The global wellness industry grew 10.6% to become a US$3.72 trillion market in 2015, with the spa market a key driver according to new research from the Global Wellness Institute (GWI). The research mirrored the growth in the MENA region of the tourism-related industry with the UAE at the forefront of growth.
The burgeoning sector will be showcased once again at this year’s Arabian Travel Market (ATM) as the dedicated Wellness & Spa Lounge returns for 2017. Over 35 exhibitors representing some of the world’s most recognised health and wellness hospitality destinations will attend, an increase of 40% on last year’s numbers.
According to research from Colliers Experiential Travel Series: Wellness, Spa and Medical Travel 2017, the UAE spa industry is estimated to be valued at AED1.7 billion, accounting for 14% of the MENA spa market, and expected to surpass AED1.85 billion by 2020.
Dubai currently has more than 200 spas in operation, with 25 new hotel spas expected to open this year. Furthermore, the Dubai hotel spa market continues to experience increasing demand according to the Colliers report with a 9% increase in the average number of treatments sold per day in H1 2016 compared to the same period in 2015.
“The global wellness industry has witnessed incredible growth in recent years as more and more people incorporate healthy habits into holidays and corporate travel, with an increasing trend of travelers willing to commit their time and money to wellness proving to be a major driving force when making vacation decisions,” said Simon Press, Senior Exhibition Director, Arabian Travel Market.
“The surge of interest in this specialist tourism industry vertical has resulted in a 40% increase of exhibitors and dedicated wellness and spa buyers from the Middle East,” he added.
A number of wellness and travel trends are expected in 2017 including a move towards healthy holidays such as eat well, detox holidays and get-fit boot camps resulting in an increased number of wellness packages offered at spas. The exclusivity of spa and wellness is also set to become less apparent as it becomes more mainstream.
Other trends set to benefit the region in 2017 are an expected increase in demand to embrace local culture, heritage and sights.
“Safari holidays in Africa for example, are increasingly including yoga, spa and meditation as part of the itinerary. In Dubai, the Desert Yoga and Meditation camp took place in March 2016 for the fourth year in a row, clearly there’s an opportunity for the many desert resorts in the region to benefit from this trend and showcase the Middle Eastern landscapes and incredible sights,” said Press.
Medical tourism will be another key theme of the Spa & Wellness Lounge. According to Dubai Health Authority (DHA), Dubai attracted 630,831, medical tourists during 2015 out of which 298,359 (47%) were international and 332,472 (53%) were domestic.
Designed as a hub for wellness and spa professionals, the lounge will host two days of up to 35 pre-scheduled appointment with high calibre Middle Eastern buyers and up to 35 international wellness suppliers.
Exhibitors already confirmed include L’Albereta, Swiss Diamond Hotel and Velaa Private Island Maldives who will be joined by first-time exhibitor Radisson Blu Hotel 1835 & Thalasso.
“At this time of year everyone is thinking about their New Year resolutions, US-based digital marketing agency, iQuanti, revealed through data from google, ‘get healthy’ was the number one search term associated with resolutions, searched 62,776,640, a 13.77 percent increase of over 2015. There’s clearly an appetite for health and wellbeing and therefore a great opportunity for the tourism industry here to capitalise,” added Press.
The spa and wellness theme is only a part of a packed agenda being developed for ATM 2017. The main theme is experiential travel, but other highlights include, technology, halal tourism, business travel, responsible tourism, shopping, aviation, culture and heritage, and adventure travel.
ATM - considered by many industry professionals as a barometer for the Middle East and North Africa tourism sector, witnessed a year-on- year visitor attendance increase of 8% to over 39,800 in 2016, with 2,520 exhibiting companies signing business deals worth more than US$ 2.5 billion over four days.