vegan in the future.
Germans are more often flexitarian, vegetarian or vegan compared other nationalities. All European countries are, however, increasingly cutting out meat and dairy.
Providing vegetarian and vegan meals is important if you want to attract Europeans. Being conscious and flexible with other diets is also important, as many Europeans who want to improve their wellness also want to improve their diet.
Keto meals, water fasting periods and other diets are also popular ways of eating among Europeans. Knowledge about nutrition is very important for the tourist’s health. Make sure to include an expert when planning your offer.
Figure 6: To many Europeans, vegetarian food is associated to detoxification
La Vida Surf provides locally produced vegan and vegetarian meals to tourists after their day at the yoga and meditation or yoga and surf retreats. Phuket Cleanse in Thailand offers various fitness, martial arts and nutrition programmes. Tourists get educated on how building muscle, fasting and weight-loss and weight-gain work. At the end of the programme, tourists receive individual advice on how to continue working on their health goals at home. They also provide vegan and vegetarian food workshops so their customers can make the delicious plant-based food at home.
Wellness apps and social media
Social media, apps and technological tools play an increasingly important role in wellness. Many Europeans keep track of their fitness progress and diet via an app. Meditation, fitness and yoga apps are also becoming increasingly popular among Europeans.
Examples of these apps include Headspace and MyFitnessPal. MyFitnessPal is a fitness and nutrition tracker. Headspace focuses on mindful meditation, yoga and fitness. Apps like these are becoming increasingly important in tracking, educating and facilitating Europeans to live a healthy lifestyle. Next to that, Fitbits or other wearable health trackers are popular among wellness tourists – especially those that go on a fitness, weight-loss or detox holiday. At least one in ten travellers take an exercise tracker with them on their holidays.
It is important to be aware of the popular apps Europeans are using. This way you can better understand how they approach their wellness and meet them on their level of knowledge about wellness.
Instagram and Facebook are the most important platforms on which Europeans research their holiday before going. 15% of Europeans have based their purchases on social media influencer’s recommendations and it is likely to be even more in the wellness industry.
Younger wellness tourists are likely to look up your Instagram account before booking. It is important to have an up-to-date Instagram page. Remember to incorporate the atmosphere you offer on your Instagram. For example, if you offer many natural-based products and services, include plants and natural environments in the posts that you make.
Google searches accounts for the largest share of how people find their wellness holiday. While Google and social media platforms are very important to include in your marketing strategy, many Europeans also base their decision on suggestions from friends and family.
During their holiday, 80% of Europeans want to disconnect from their phones once they are on their trip. Reconnecting with themselves and their surroundings is more important than connecting over the internet. Digital detoxes, where travellers take a break from phones, laptops and social media are increasingly in demand. It is important for these tourists to be able to safely put their phone away in a locker or leave them safely in their room. They feel overwhelmed by social media, the news and spending a lot of time behind a screen in their day-to-day life. A ‘digital detox’ allows them more time to focus on themselves instead of what the rest of the world is doing. Instead, an increasing number of Europeans want to do something physically active during their wellness holiday.
- Emphasise the benefits tourists will experience on their mental and physical wellbeing to help them understand the holistic characteristics of your offer.
- Market your fitness offer as an opportunity to improve health rather than appearance. Europeans are becoming increasingly motivated by the health benefits and fun that fitness brings along. They can get discouraged if fitness only is about weight-loss or improved looks.
- Include vegetarian and vegan meals for your visitors. It is also important that you communicate on your website that your package is also suitable for vegetarians and vegans if you want to attract Europeans.
- Read our study on how to go digital in the tourism sector and how to start a travel blog to improve your presence on the internet and social media. Keep in mind that online engagement with your visitors is especially important before and after their stay. During a wellness holiday, many Europeans will not want to check social media very often.
This study has been carried out on behalf of CBI by Molgo and ETFI.
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