Middle East and North Africa is fastest growing wellness tourism market in world, at 16% annually

May 11, 2014 10:28 am

The Global Wellness Tourism Congress (GWTC), a division of the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), released new data on the Middle East and African wellness tourism markets at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) being held in Dubai. The research, undertaken by SRI International for the GWTC, reveals that although the region is currently the smallest global wellness travel market, it will be the world growth leader through 2017.

The report analyzed the Middle East/North African and Sub-Saharan African markets separately, and found that the former ranks #1 in the world for wellness tourism growth (16.2% annually), expanding the market from $5.3 billion USD in 2012 to $16.6 billion USD in 2017. And Sub-Saharan Africa will also see an impressive 12.6% annual growth, driving that market from $2 billion USD in 2012 to $5.07 billion by 2017. South Africa is the current pan-regional leader in terms of both trips and expenditures. And the UAE will grow faster than any Middle East/African nation from 2012-2017: adding one million trips–and with a 17.9% annual growth rate that ranks sixth in the world.

Wellness tourism is defined as “all travel associated with enhancing one’s personal well-being,” and this newly-released data comes from the GWTC’s “Global Wellness Tourism Economy” report, the first research to analyze the $439 billion worldwide wellness tourism market that is growing roughly 50% faster than the tourism sector overall.

Anni Hood, tourism & government liaison for the GWTC, presents the findings at ATM on May 7, and noted, “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 GCC nations, and the revitalization of indigenous practices, such as historic hammams and baths. And Africa is tourism’s next frontier: from the rise of healthy adventure/safari tourism in South Africa and Kenya–to continued growth for spa/wellness resorts on destination islands like Mauritius or the Seychelles–to just-emerging East African destinations like Ghana or Senegal. These many different ‘stories’ add up to one, big story: the fastest growing wellness tourism market in the world.”