Wellness tourism has evolved to become tourism industry’s fastest growing sector, recording a 10 per cent growth this year to make it a larger than US$500 billion market and a rapidly advancing niche within the global tourism economy. This remarkable growth is marked by a profound shift in the way wellness services are being perceived and consumed. Previously seen as luxury or add-on services, they are now being woven into every aspect of daily lives, making them part of work, travel, leisure and healthcare. Capitalising on their increasing popularity, a greater percentage of enormous multi-trillion industries such as real estate, food and beverage and travel are incorporating wellness services into their businesses.
With the awareness on fitness and well-being becoming widespread than ever, different sectors are competing to develop innovative wellness services and packages to meet varied needs of health-conscious customers. Availability of in-room yoga mats and other advanced fitness facilities in hotels are examples of this growing trend. The demand for wellness services is expected to remain steady in light of the growing focus on stress management.
The current global wellness trends, as identified by the 2018 Global Wellness Trends Report include transformative wellness travel; the wellness kitchen; an increased focus on health and lifestyle of parents during the six months before they conceive a baby; extreme challenges; treatments and experiences that aim to redefine human limits; efforts to sustain happiness; and the feminist wellness trend built around women empowerment.
Real estate properties that offer recreational and wellness facilities are attracting and catering to the growing demand of discerning customers. Meanwhile, modern workplaces are also creating wellness initiatives to help employees better cope with stressful, hectic work environments and lifestyles that hamper their work and outputs. Companies are embracing the culture of encouraging employees to maintain physical and mental health and well-being.
Boasting an array of world-class spas, wellness centres and health facilities, Dubai has undoubtedly become a unique travel destination for today’s health-conscious traveller. The incorporation of traditional healthcare practices such as Ayurveda, Homeopathy and Yoga that place greater emphasis on preventive health into service offerings has played a significant role in the growth in this niche sector. Several wellness centres across the city have loyal clientele that keep visiting every year. The Medical Tourism Index 2016 ranked Dubai number one in the Arab world and 16th globally, further boosting the emirate’s aspirations to attract half a million tourists a year by 2020.
With a range of medical spas and treatment centres, Dubai’s appeal to a wider range of audience who are on the lookout for well-being-related treatments of international standards is steadily rising. In response to this, the emirate’s wellness services market remains poised to provide visitors with a uniquewellness experience of global standards, with the help of state-of-the-art technology and highly specialised and educated staff. The emirate’s capability in health and wellness is further being enhanced through the continuous development of a range of smart technologies such as Artificial Intelligence and other electronic platforms, making Dubai on par with global initiatives which promote digital transformation in tourism.
The UAE wellness and spa travel market, comprising both inbound and domestic travellers, represents roughly 15 per cent of the total tourism market. Authentic Middle Eastern spas, wellness experiences and beauty traditions such as hammam, are gaining traction which only signifies the growing importance of this sector.
Wellness tourists to the emirate are also increasingly pursuing various outdoor activities that add value to their travelling experiences and personal well-being. Customers spend on various relaxing and rejuvenating activities such as sauna therapies, yoga, massages and spas in addition to cosmetic procedures such as anti-ageing therapies. Travellers’ quest for options to maintain health and fitness while travelling or while on holidays is shaping the growth of wellness tourism market in the UAE.
DHA’s Health Tourism Department’s partnership with Emirates Holidays, the tour-operating arm of Emirates Airline, to offer visitors customised health and wellness holidays in Dubai reflects its keenness to boost the market’s growth. The Health Tourism Department has accelerated its efforts to support Dubai in its journey to become the most-preferred global health tourism destination and a hub for premier accredited healthcare facilities, in addition to providing a memorable holiday experience to visitors.
Dr. Layla Al Marzouqi, Director of Health Tourism Department at the Dubai Health Authority notes: “Dubai’s attractiveness as an ideal leisure and tourism destination has been extending its scope in recent years to include health and wellness as another reason to visit the emirate. The growing number of visitors experiencing the world-class health and wellness facilities in Dubai attests to the valuable services available in numerous packages the emirate has to offer and we are keen to continue developing this sector to provide excellence and happiness, a lifestyle that is deeply embedded in Dubai’s culture.”
Vyara Tosheva, Manager of East Crescent Wellness and Spa at the Palm Jumeirah, says: “Our range of signature wellness treatments prioritise healing of mind over healing of body, ensuring long lasting results and wellness. Currently, around 10 per cent of the hotel’s guests approach us seeking our services and we are working towards increasing this to minimum 15 per cent next year. Our client base includes UAE residents, nationals and expatriates, with expatriates coming predominantly from Kuwait and Oman. Europeans who come seeking our treatments include mostly French nationals, followed by UK residents. Detox, energy healing, holistic weight loss and holistic anti-ageing are the most sought-after treatments.”