The Rise of Wellness Tourism & How the Fitness Industry Fits Into It

Issue 9 - October 2023

Published On


The Rise of Wellness Tourism & How the Fitness Industry Fits Into It

Taking a trip for your mental health (and overall well-being) is not a new concept — but the collective approach to how we view vacation has certainly shifted.

In years past, a week or two of vacation a year was supposed to be enough to recharge your batteries. Whether it was a staycation at home, a European trek, a surf trip, a road trip with the kids, or a foray at a tropical resort, the vacation inherently was the wellness aspect. Or at least, it was supposed to be!

Some data has shown that vacations aren’t exactly as relaxing and replenishing as they’re intended to be — once you’re back to work, your stress levels can be exactly where they were when you left the office 14 days ago. Plus, thinking about work while you’re traveling or taking some PTO can cancel out any relaxing effects brought on by the vacation… and the majority of Americans do in fact work on vacation.

Taking a vacation (or any kind of break possible) is still categorically recommended; as the Harvard Business Review reported, “Statistically, taking more vacation results in greater success at work as well as lower stress and more happiness at work and home.” And work productivity aside — happiness matters!

But an exhausting excursion that involves tons of planning, translating, and/or walking for hours on end can be more depleting than repleting (this is twice as true if you’re also working while you’re supposed to be recharging).

With this in mind, we now shift our focus toward wellness tourism: a category predicted to reach $1.1B in value by 2025 (up 21%), per GWI. The highest projection we’ve seen is $2.1 TRILLION by 2030.

Survey data is backing it up. Travelers want to feel good on vacation — and not just by imbibing in a dozen piña coladas at the swim-up bar.

  • 50% of travelers are “seeking travel experiences that align with their holistic wellness goals and priorities,” according to a Hilton survey. What that looks like, exactly, may vary based on individual preferences, goals, and cultural climate.
  • 55% of consumers said they would “pay more for wellness activities during future vacations,” according to a survey by American Express. So even if a traveler isn’t on a dedicated wellness retreat, perhaps incorporating healthy activities and experiences will become more prominent in the coming months and years.
  • 31% of UK travelers prioritize exercise on vacation (according to more Hilton research).

Years ago, Westin partnered with Peloton and New Balance, being among the first in the tourism industry to create a dedicated wellness experience for travelers. For example, at Westin Times Square, NYC, visitors are welcomed with fresh juices and healthy snacks, a workout outfit and New Balance sneakers, and access to the in-room Peloton. And Westin (part of the Marriott group) isn’t the only major hotel chain to have a partnership with a household fitness name. Last year, Hilton also announced a partnership with Peloton.

Today, the Westin group continues to offer a juicery, an “eat well menu for kids,” premium mattresses, lavender balm and a “sleep well menu” to help guests catch better Zzz's. They even have a “Heavenly dog bed” for furry guests. Certain hotels within the high-end chain offer in-room spa experiences, as well as a white tea aloe bath, and a RunWESTIN running concierge.

In 2021, Well+Good highlighted 17 hotels and resorts nationwide that offer everything from Trigger Point and cranial-sacral massages to IV drips to Alo Yoga equipment and Rabbit air purifiers. The menu of offerings now is seemingly endless, but not yet ubiquitous enough to be saturated. In sum: there’s still plenty of room and opportunity to better serve travelers and their wellness goals.

And it’s not just happening in the US. According to recent research, “Countries such as Mexico, Costa Rica, and Bali are building their infrastructure, reputation, and marketing to provide a curated experience” for wellness travel.

In this Venn diagram of health and travel, we shouldn't leave this entirely up to the tourism industry — there’s an opportunity for health clubs and businesses to serve their traveling communities, too!

Many health clubs are already jumping on the trend and getting in the mix. Life Time recently announced their “First athletic country club and Life Time Living Luxury Residences in downtown Stamford, CT.” Featuring a nearly 52,000 square foot athletic country club and 10,000 square foot rooftop beach club, visitors to this New England destination will have the opportunity to blend travel and wellness via Life Time’s saunas, Pilates classes, rooftop pool, and massages.

Similarly, clubs like Midtown and Equinox have been designed as “destination” fitness clubs — essentially, a gym you’d travel to visit (but so much more than just a gym). California’s Bay Club (which has also expanded to Oregon) is fusing health club and country club formats, with the addition of camps, classes, seasonal programming and events, dining, and spa services. In their Walnut Creek location, there’s also a hotel — the fusion of wellness and travel.

Then there are ‘destination spas’ like The Golden Door, Rancho La Puerta, Esalen, and Canyon Ranch. The Golden Door in Escondido, California for example, allows traveling guests to select an itinerary with personal trainers, healthy dining, group fitness classes, spa and wellness treatments, and more.

If you’re looking to take a page out of that playbook, consider offering a travel package or pass at your club. Think a one-day or one-week option that invites travelers to experience your offerings. You could cross-promote with local hotels and tourism destinations and create unique offerings tailored to your area that offer a ‘sightseeing while exercising’ format (i.e., a beach run club, scenic yoga class, city bike tour or hike).

It’s exciting to see the fusion of these two worlds and industries — two that certainly have a positive bearing on one’s mental and physical health — continue to grow and develop. It’s also an opportunity for anyone in the health industry to create a niche for your business that can drive incremental sales, and allow you to serve more parts of the fitness community, near and far.


Industry Happenings:

Upcoming Events:

  1. Sibec 2023, October 16-19, 2023, Dallas, Texas
  2. IHRSA European Congress, October 17-19, 2023, Lisbon, Portugal
  3. NASM Master Trainer Summit, October 28-29, 2023, Virtual
  4. International Council on Active Aging Conference and Expo, October 31-November 2, 2023, Anaheim, California
  5. Athletic Business Show, November 1-4, 2023, Baltimore, Maryland
  6. Boston MANIA®, November 3-5, 2023, Danvers, Massachusetts


Upcoming Workshops:

  1. Peak Pilates: 20+ workshops in October
  2. Spinning®: 20+ workshops in October
  3. TRX®: 7 workshops in October
  4. Mike Boyle's CFSC: 3 workshops in October
  5. Gray Institute: 2 workshops in October
  6. Oxygen Advantage: 2 workshops in October
  7. Peak Flow Practitioner's Academy: 1 workshop in October
  8. SoulBody Fitness: 1 workshop in October
  9. Strive Life Fitness: 1 workshop in October
  10. U-Jam: 1 workshop in October


Industry News:


Thanks for Reading!

This newsletter was brought to you by Kathie Davis, Peter Davis, Ravi Sharma, Dominique Astorino, and the Inspire360 team.


A Note from Peter & Kathie

The industry is changing rapidly and we are here to help you sift through all the noise and get to the good stuff. Every month, we'll bring you trending topics and the inside scoop that we believe is paramount for fitness professionals to know.

Keep Inspiring,

Peter & Kathie Davis

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