MEA emerges as a high-growth wellness destination
After Asia and Europe, the Middle East turning into the new kid in the block for wellness tourism. With 9 million trips and revenues of US$8.3 billion in expenditures, the spa and wellness activity is making its mark in the Middle East.
The “Global Wellness Economy Monitor, January 2017”, by the Global Wellness Institute, considered the leading global research and educational resource for the global wellness, gives a close-up on the state of the industry. And while Asia, Europe and North America represent the bulk of the wellness and spa tourism activity, representing 91.2% of all trips in 2015 and 92.4% of all expenditures around the world, the Middle East is an attractive emerging wellness and Spa destination. For 2015 (the latest available year of the Global Wellness Economy Monitor), the Middle East/ North Africa region registered 9 million wellness and spa trips which generated US$8.3 billion of expenditure. This is a respective market share of 1.3% of all trips and 1.5% of all expenditure. The number of spas in the Middle East region reached 4,465 in 2015 (3,889 spas in 2013) while Thermal/Mineral springs reached a total of 324 establishments in the same year (compared to 315 back to 2013).
Spas are gaining ground due to a growing middle class with high purchasing power.
According to the Global Wellness Economy Monitor, UAE and Qatar have benefitted from significant investments in new hotels and resort properties equipped with spa and wellness facilities markets in anticipation of Expo 2020 and the FIFA World Cup 2022, although external factors such as lower oil prices, currency depreciation, and economic slowdown in key tourism source countries such as Saudi Arabia, Russia, and China have slowed the pace of growth in demand.
Wellness and spa activities come generally as a second motivation in the region. Wellness travellers are keen to incorporate well-being activities while travelling in the region for business or leisure. Visitors have come to expect extensive spa and fitness facilities in both city and resort hotels in the Middle East. Top countries for wellness travellers to the region are Morocco (2.5 million), followed by the UAE (1.7 million), Israel (0.9 million), Iran and Tunisia (0.5 million). When looking at top destination per spa facilities, the five winners are Morocco (1,785 spa facilities), the UAE (687 facilities), Israel (375), Egypt (362) and Saudi Arabia (352).
MIDDLE EAST/ NORTH AFRICA: FASTEST-GROWING WELLNESS TOURISM MARKETS (2012-2017)
Ranked in order, 1-10, based on a combinaison of total trips added and annual percentage growth.