Have you ever wondered why so many offices offer their employees cool perks like fitness centers, snacks, meditation spaces, even nap pods? It isn’t hard to put two and two together. These benefits are all nice, but they’re in place to accommodate work stress. According to Corporate Wellness Magazine, work stress, defined as “The adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demands placed on them at work,” costs U.S. companies an estimated $300 billion each each and sleep deprivation as a result of excessive work costs another $63 billion.
Work stress is a big problem, especially in America where employees are often overworked and underpaid; however, it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. According to the Health and Safety Executive, it affects nearly every individual at some point in his or her life. A survey from Harris Interactive found that 80 percent of American workers could identify at least one stressor in the workplace, the most common culprits being excessive workloads, low pay, and long commutes.
The only upside of all this work stress is that a desire for healthier lifestyles is a byproduct of it, feeding indirectly into the wellness tourism industry. Businesses spend 200-300 percent more on indirect healthcare costs (sick days and decreased productivity) than they do on direct costs in the form of medical, pharmacy, and disability claims, but it seems at least that, with wellness tourism, employees are responding to their stressful environments in the best way they can by making their health a priority.
The phrase “wellness tourism” did not even exist seven years ago, and the industry has already seen amazing growth and changes since it first came into being, eclipsing the growth of tourism overall by a margin of 7%. The global wellness tourism industry is valued at over $500 billion and is expected to expand to $808 billion (nearly a trillion!) in the next few years, considering it grew at a rate of 14% over the past two years compared with 6.9% for overall tourism.
Wellness travelers represent “a new generation of travel enthusiasts,” according to Fast Company. When the industry was just taking off, it catered to the more affluent traveler. Now, realizing the need and desire for wellness travel in the workforce, the industry has adapted to “become more democratized with affordable retreats increasing across the globe.”
Interestingly, in addition to generalized work stress, corporate travel is another driver for wellness tourism, as workers seek a different kind of experience outside of anything associated with work. The Global Business travel Association reported in 2014 that it expected spending on global business travel to increase at a rate of seven percent each year, due primarily to growth in Asian markets. As corporate travel increases, so too should wellness tourism. “In a world where business trips are becoming increasingly common, wellness tourism provides an ideal counterpoint to the stresses associated with corporate travel,” says Matt Timms for BusinessDestinations.com.
Both the demographics and the destinations associated with wellness tourism have changed over the years, with the industry opening up to appeal to a wider socioeconomic audience with more affordable options. Additionally, more destinations are becoming available as countries around the world catch onto the trend and open more wellness tourism businesses. Americans represent the largest share of the industry, due primarily to their overworked lifestyles according to research from Beth McGroarty of the Global Wellness Institute. As a result, America is also the number one destination for wellness tourism- but this type of travel is expanding across the globe, with today’s wellness traveler favoring exotic locales like Thailand, Vietnam, Bali, Nicaragua, and Morocco.
As long as job-related stress continues to haunt workers around the world (and it will), wellness tourism will continue to appeal to the frazzled, overworked employee, from bottom-of-the-totem-pole assistants to executive-level bosses, and the industry will continue to grow. “It seems unstoppable,” says McGroarty.