Well­ness tourism thrives in UAE

Well­ness tourism is fast be­com­ing a part of the va­ca­tion cal­en­dar for many trav­ellers around the world. As per re­ported statis­tics, the UAE wit­nessed an in­cred­i­ble growth in well­ness trips be­tween 2012 and 2015, from 800,000 to 1.7 mil­lion an­nu­ally.

TravTalk - Middle East - - FRONT PAGE - SHEHARA RIZLY

Well­ness and spa tourism is one of the fastest grow­ing tourism sec­tors in the UAE. It has grown from a $1.4 bil­lion mar­ket in 2012 to $2.72 bil­lion in 2015, al­most dou­ble in three years’ time. We es­ti­mate that the $2.7 bil­lion UAE well­ness and spa travel mar­ket (in­bound and do­mes­tic trips com­bined) rep­re­sents roughly 15 per cent of the to­tal tourism mar­ket. There is a shift from generic, west­ern lux­ury to in­dige­nous, au­then­tic Mid­dle East­ern spa and well­ness ex­pe­ri­ences such as ‘ham­mam’, re­gional healthy cui­sine, ar­chi­tec­ture prin­ci­ples and beauty tra­di­tions. Over-the-top lux­ury re­mains cru­cial to the UAE well­ness and spa brand, but the next ‘lux­ury well­ness’ chap­ter is go­ing deeper than spec­tac­u­lar one­up­man­ship de­sign and ‘pure pam­per­ing’ - with a big­ger fo­cus on ev­ery­thing from pro­fes­sion­als trained in lifestyle change, stress re­duc­tion, men­tal well­ness and in­dige­nous tra­di­tions/medicines. Glob­ally, well­ness tourism is heav­ily dom­i­nated by do­mes­tic spend (67 per cent of the mar­ket), but in the UAE, do­mes­tic well­ness tourism is worth $1.2 bil­lion an­nu­ally with an in­bound mar­ket of $1.5 bil­lion. How­ever, cater­ing to the do­mes­tic well­ness tourists and their cul­tural and re­li­gious sen­si­tiv­i­ties is para­mount.

Well­ness has moved be­yond the niche mar­kets of yoga re­treat and fit­ness camp, which in-turn has re­de­fined ev­ery as­pect of the travel in­dus­try es­pe­cially within the lux­ury ho­tels seg­ment. Sev­eral re­cent stud­ies show well­ness tourism is grow­ing twice as fast as any other sec­tor. A re­search from the Global Well­ness In­sti­tute (GWI) states that the UAE is wit­ness­ing dou­ble digit growth in well­ness-fo­cused trips be­tween 2012 and 2017 with an es­ti­mated 993,352 trips added and 17.9 per cent an­nual growth. With this in mind, Fair­mont The Palm is one step ahead by con­stantly up­grad­ing and adapt­ing its well­ness strat­egy to en­sure a fully-fledged 360 de­gree ap­proach with be­spoke ini­tia­tives, state-of-the-art tech­nol­ogy, in-room ac­tive wear, in­ter­ac­tive cook­ing ex­per­tise, plus re­ju­ve­na­tion and anti-age­ing aes­thetic treat­ments – all cater­ing to the ever-grow­ing de­mands of dis­cern­ing guests in the re­gion.

The well­ness tourism in­dus­try of­fers huge op­por­tu­ni­ties for the UAE. This mar­ket grew by 27.5 per cent from 2013 to 2015, be­cause more peo­ple de­sire well­ness hol­i­days to help them re­turn home health­ier. UAE con­sumers are be­com­ing more aware of the risks of stress and chronic dis­eases, and are in­creas­ingly turn­ing to sports clubs, spas and healthy foods to main­tain good health and pre­vent dis­eases. I un­der­stand the Dubai Gov­ern­ment is look­ing at ways to ad­dress obe­sity cri­sis which con­tin­ues to worsen, this is a good strat­egy to in­crease aware­ness about the cause. Our de­sires to be free of dis­ease; to age well as we live longer; and to en­able our minds, bodies, and spir­its to ful­fill their po­ten­tial, will all help to de­velop well­ness tourism more. New spas, ho­tels, and well­ness fo­cused re­sorts will con­tinue to open and ex­pand their ser­vices. More trav­ellers will seek to in­cor­po­rate well­ness into their trips, choos­ing ho­tels that of­fer healthy rooms, healthy menus, spas, fit­ness fa­cil­i­ties, and other well­ness of­fer­ing. The well­ness travel in­dus­try is chang­ing faster now than ever be­fore and our cur­rent ob­ses­sion with all things nat­u­ral and healthy is here to stay; well­ness is no longer just a trend.

The num­ber of well­ness seek­ers has rapidly in­creased over the past few years. We have also wit­nessed an in­crease in solo trav­ellers seek­ing for well­ness and still­ness which opens up great op­por­tu­ni­ties for spas to cap­i­talise on th­ese by of­fer­ing spe­cial pack­ages for them. Our aim is to of­fer our guests the ex­pe­ri­ence of vis­it­ing a spa in Thai­land with­out trav­el­ing. GCC, Europe (France, Ger­many, Rus­sia), lo­cal mar­ket in the UAE are the strong­est at present with an av­er­age spend per guest around AED 600 per visit. Both women and men are given the ex­act ded­i­cated space and ser­vices, our male to fe­male ra­tio is 50-50 per cent. Guests come for a short well­ness es­cape, from both in­bound and lo­cal mar­ket, and it rep­re­sents 10 per cent of our to­tal busi­ness. By build­ing loyal cus­tomer base, we do our best ev­ery sin­gle time with each guest, and we add value their trip so that they go back and rec­om­mend us to their friends.

There is def­i­nitely an in­crease in de­mand for spa ex­pe­ri­ences in the UAE, as peo­ple are in­vest­ing in their health and well­be­ing more and more. In a city like Dubai, where tak­ing care of your mind and body has be­come a trend, lux­u­ri­ous ho­tels are now com­pet­ing to of­fer unique yet ef­fec­tive and re­lax­ing ex­pe­ri­ences. One of the spe­cialised ser­vices in ShuiQi Spa & Fit­ness Cen­tre is our Morn­ing Well­ness Pack­age, which is the per­fect pro­gramme to wake up to, en­sur­ing a re­freshed and in­vig­o­rated start to the day. This be­gins with a one hour per­sonal train­ing ses­sion and a recharg­ing, well-be­ing break­fast be­fore re­lax­ing in the wet fa­cil­i­ties fol­lowed by an hour-long full body mas­sage. We see a grow­ing in­ter­est in anti-ag­ing treat­ments, both nat­u­ral and non-in­va­sive, as well. How­ever, the in­dus­try needs to be­gin to con­sider the op­tion of mind­ful­ness and youth fit­ness too. With this in mind, we have also in­tro­duced the only yoga class with a view in the UAE – lo­cated in our Lost Cham­bers Aquar­ium.

Well­ness in the Mid­dle East has picked up rapidly over the last few years. Well­ness pro­grammes are en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple into a lifestyle. Well­ness is noth­ing but a lifestyle and one should un­der­stand that un­til and un­less you get con­nected to your­self you wont un­der­stand what you’re do­ing. And th­ese cen­tres where the re­ju­ve­na­tion pro­grammes are there, they con­nect you to know what you want. I had all the re­spon­si­bil­ity in my life where I keep con­tin­u­ously do­ing things for my fam­ily. Un­for­tu­nately the per­son who does things for the fam­ily is ig­nored and how long can you do it if you’re not re­ally go­ing to in­vest into your­self? So health re­ju­ve­na­tion pro­grammes are re­ally like when you’re giv­ing your car for a ser­vice and you think that ev­ery­thing is in or­der and once you are then you are on the smooth road of driv­ing your­self. Life is noth­ing but to know your­selves and well­ness pro­grammes are kinds of pro­grammes where it is men­tal and phys­i­cal con­nec­tiv­ity. Once a man is con­nected to both as­pects of life, he’s fine, healthy and feels good and more happy.

In Thai­land, we have a va­ri­ety of health and well­ness prod­ucts and it’s the strength of our coun­try. There­fore, we fo­cus on well­ness and health tourism for in­bound tourists. Our aim is to have high-qual­ity tourists who will not just spend money but also in­dulge in well­ness fa­cil­i­ties in Thai­land. We are a na­tion known for the ‘Thai smile’ and hos­pi­tal­ity cou­pled with the ex­cel­lent well­ness fa­cil­i­ties. Mid­dle East is a very im­por­tant mar­ket for us. Last year, the traf­fic ME in­creased around 13 per cent, with UAE lead­ing with nearly 200,000 tourists. We work with a lot of air­lines from ME as their con­nec­tiv­ity is well re­ceived. This year, we are pro­mot­ing Thai­land as a des­ti­na­tion of longevity to care for se­nior cit­i­zens. The Gov­ern­ment has is­sued new visa rules to en­able more tourists to the coun­try.

Thai­land is known for well­ness tourism. The Tourism Author­ity of Thai­land is work­ing on var­i­ous pro­grammes to pro­mote it as a des­ti­na­tion of longevity. The re­cent Well­ness Tourism Fo­rum in Thai­land saw many vis­i­tors at­tend the con­fer­ence from all over the world and we were very happy to be a part of this event to sup­port the ef­forts of TAT. We have our own spa brand at Amari Water­gate called ‘Breeze Spa’ where we de­sign sig­na­ture treat­ments depend­ing on the guests’ mood. Our aim is to en­sure that guests get to re­lax and re­ju­ve­nate. We have many guests vis­it­ing us from all over the world and we of­fer them a good dis­count to use the spa fa­cil­i­ties so that ev­ery guest will walk out of the ho­tel in­dulging in a tra­di­tional or re­lax­ing Thai mas­sage.

Ber­lin means adrenalin and chill­ing out, city lights and tran­quil forests, wild nightlife and laz­ing in the park. One can re­lax, un­wind and let loose in Ber­lin. There are many places where tourists can spend a day re­lax­ing in the coun­try­side or be­side the wa­ter. Around 440,000 trees have been of­fi­cially counted. More than a third of the nearly 900 sq km of the city is green space, half of which is for­est. Well­ness seek­ers will also find a great range of spas in Ber­lin that pro­mote well­ness and re­lax­ation. Lots of venues ac­cept dis­counts with the Ber­lin Wel­come Card.

Susie El­lis Chair­man and CEO Global Well­ness In­sti­tute

Laura Brown Spa Man­ager–Wil­low Stream Spa Fair­mont the Palm

Paul Joseph Co-founder Health and Fit­ness Travel

Afrah Hamdy Spa Di­rec­tor Anan­tara the Palm

Mag­gie Derblay Di­rec­tor-Spa Fit­ness & Re­cre­ation-Spa, At­lantis The Palm

Syed Mo­hamed As­lam Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment Man­ager Medi­care Tourism

Patara­porn Sithivanich Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor– Europe, Africa and Mid­dle East Re­gion Tourism Author­ity of Thai­land

David Cum­ming Re­gional Vice-Pres­i­dent Op­er­a­tions, Bangkok, Malaysia and Laos ONYX Hos­pi­tal­ity Group, Amari Water­gate Bangkok

Burkhard Kieker Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Tourism Ber­lin

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