Once a luxury reserved for the rich and famous, wellness retreats are taking off at an astonishing rate, with facilities promoting health and wellness popping up all over the world. Those unfamiliar with the booming wellness tourism industry may think that taking a vacation and staying healthy while on holiday simply don’t mesh; who wants to to worry about eating healthy and fitting in exercise when the very idea of a vacation is to pamper yourself and get away from all your worries?

Well, wellness tourism, defined as travel for the purpose of promoting health and wellbeing through physical, psychological, or spiritual activities, allows for the best of both worlds. My life was transformed when I took a trip to a Thai wellness facility in 2015, encouraging me to lead a healthier and more mindful lifestyle, so I want to ensure that others are aware of all the exciting opportunities available to them to do the same.

Wellness tourism can be considered a new sector of the travel industry, in that it exploded into a $494 billion industry between 2012 and 2013, growing 12.7 percent in just a year. It is expected to reach $680 billion this year, according to the Global Wellness Summit. Wellness tourism is no longer just about luxurious spa retreats the average person cannot afford. According to Anne Banas, executive editor of SmarterTravel, “Back in the day, wellness travel was focused on the notion of spas. But now, it’s really expanded into this area of experiential travel, with a combination of well-being, fitness, and soulful, spiritual experiences as well as working on the mind-body connection. Connecting to local community is also a big part of it.”

So what exactly does wellness tourism look like? It varies based on the facility or travel company, but generally it is the movement of various players within the travel industry, such as hotels and even travel agents and airports, acting to provide travelers a more enriching and holistic experience. Wellness vacations seek to fulfill the notion of a unique travel experience through offering everything from classic yoga retreats and spa packages, to fitness camps, agro-tourism, and cycling trips.

As the wellness tourism sector is still in its infancy, the term not even being in use six years ago, we can expect to see some exciting developments underway as the trend makes its way to the mainstream. Here are some things to look out for in the near future:


Hotels all around the world are jumping on the wellness tourism bandwagon, with many offering fitness, spa, and healthy cuisine packages in additional to the traditional amenities. For instance, major hotel and resort chains such as Hilton, Marriott ands Four Seasons have started offering guests additional services such as walking tours, yoga classes, healthy food options, and even fitness gear available for rent. Some hotel chains, such as IHG, Starwood, and InterContinental have even launched their own wellness hotel brands.


Cruises are often already a relaxing getaway within themselves, but now many are offering activities and cuisine choices dedicated exclusively to wellness. The luxurious Regent Seven Seas Explorer cruise, for example, has a full-service spa onboard offering a range of wellness activities such as yoga, a thermal suite, and exclusive body treatments. Other cruise lines, such as Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection and Un-Cruise Adventures, offer both onboard wellness options (such as fitness instructors and classes) and off board wellness options (such as kayaking and snorkeling).


Believe it or not, you can be health-conscious even while waiting for your flight at the airport! You may think the only food options at airports are greasy fast food joints and the only exercise you’ll be doing is running down the terminal to board your plane in time, but that mindset is a thing of the past. Not every airport is on board yet, but many offer lounges, trails, and fitness equipment so you can stay relaxed and energized while waiting for your flight. Major airports like Chicago O’Hare and Heathrow now offer quiet rooms for practicing yoga and meditation, and many have exercise options as well, such as the Phoenix Sky Harbor International airport which has an indoor fitness trail overlooking the mountainous terrain.

Travel Agencies/ consultants

Some travel agents have even dedicated themselves to the wellness tourism trend, with agents planning custom trips for clients interested in unique wellness experiences. To help advisors become experts in wellness tourism, travel site Virtuoso has created a community to connect travel agents with wellness-focused hotels, cruise lines, tourism boards, and tour companies.
Feeling ready for a relaxing and healthful getaway? Look no further than the wellness tourism industry. A holistic vacation is more attainable than you may think.