Wellness – a good business


 wellness,spa, middle east


Nutrition and weight loss, preventative and personalized health, complementary and alternative medicine, and beauty and anti-aging treatments were the biggest growing sectors globally, the report compiled by the non-profit research center SRI International showed. “All across the world we have seen more and more people are consciously thinking about healthy food, exercising, looking to nature, getting massages and doing yoga,” said Ophelia Yeung, a senior consultant for SRI International who led the study.  Spa treatments and products, alternative and complementary treatments and weight-loss programs once considered beyond the means of many people, she added, are becoming more mainstream with a growing middle class.


By 2017, the MENA market will more than triple

Global spa and wellness industry was worth an estimated USD 3.4 trillion in 2013, or more than one in seven of all tourist dollars, according to the Global Spa and Wellness Economy Monitor report, up from USD 60 billion in 2007.  By 2017, it is set to grow to USD678.5 billion.

While MENA is currently, together with Sub-Saharan Africa, the smallest of the world’s wellness tourism markets, estimated at USD 5.3billion in 2012 and representing 4.8m wellness-centric trips every year, it is also the world’s fastest-growing market, according to data from the Global Wellness Tourism Congress (GWTC). By 2017, the MENA market will more than triple; and UAE will be the growth leader across entire region. Forecast to grow at an annual rate of 16% until 2017, MENA leads Latin America and Asia Pacific on 13.4%, Sub-Saharan African on 12.6%, North America on 8% and Europe on 7.3% when it comes to wellness tourism market expansion and is is estimated to be worth USD 16.6bn by 2017.

The top five wellness travel markets in the Middle East and Africa are South Africa, the UAE, Israel, Morocco and Egypt. South Africa is the regional market leader, generating USD 1.5million in annual trips and USD1.5bn in spending. However, second-ranked UAE, currently accounting for USD 800,000 in trips and USD 1.4bn in expenditure, is set for the steepest growth rate; 17.9% year-on-year, over the next tree years.

Anni Hood, tourism and government liaison for the GWTC, who revealed the new data at ATM, said: “Wellness-focused travel is growing fast across this vast, diverse region: in the Middle East/North Africa we have the luxury/spa hotel building boom across the GCC nations, and the revitalisation of indigenous practices, such as historic hammams and baths.”


Spa industry
Source: Global Spa & Wellness Economy Monitor


When it comes to spas, Middle East & North Africa is the second fastest growing region in the world, more than doubling the industry size between 2007 and 2013. Much of this growth is concentrated in the Gulf and North African countries. Countries with the largest spa growth since 2007 include Morocco, the United Arab Emirates (especially Dubai), Saudi Arabia, and Israel.

The region has added many hotels and resorts in recent years, catering to key tourism markets of Europeans (especially Russians), wealthy Asians, Gulf visitors (especially Saudi Arabia), and business travelers, said the Wellness Economy Monitor report. Extensive spa and fitness facilities are now standard and expected amenities in high-end hotels and resorts and real estate developments. The region has a long tradition of bathing associated with the hammams/Turkish baths. Although most of these facilities cater to local customers, some of the historical facilities are being modernized into spa-like facilities that also serve tourist markets and hammam bathing traditions are being integrated into spa services.

Madeleine Olsson, Senior Spa Director Middle East & Africa, Four Seasons Hotel Doha, sees the future of the spa in combining tradition and modern medicine. “There is a huge market for both. The focus in the future will be to combine the two and I also believe that post-medi Spa is a promising market as we need to assist post surgery pacients.  It will be of great importance to have certifications for any medical treatment as it needs a minimum of medical nurse education. There is a lot of new technical devices on the market that can assist and speed up the recovery, however for the long lasting result you need a holistic approach.”


Spa industry in Middle East


Early adopters driving the growth in Qatar

According to Ken Research, the wellness market in Qatar has showcased a vigorous growth in the recent past, primarily on account of the early adopters, comprising of the young urban population which have high disposable incomes; the low economic dependency and increasing awareness among women in the society, and the increasing number of health campaigns being held by the government in Qatar. It has grown at a stupendous CAGR of 33.4% during 2006-2012. Spa and salon market is the second largest contributor of the Health and Wellness market, driven primarily by the hotel spas and boasting growth at a CAGR of 42.3% during 2006-2012.

According to a benchmarking report from PwC, the average revenue per treatment in Doha was USD 142, while the average daily treatment revenue per available room stood at USD 292. Revenue per available treatment hour was standing at USD 25.


Breakfast at the sea


There’s more to wellness than getting a massage

Although the global spa industry alone generated USD 94 billion last year and represents 41% of wellness tourism market, there’s much more to be offered within the wellness concept than just a luxurious bath and a massage. Non spa-related wellness tourism (healthy hotels and cruises; baths and springs; fitness, yoga or lifestyle retreats; travel to nature parks and preserves; organic and natural restaurant expenditures; and other healthy lodging and retail) represents the other 59% of the market.

Paul Hawco, group director of spa, Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts; predicted an increase in “a wellness everywhere hotel concept”, which will “seep into a variety of hotel aspects including activities, food, nutrition, music, scents, programmes, and how the guest spends their time”.

Most major hotel chains made some wellness re-branding moves in the past year–and those that haven’t, soon will. We’ve already seen a turn towards ‘green’ and ‘healthy’ hotels with a special focus on healthy food options, in-room fitness equipment, yoga classes and tv-channels, specially designed sleeping amenities to combat jet lag and to help prepare for the day ahead, vitamin C-infused showers, dawn simulating alarm clocks and melatonin-producing lighting.

Another coming thing is the digital detox, listed by the World travel market global trends report as one of the next big trends to hit the hospitality industry. Surrendering laptops, tablets and smartphones at check- in are already a part of several hotels “Un-plug” programmes.


Many opportunities for small businesses with a vision

A quest for all encompassing wellness is, naturally, not limited to the stay in the hotel. GWTC’s study shows that many consumers see their vacations as a catalyst for change and an opportunity to take a different perspective on their everyday worries. They search for practices they can learn during their trip, such as meditation, yoga, qi gong and journaling and use later at home to help manage stress and to relax. Many are searching for an authentic experience of ‘living the local life’. Going to the places the locals frequent, savoring traditional food or maybe even learning to cook regional dishes, participating in local festivities and festivals, experiencing the local customs and religious ceremonies, attending a local wedding or a traditional holiday gathering, enjoying a cup of tea with a local merchant and seeing the fishermen fleet arriving early in the morning.

And they want to take back home something healthy or even better – healing – for their loved ones. Medicinal herbs and ointments, organic teas, nuts and seeds, bath salts, healing mud etc, are souvenirs that sell incredibly well.

Offering such experiences or, better even, combining them into an alternative tourist tour, presents a big business opportunity for many an enterprising SME.



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