WSWC panel: 5 key points about wellness tourism post-Covid-19

Before coronavirus took hold, wellness tourism was growing twice as fast as regular tourism, and was cited as one of the top trends for 2020. But what will happen to wellness tourism when Covid-19 restrictions are lifted?

The “Future of Wellness Tourism” is a discussion taking place on May 13 at 1pm (GMT+1) as part of the virtual World Spa & Wellness Conference (WSWC), helping operators to adapt their strategies for when their spa businesses can finally reopen post-Covid-19.  

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5 factors about wellness tourism’s future which will be discussed in the WSWC panel:

1. It'll be a rocky road ahead

“The outlook is bleak for the next six to 12 months for any kind of international leisure travel,” says WSW panellist Andrew Gibson, who is senior vice president of Sensei and chairman of the Wellness Tourism Association (USA). 

“If society relaxes social distancing before July then we might see some pick up of domestic summer travel in the Northern hemisphere. However, I suspect that the southern hemisphere and South East Asia will pick up in Q4 of 2020, but people will travel cautiously.” 

2. The results will vary country to country 

“Tourism is in for a bit of a tough time ahead as travel restrictions are going to be in place for some time,” explains WSW panellist Trent Munday, who issenior vice president of International Mandara Spas (Malaysia).

“I think in terms of tourism, domestic has to be the focus for most countries and most businesses, regional perhaps initially, but certainly long haul and international travel will take a hit for a while. It’s not just the border control and restrictions but it’s also the capacity from the airlines.”

3. You'll need to think about your client demographic carefully

“I do not recommend that local businesses try to go after affluent tourists if this has not been their market before. The obvious is to know your product and know your market, and then create value for people to come to your destination,” explains Gibson. 

“This question really depends on your business and where it is located. For example, a luxury resort in the Maldives is not likely to capture a true local market but it might be able to appeal to Indian and South African tourists rather than Europeans. Always assuming that they can get air traffic to the Maldives.”   

4. The niche market is growing

“Until now, the public has been willing to pay for fitness classes and massages but they have generally left meditation, counselling and mindfulness to a niche market. However, that niche market has gained strength and has started to become mainstream,” says Gibson. 

“Once the current restrictions on our social environment are relaxed, the public could be more interested in both physio and psychological support. Therefore, I recommend wellness operators connect with fitness instructors, practitioners, therapists and counsellors to be able to provide lectures and support at your business, for both guests and employees.”

5. Remember, the situation is constantly changing

“Nobody really knows what’s going to happen. We’ve all got our theories but the best advice I’ve heard so far is that there is crisis and there is chaos. We’re still in the middle of the crisis period right now and in crisis, you don’t want to act. You want to be ready to act in the chaos. The chaos is going to come on the other side of this thing,” advises Munday. 

“What we need to do now is get the best information we can, talk to our customers and stakeholders, and then be nimble and ready enough – and have the systems and processes in place – to be able to react when the chaos comes on the other side of this.”  

Who is on WSW’s “The future of wellness tourism” panel:

Gibson and Munday will be joined on the panel by Katherine Droga, founder of Droga & Co and founder of the Wellness Tourism Summit (Australia); Camille Hoheb, president of Wellness Tourism Worldwide (USA); Adam Glickman, from Principal Parallax (USA); and Jean-Claude Baumgarten, former president and chief executive of World Travel & Tourism Council (France).

The panel will be hosted by Mark Moloney, managing director of the Professional Beauty Group, and Jean-Guy de Gabriac, founder of World Wellness Weekend and Tip Touch International (Belgium). 


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The World Spa & Wellness Conference will take place on May 12–14. Check out the full programme