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I have just read a report titled The Global Wellness Tourism Economy 2013, and it has made me optimistic for the potential growth of responsible tourism. It has made me see that there are many more travelers out there for responsible tourism companies to connect to. And it has given me some insight into how we might go about reaching them.

The wellness tourist is anyone who travels with the desire to improve their physical, emotional and spiritual well being. In other words, it is about much more than just people who go to spas. For example, the report defines what wellness tourists look for as “Healthy Living”. “Rejuvenation and Relaxation” and “Meaning and Connection”. “Authentic Experiences” Which responsible tourism operator doesn’t aspire to offer these?

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The report also gives examples of the sort activities these tourists enjoy: hiking, biking, walking along nature trails, volunteering, connecting to arts, culinary experiences. All the same sorts of activities that many – if not most – responsible tourism companies offer. Now consider that Wellness Tourism is already reckoned to be a $439bn market, worth one in seven of every tourist dollars. And it is forecast to grow to $678bn by 2017. Meanwhile, your typical wellness tourist spends 130 per cent more than the average global tourist while on a trip.

Although the two sectors are in no way synonymous, the one key difference that I see is that responsible tourism talks primarily about the impacts of travel upon those outside of us – the community and the environment, while Wellness focuses on the impacts upon the traveler. The issues that cause these impacts – pollution, overcrowded cities, industrialized agriculture, economic disparities etc – are the same. The report even spells out how interwoven our two sectors are, when it describes “core wellness consumers [are those] who embrace holistic and integrated approaches to health, as well as environmental and sustainability issues, recognizing that personal, social and planetary well being are all interconnected.”

Although the main focus of each sector may be different, the fact that these core consumers are seeking an ‘integrated approach’ suggests there is merit in looking to learn from what one another does well. And where I really think Responsible Tourism can really learn from Wellness Tourism is by studying the way it connects the stories of what it offers with consumers. Because by talking to people where they are – connecting what we offer to their needs, desires and worries about their own lives – we stand the best chance of exciting them about our trips.

At its simplest, compare the way the two sectors might talk to a tourist in their bathroom. Responsible Tourism puts a little card on the basin that asks the traveler to help saving the planet by not washing their towel. Wellness Tourism offers them a natural bath soap created by local artisans using traditional herbs known in the region for their curative properties.

Both of these approaches can impact positively on the world outside the bathroom. But I believe the latter resonates far more richly with most travelers – whether it is deeper meaning they seek, or a deeper bath.

Originally Published as Why the growth of Wellness Tourism is good for the responsible tourism market by


What is the world’s favourite holiday destination?

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For many people the holiday season has arrived. Where do those travelling abroad go? UN figures suggest that France had more foreign visitors than any other country in 2012, while the most visited capital city is now, according to one study, Bangkok. A recent study by the United Nations World Tourism Organization revealed that 83 million people visited La Belle France last year, even more than its population of 66 million. By Ben Carter. Read more.


The Case for Responsible Travel: Trends and Statistics

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Consumer Demand for responsible Travel

A variety of market studies in recent years have documented sustained interest among consumers in tourism products and services that protect the environment and respect local cultures.

Experts say…

  • “Concern about sustainability and the planet is top of mind for everybody… [O]ver 98% of consumers in every market worldwide view themselves as environmentalists.” —James Canton, CEO, Institute for Global Futures, San Francisco.
  • Environmental concern is “the biggest social trend for the rest of our careers.” —Daniel Levine, Executive Director, Avant-Guide Institute, New York.
  • “Green is no longer just a trend. It’s a way of life.” —Fran Brasseux, Executive Director, HSMAI (Hotel Sales and Marketing Association International)Foundation

Surveys and Statistics show…

  • A 2013 Travel Guard survey of travel agents concluded “green travel is here to stay.” The survey found “24% of those who responded noted that interest in green travel is currently the highest it’s ever been in the last 10 years, and 51% reported that interest has remained constant throughout this time period.” By CREST. Read More.

Keynote speaker Professor Regina Scheyvens addressed the role of corporate social responsibility in the tourism industry, as the annual Council for Australasian University Tourism and Hospitality Education (CAUTHE) conference entered its second day (Wednesday 13 February) at Lincoln University last week. Now in its 23rd year, the CAUTHE conference has attracted over 200 experts from all over the world to discuss issues around tourism and global change. Lincoln University Adjunct Associate Professor of Sustainable Tourism Susanne Becken says with increasing globalisation, the role and responsibility of the corporation has become a key issue in the sector. By Lincoln University. Read more.


Poorism tourism: A highly unethical new trend in travel?

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Those seeking a chance to see how the other half live, can now pay to go on special tours of the poorest neighbourhoods in the world. “Poorism” is the latest trend in tourism that invites people to find authenticity in a destination by looking at its most impoverished areas. Some examples of the tours include a trip to the Bronx, Brazil’s Favelas, the townships of South Africa and New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward. While this type of tourism strives for authenticity, some are coming out and saying it is unethical and exploitative voyeurism.  

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A global marketing campaign launched by the Tourism Authority of Thailand to promote Volunteer tourism was one of the winners of the first Digital Innovation Asia Awards conferred at a ceremony on June 10. Conferred the “Most Impactful Campaign” award, it was designed to tap into a growing industry trend known as Voluntourism — travellers seeking “A Purposeful Vacation” that goes well beyond more than just having fun during a holiday abroad. Theodore Koumelis. Read more.


Creating greater awareness of the consequences of tourism in Macao and the legacy that will be passed on to the next generation – increasing responsible behaviour within tourism development

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We are constantly confronted on the news now of issues of global warming and destruction of natural habitats and resources. How tourism is managed and planned will also have consequences on the environment and the communities within this. The United Nations Environment Programme in 1995 stated sustainable consumption as ‘the use of services and related products which respond to basic needs and bring a better quality of life while minimizing the use of natural resources and toxic materials as well as the emissions of waste and pollutants over the life-cycle so as not to jeopardize the needs of future generations.’ — Glenn McCartney. Read more.


Is Good Corporate Citizenship also good for the Bottom Line? The short answer is yes. That’s the finding of Robert G. Eccles, Ioannis Ioannou and George Serafeim from their recent paper “The Impact of a Corporate Culture of Sustainability on Corporate Behaviour and Performance.” — Stephen Dubner, Freakonomics. Read more.