The data reveals that Mena is a very unique wellness tourism market. For instance, globally, only 33 per cent of wellness travel revenues come from inbound tourists, but in Mena, the inbound spend accounts for 68 per cent of the market. The UAE remains the regional powerhouse, with a wellness tourism market now nearly two times bigger ($2.7 billion) than its closest competitor, Morocco ($1.5 billion) – and a spa market roughly three times larger ($742 million) than the number two market, Saudi Arabia ($255 million).
Notable 2013-2015 gainers are the UAE (adding 500,000 trips and $472 million in revenues); Oman (doubling trips from 100,000 to 200,000 and adding $96 million in revenues); Bahrain (adding 100,000 trips and $132 million in revenues); and Iran, which didn’t rank in the top ten in 2013, but now drives 500,000 annual wellness trips worth $311 million.
Some of the key trends to watch in the region are:
There is a move from generic luxury to indigenous wellness experiences. The most powerful global travel trend is the hunger for all things authentic and unique to the “place,” but the 1,000+ years of sophisticated, nature-based traditional wellness and beauty systems from across Mena and the Arabian Peninsula have remained largely under-exploited.
WELLNESS REAL ESTATE
Wellness Communities & Lifestyle Real Estate are one of the fastest-growing global wellness markets (now worth $119 billion), but the Mena “wellness living” market is just getting started (worth $500 million). Growth lies ahead, and the focus is strongly mixed-use: part hospitality, part wellness residence concepts, like MAG of Life’s partnership with well-building pioneer DELOS, for the coming Life Creek Resort in Dubai.
LUXURY WILL RULE
Over-the-top luxury will remain crucial to the Mena wellness tourism brands, but the next “luxury wellness” chapter will go deeper than spectacular one-upmanship design: with a bigger property focus on everything from professionals trained in lifestyle change, stress reduction, mental wellness and indigenous traditions/medicines to a needed focus on environmental and social consciousness.
Medical and wellness tourism concepts and promotion should be kept separate but the Middle East is a special case, with more unique and blended medical-wellness (and cosmetic surgery and wellness) concepts and opportunities ahead.
TTN is the most established trade publication in the Middle East distributed on a controlled circulation basis to members of the travel and tourism industry.
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