Wellness roundtable report
The idea was to bring together industry experts to discuss the challenges and opportunities presented by the rapidly growing tourism niche of Wellness.
President Susie Ellis said: “ “The wellness tourism market is hugely important both in terms of the dollars it represents - 1 in every 7 tourist dollars – and in its ability to encourage a more ‘well’ population within the countries that embrace this trend.”
Dr Fiona Adshead, director of wellbeing and public health, Bupa
Riita Balza, senior consultant, Finpro
James Berresford, chief executive, Visit England
Amine Boughaleb, director, Moroccan National Tourist Office UK & Ireland
Diane Bouzebiba, managing director, Amadeus UK & Ireland
Steve Brown, independent consultant
Alison Cryer, managing director, Representation Plus (ANTOR)
Sandie Dawe, chief executive, Visit Britain
Susie Ellis, chairman Global Spa & Wellness Summit and president of Spafinder Wellness
Mike Greenacre, vice chairman, The Travel Foundation
Carol Hay, UK director for the Caribbean
Ross Jackson, Asian Tourism Lead, London and Partners
Christina Kalogera, UK director for Greek National Tourism Organisation
Marcelline Kuonen, UK director of Tourism Switzerland
Chris Lee, head of travel, hospitality and leisure, Barclays
Helen Marano, vice president of government and industry affairs, WTTC
Sally Pedder, manager, The Dorchester Spa
Enrique Ruiz De Lera, director, Spanish Tourist Office
John Scanlon, hotel manager, The Dorchester
Filipe Silva, director of tourism, Portuguese Tourism
Graham Wason, owner, All being Well
London is not well known for wellness holidays and struggles to attract wellness tourists because of it.
Ross Jackson, Asian tourism lead at London and Partners said changing people’s perceptions about the city was a serious challenge.
He added: “Switzerland has done a good job in attracting people to come for a combination of reasons including wellness.”
Jackson also said being proactive rather than reactive about health is relatively new in the west unlike much of Asia where it’s a part of everyday life.
WHAT IS WELLNESS?
A lot of Brits are going on wellness tourism breaks but don’t realise they are doing it.
Visit England chief executive James Berresford described this as an Achilles heel for wellness tourism as it seeks to grow.
He added: “Loads of people do things like walking or heard to a retreat but they wouldn’t use the word wellness. The concept is not well understood or recognised so it would be a leap of faith to use it in marketing.
“Do we present a trip to the Lake District as a wellness trip or a retreat to recharge batteries?”
Visit Britain chief executive Sandie Dawe said the organisation does not market Britain as a wellness destination.
She explained: “We know its culture, heritage and the like that people come here for. People won’t come for a yoga retreat as India is better for that, or if they want mountains they’ll go to Switzerland.
“We need to make our audiences understand that if they come here they will leave feeling enriched rather than trying to compete with destinations in areas such as medical tourism where they are better equipped.
“We don’t go for the wellness in our marketing but we have good luxury pampering product and London is very clean compared to many cities in emerging economies although they think it’s smoggy here because of Sherlock Holmes and Dickens.”
HORSES FOR COURSES
Western countries should avoid trying to copy the Asian style spa and wellness methods because they will fail according to Spanish Tourist Office director Enrique Ruiz De Lera.?
He explained: “Who wants to go to Spain for a Thai spa when you can go to Thailand?”
“We have to develop our own style of wellness and for us it’s things like olive oil and wine, things the Romans were doing 3000 years ago.
“Also we should look at active wellness such as cycling and walking.”
Tourism Switzerland director Marcelline Kuonen agreed and urged destinations to stick to what they know.
She added: “The number one motivation to come to Switzerland historically has been nature. I call it alpine wellness but when tourists first came here it was to get better in mountain air.”
Graham Watson, director of All Being Well endorsed the idea of building on strengths and what you are known for.
He added: “Don’t pioneer too much as pioneers get shot by Indians. Build on traditions.”
The Caribbean is focusing on ensuring it has the resources to be able to be a global power in wellness tourism.
UK director for the CTO Carol Hay said: “Wellness is not new in the Caribbean. People have been going to places like Jamaica for mineral baths for hundreds of years.
“Now we have some leading hotels with great spas but we need a strategy to make it a reason to go.
“We do have people in the Caribbean who need jobs so one focus will be ensuring training is in place to build this industry to global standards and sustain it.
Susie Ellis, chief executive of Global Spa and Wellness Summit revealed there are 150,000 spa jobs and only 4000 people in schools studying for those jobs.
She added: “It is difficult to find people because of the speed of the growth but there are a lot of job opportunities.
Enrique Ruiz De Lera, director of the Spanish Tourist Office said employment is the key part of any part of tourism.
He added: “Tourism is 10% of GDP in Spain and more importantly 10% of jobs. So tourism and wellness cannot be automated – it’s labour intensive.”
The spa industry is “a huge concern” to The Dorchester according to its spa manager Sally Pedder.
She explained: “There are many many luxury properties now and lots of lesser quality offerings these days.
“We will need to reinvent ourselves as a spa to keep up with the competition and the sector is moving faster than we can keep up with. And there are so many jobs and not enough people to fill them.
“Massage is still the most popular thing but we also arrange yoga, zumba, running and whatever else a guest wants so that we are something of a wellness concierge. But everyone else will start doing that as well.”
The hotel’s general manager added: “Even in the last couple of years I’ve seen the market become saturated with every Tom, Dick and Harry spa across London.
“It’s challenging to keep people interested in your brand.
“People seem to be very conscious of how they look and I can see spas going in that direction.”
TRAVEL VS HEALTH
Travel and Tourism could potentially do a better job encouraging people to live healthier lives than the medical industry according to Bupa’s director of wellbeing and public health.
Dr Fiona Adshead believes the key to success for the wellness sector is to talk about fun, not health.
She added: “There is a huge opportunity for travel to have an impact.
“In the health sector we find it hard to attract people to wellbeing by talking about quality of life messages but travel will do it better as it understands emotional drivers and customer services.
“Health is about how we live ours lives – it doesn’t happen in a doctor’s surgery.”
Adshead believes interest in health and wellbeing is increasing hugely and that people have high expectations of being well. Her desire is to get people thinking about it earlier and encourage people to think about wellness.
She added: “Understanding of wellness is broadening. Nature is important to our health and more and more studies show that even in urban areas being near a green space lessens our chances of dying of a heart attack.
“Governments are becoming more interested in happiness as they are spending a lot more on health care but it doesn’t result in more happiness. The question is how to approach that in a different way and it’s a huge opportunity for travel.”
Consultant Steve Brown agreed with Adshead: “As far as health is concerned there’s no joined up thinking, it’s almost crisis management. “
Government’s need to be persuaded that wellness is an important agenda according to consultant Steve Brown.
He added: “We have to change minds and thinking through lobbying.”
Travel Foundations vice-chairman Mike Greenacre suggested the government could follow the example it set with smoking by using publicity and legislation to confine it.
He explained: “Attitudes have to be changed and the government could extend what they started with smoking to general feelings of looking after oneself.
But Visit England chief executive James Berresford warned against preaching to people.
He added: “People don’t like to be told they are going on an eco-holiday. We don’t want to say go away, it’s good for you, it has to be about hearts and minds and about having fun.
WTTC vice president suggested meeting with health ministers to talk about the benefits of preventative behaviour was important while Alison Cryer of ANTOR said that all ministers are interested in are value economically and jobs. “If talking to government it’s the bottom line that’s important,”