Saturday 15 December, 2018

Caribbean urged to embrace natural gifts to push wellness tourism

Hiking the Quill Volcano is a popular activity for tourists in Sint Eustatius.

Hiking the Quill Volcano is a popular activity for tourists in Sint Eustatius.

As the world celebrates World Tourism Day, Caribbean islands are being urged to become a part of the wellness tourism industry.

Sallie Fraenkel said Caribbean islands need to take advantage of their natural surroundings to build a wellness tourism industry.

“The term spa, means in Latin, healing through water. One thing every Caribbean island has in common is water and water can be the root of healing and health. I do feel every Caribbean island just takes it for granted that you are surrounded by water, that you got sunshine, your climate, your beaches and nature,” said Fraenkel.

Fraenkel, founder and director of the Mind, Body, Network, was the keynote speaker at the annual Statia Sustainability Conference in St Eustatius. The theme of the conference was Embracing Environmental Health and Wellness.

A former chief marketing and chief operations officer of SpaFinder and Executive vice president of the Global Spa and Wellness Summit, Fraenkel told Loop that while there are a group of people who want to come to the Caribbean to party, the Caribbean could use its natural resources to encourage people to rest and recharge.

Fraenkel said while Boomers, because of their age, are interested in the wellness experience, Millennials have also embraced wellness tourism.

“Millennials, the second largest population segment, they are growing up with the wellness lifestyle. They are growing up really having it as part of their lives, so they absolutely come with that expectation,” she said.

In her presentation, Fraenkel said the wellness industry on a global basis is $3.7 trillion, three times larger than the global pharmaceutical industry and growing exponentially.

She said there are ten industries that comprise wellness tourism: beauty, healthy eating, fitness, mind and body pursuits, preventative and personalised medicine, medical tourism, wellness lifestyle real estate, workplace wellness, the spa industry, thermal and mineral springs, complementary and alternative medicine.

Beauty and anti-ageing, she said, are the largest components of the wellness economy.

Fraenkel said wellness tourism is a $500 billion market, projected to be about $700 billion.

“It is growing much more quickly over all tourism,” she said, noting that while it accounts for 6.5 percent of all domestic and international travel, it brings in 15.6 percent of expenditure.

“Wellness tourism spends more,” she stated.

Wellness tourism, she explained, is travel for the purpose of promoting health and wellbeing through physical, psychological and spiritual activities.

“And some of those activities could be as simple as walking on the beach by waters, sailing or scuba diving or snorkelling or taking a hike. These are all part of wellness tourism,” she said.

Fraenkel said food is a key component of wellness tourism as is fitness, spa treatments, nature and sustainability.

She said the wellness tourism is driven by a lack of good health and there are destinations people can travel to learn to eat properly, lose weight, manage diseases.

Looking at the Caribbean, she said only two islands, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, are in the top ten in Latin America and the Caribbean in wellness tourism.

She also cited St Lucia as an island with resorts that cater to people interested in wellness.

In her address on designing our wellness future, Korra Pietersz-Juliana of Curacao-based wellness company Oasean Group, also praised St Lucia as a leading island in wellness. She cited their sulphur spring baths as the type of fun, healing experience that wellness tourists are looking for.

Urging islands to embrace their authenticity, she said there is a misconception that wellness travellers want a five-star experience.

“It is about quality, experience and service and that makes it more attainable for islands like us,” she said.

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