Casablanca - The eighth annual Global Spa & Wellness Summit sessions will take place on September 10-12, 2014 at the Four Seasons Resort in Marrakech.
Casablanca – The eighth annual Global Spa & Wellness Summit sessions will take place on September 10-12, 2014 at the Four Seasons Resort in Marrakech.
To shed more lights on this international event, Morocco World News talked with Mrs. Susie Ellis to discuss and learn about economic development concerning the spa and wellness industries worldwide and how this industry can benefit tourism in Morocco.
Susie Ellis, President and CEO of the Global Spa and Wellness Summit and president of SpaFinder Wellness, is a prominent writer, speaker and analyst and recognized as a leading global authority on spa and wellness.
MWN: Why is the 8th Global Spa & Wellness Summit being held in Marrakesh and not in another Moroccan city? Are there any specific reasons?
Susie Ellis: During the research phase and our site visits to Morocco, we considered a variety of locations for the Summit, and looked at each city’s advantages based on some of our most important criteria.
What we found is that Marrakesh had the most to offer our delegates in terms of the spa and wellness industry– we could find examples of both the history and the future of wellness tourism here. Not only can our delegates understand the historic Moroccan hammam experience in Marrakesh, but at the same time, they can visit some of the most stunning spa developments – famous around the world – as well. Four Seasons, Royal Mansour, La Mamounia, the Selman are just four of the luxury offerings in Marrakesh, and, of course, there are also a growing number of Riads with spas.
In addition, accessibility for international travelers is an important criterion, as is the availability of a variety of accommodations for our elegant event. And, the Four Seasons Marrakech extended us a very warm welcome, and their beautiful conference facility, as well as their commitment to spas and wellness, factored into our choice.
SMIT and the representatives of the Kingdom who we met with also felt that Marrakesh was the right city for our event. We did, however, add pre- and post-Summit trip options for all delegates, which include other cities and sites of Morocco, and so I believe our delegates will end up learning and understanding more about Morocco as a country beyond just Marrakesh as a city. (You can see more about these here)
MWN: What are the prospects of this industry worldwide and in Morocco and the MENA region?
Note: All data below from SRI International’s “Global Wellness Tourism Economy” report, prepared for the Global Spa & Wellness Summit, 2013
Susie Ellis: The wellness tourism market is one of the – if not the – fastest-growing global tourism categories. It was already a $439 billion USD market at end of 2012, accounting for an eye-opening 1 out of every 7 tourism dollars spent ($3.2 trillion USD in total). But worldwide, wellness tourism is forecast to grow to $678.5 billion USD by 2017 (or 9.9% annually over those 5 years), which is nearly 50% faster thanglobal tourism, which itself is growing very fast.
MENA Is the Fastest-Growing Wellness Tourism Market on Earth:
SRI’s study shows that while Europe and North America dominate in wellness tourism now,over 50% of projected growth through 2017 will come from Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East and North Africa.
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is the very fastest growing wellness tourism market in the world, set to grow at an amazing 16.2% annually from 2012-2017. The MENA market will expand from $5.3 billion USD in 2012 to $16.6 billion USD in 2017 – more than tripling. For context: 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.
Driving much of this MENA wellness tourism growth is the luxury/spa hotel building boom across the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations and the revitalization of (and global interest in) “experiential” wellness and indigenous practices, such as the region’s (and Morocco’s) historic hammams and baths.
Middle East/North Africa–The Global Wellness Tourism Growth Leader (Annual Growth Rate, 2012-2017)
1- Middle East/North Africa: 16.2%
2- Latin America: 13.4%
3- Asia Pacific: 13.4%
4- Sub-Saharan Africa: 12.6%
5- North America: 8%
6- Europe 7.3%
Fastest-Growing Middle East/Africa Wellness Tourism Countries (Trips Added/Annual Growth Rate, 2012-2017)
1- UAE: 1 mil/17.9%
2- South Africa: 1 mil/10.5%
3- Israel: 800,000/18.6%
4- Morocco: 800,000/14.7%
Note: all 4 countries above rank in the top 30 globally for wellness tourism growth 2012-2017. Israel, the UAE, and Morocco all rank in the top ten in the world for “pure percentage” growth in wellness travel through 2017, ranking #5, #6 and #10, respectively.
Current Top Five Current Wellness Tourism Country Leaders across all of Middle East/Africa (annual trips/expenditures in USD):
1- South Africa: 1.5 mil/$1.5 bil
2- UAE: 800,000/$1.4 bil
3- Israel: 600,000/$1 bil
4- Morocco: 800,000/$800 mil
5- Egypt: 900,000/$700 mil
Worldwide, domestic wellness tourism is dramatically larger than its international equivalent, representing 84% of trips and 68% of expenditures. But for the Middle East and North Africa, the reverse is true: no global region’s wellness travel market is as dependent on foreign tourists. In the Middle East and North Africa, international tourists make up 63% of trips and 75% of expenditures.
Top Five Inbound Wellness Tourism Country Leaders Across Middle East/Africa (number of wellness-focused arrivals annually)
1- South Africa: 665,900
2- UAE: 603,600
3- Egypt: 593,400
4 – Morocco: 464,200
5- Tunisia: 354,500
Wellness tourism is directly responsible for creating 200,000 jobs in the Middle East and North Africa. This booming travel sector has an estimated impact of $13.4 billion USD on MENA’s regional economy.
The data above speaks louder than any words: MENA is the world’s fastest-growing wellness tourism market. Morocco will increasingly be a global leader in wellness tourism. It ranked #10 for projected growth among all nations from 2012-2017, with a very impressive growth rate of roughly 15%. Morocco is poised to grow dramatically larger than its current level of $800 million USD in wellness tourism expenditures at the end of 2012 within the next few years.
Also of note, there will be a presentation at the 2014 GSWS by this well-regarded research firm, SRI International (founded as Stanford Research Institute), revealing the latest statistics on the Global Spa and Wellness Economy, which will include fresh figures on the size of the Moroccan spa industry – a key component of the nation’s wider wellness tourism market.
MWN: What do you think about Morocco’s wellness and spa tourism market?
Susie Ellis: I think Morocco has one of the greatest opportunities for spa and wellness tourism, greater than perhaps any other country in the world. The climate, history, and commitment to developing this opportunity by the Kingdom as well as the tourism offices should be a “can’t miss” formula.
I do think that there are a few factors that will help ensure its success, including a more welcoming visa process for the countries from which Morocco requires visas. The high-yield wellness tourist seeking rest and relaxation (the number one reason people go to spas) is not inclined to have frustrating hurdles along the way at the beginning of their journey. Because there are already many countries that don’t require visas, I assume and hope this will be resolved over time.
MWN: How important is tourism to a country’s image?
Susie Ellis: Tourism is a barometer of a country’s image, so it’s of great importance. Tourism is one of the largest industries in the world, as is the health industry. If a country has natural resources and a good strategy to develop wellness tourism, this can become “the” identity of the country. Bali and Thailand are good examples of countries whose tourism image is now often equated with wellness and spas.
While there are a few images of spa and wellness traditions in your tourism materials, I think there is room for a lot more visibility to brand your country with the relaxation and beauty of the Moroccan hammam experience; an experience that exudes wellness and relaxation.
MWN: What are people expecting under the terms “ Wellness and spa tourism”?
Susie Ellis: We know from our research that the number one reason people go to spas is “to relax and de-stress.” So when one talks about wellness and the spa, relaxation certainly comes to mind. In addition, the very definition of wellness tourism is “all travel associated with enhancing one’s personal well-being”. It is helpful to keep in mind the distinction between primary wellness travelers and secondary wellness travelers. For the former, the wellness experience is “the reason” for the trip and, for the latter, wellness is part of the trip but not necessarily the most important part. Some travelers are seeking a full immersion spa experience. Consider those who are visiting the thalassotherapy resorts on your shores or those visiting hot springs in your country. The majority however – and that is certainly the case in Morocco – are the secondary wellness travelers, who add some of the wellness components such as spa services, exercise, healthy eating, relaxing, and even spiritual practices to their itinerary.
Domestic tourism is another great opportunity. This means not only attracting international wellness travelers, but also using wellness and spa experiences to attract domestic travelers to unique experiences within the country.
Also of note is what people are not expecting under the terms of “wellness and spa tourism”, and that is medical procedures that involve hospitals and such. That is something distinct from spa and wellness and is in a category of its own, called Medical Tourism. It is very important to not mix the two, as the markets are very different. In my opinion, Morocco’s opportunity in wellness tourism is – and has been – greater than that of its opportunities in Medical Tourism. And while I am all for encouraging Medical Tourismwhere there is expertise – and there is some in Morocco – mixing the two is a slippery slope that should be avoided.
MWN: Is wellness playing a huge role in a person’s life? How and in which ways?
Susie Ellis: Our research shows that wellness is playing an ever larger role in a person’s life – evidenced by the fact that it is a massive $2 trillion global industry (SRI International, 2010). There are a variety of trends that are fueling this, including higher stress levels, more knowledge about the value of preventative measures, the world’s rising rates of obesity and diabetes, and the skyrocketing costs of health care making it must more cost effective to prevent rather than to cure. It behooves everyone (governments, corporations, schools, families, and individuals) to encourage wellness practices where people take responsibility for their health and for prevention of illness. The benefits are monumental for each of the stakeholders involved.
MWN: What do you think about the stereotype that only rich people can afford or access such services?
Susie Ellis: In some ways the stereotype that only rich people can afford or access spa services is warranted by the fact that many spas, which are expensive to build and expensive to staff, have had to charge high prices. However, one need only look at the cost of a visit to one of your local hammams in the Medinas to see that there is also an aspect of spa and wellness that caters to a much broader audience where the experience is very affordable.
I think that as the term “wellness” has entered the discussion (just in the past 10 years) to rival and in some cases supplant the word “spa.” This stereotype that wellness tourism is only for the rich is beginning to be dismantled. Note that the Summit will be hearing from and honoring two of the world’s wellness pioneers, Dr. Jack Travis and Don Ardell, PhD, who will be speaking about the origin of the word ‘wellness’.
We are seeing signs of this affluent stereotype being broken across the world. For example, budget spas are popping up everywhere. In the US, there’s a franchise called Massage Envy that has recently opened their 1,000th franchise. They offer basic massage services in a not-so-expensive environment. The prices are about a quarter of the cost of a massage in a resort or hotel.
In addition, the renaissance of hot springs bathing and the refurbishment of establishments that offer these experiences are also making wellness experiences more accessible. In fact, we are highlighting Moroccan hot springs and offering a tour of historically significant locations, including Moulay Yacoub, Sidi Harazem, Ain Salama, Ain Allah, Abaynou and Tighmert Oasis.
While I don’t believe Morocco has put much emphasis on hot springs tourism in the past, there is a huge opportunity here.
MWN: Can you give me an example of a country that thanks spa industry overcome the economic crisis and brought more investment?
Susie Ellis: As mentioned above, India is a very good example to observe when it comes to seeing the value of emphasizing wellness tourism for a country. In fact, the GSWS was hosted by India last year, when we shared the first-ever research done on the Global Wellness Tourism Economy. One of the presentations at that Summit was from Mr. Amitabh Kant, who spearheaded the successful tourism campaigns of Kerala “God’s Own Country”, and “Cradle of Ayurveda”, as well as the very popular “Incredible India” campaign that was rooted in the historical wellness practices of that country. With India’s huge surge in tourism in the past twelve years, there is no doubt that investment has increased with tourism.
© Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed