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.
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
Regional Vice-President Operations, Bangkok, Malaysia and Laos ONYX Hospitality Group, Amari Watergate Bangkok
Burkhard Kieker Chief Executive Officer Tourism Berlin