Middle East and Africa the world's fastest-growing wellness tourism markets

Above: A treatment at one of the  Camelot Health Spa Group's locations in South Africa 

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is the world’s fastest-growing wellness tourism market, according to data from the Global Wellness Tourism Congress (GWTC). 

Forecast to grow at an annual rate of 16% until 2017, the MENA region leads Latin America and Asia Pacific on 13.4%, Sub-Saharan African on 12.6%, North America on 8% and Europe on 7.3% when it comes to wellness tourism market expansion. 

While MENA and Sub-Saharan Africa are currently the smallest of the world’s wellness tourism markets, estimated at US$5.3billion (£3.2bn) and US$2bn (£1.2bn) respectively in 2012, the former is estimated to be worth US$16.6bn (£9.9bn) and the latter US$5.07bn (£3.01) by 2017. 

The figures, derived from The Global Wellness Tourism Economy report put together by research firm SRI International and presented at the 2013 Global Spa & Wellness Summit in New Delhi, India, were revealed at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) in Dubai last week. 

The top five wellness travel markets in the Middle East and Africa are South Africa, the UAE, Israel, Morocco and Egypt. 

South Africa is the regional market leader, generating US$1.5million (£891,565) in annual trips and US$1.5bn (£891,565m) in spending. However, second-ranked UAE, currently accounting for US$800,000 (£475,484) in trips and US$1.4bn (£832,090m) in expenditure, is set for the steepest growth rate; 17.9% year-on-year, over the next tree years. 

The MENA region currently represents 4.8m wellness-centric trips every year, with the equivalent figure for Sub-Saharan African being 2.2m. 

Anni Hood, tourism and government liaison for the GWTC, who presented the findings at ATM, said: “Wellness-focused travel is growing fast across this vast, diverse region: in the Middle East/North Africa we have the luxury/spa hotel building boom across the GCC nations, and the revitalisation of indigenous practices, such as historic hammams and baths.” 

Hood added: “Africa is tourism’s next frontier: from the rise of healthy adventure and safari tourism in South Africa and Kenya to continued growth for spa and wellness resorts on islands like Mauritius or the Seychelles, to just-emerging East African destinations like Ghana or Senegal. These many different stories add up to one, big story: the fastest growing wellness tourism market in the world.”