Global Travel

Age significantly impacts wellness travel preferences: study


Every wellness element from healthy food to fitness classes to spiritual healing, ranked as more important for younger travelers (49 and under, Millennials and Gen X), than for Baby Boomers (50 and older), the generation that jumpstarted the wellness revolution found Spafinder Wellness eighth-annual state of wellness travel Report, based on a survey of travel agents in North America and Europe and designed to offer ongoing insight into wellness travel trends. The new report examined the shifting demographics of the wellness traveler, with a special focus on the impact that age has on traveler’s preferences.

The most significant differences are in outdoor adventure (i.e., hiking, surfing, etc.), environmentally friendly properties, voluntourism programs, and fitness/yoga classes and facilities, which all matter significantly more to younger travelers. The most desirable property types for Baby Boomers are luxury spa resorts, while for Millennials and Gen X, eco/adventure resorts and authentic yoga retreats rank much higher.

“As Millennials and Gen X become the core wellness tourism demographic, trends are emerging. Not only do younger travelers demand more wellness offerings in general, they seek more intensive, out-in-nature adventure and fitness. And a property’s ‘values,’ such as respect for the environment and whether it gives back to the local community, aren’t niche considerations—they’re more important than traditional sports like golf or tennis,” said Spafinder Wellness, Inc.® COO John Bevan. “The survey shines light on what’s ascending for the next generation in wellness travel, but also shows that Boomers still rank traditional spa resorts first. The landscape is expanding, more complex, and less one-size-fits-all than ever.”

Additional Findings

Many Wellness Elements Matter to All Travelers

Agents rated the importance of 16 different wellness components/programs to their clients. Every component (whether weight loss or healthy sleep programs) rates as “important” for every age demographic, scoring at least 5.9 out of 10.

All Wellness Components Matter More to Younger Travelers

As the table below illustrates, wellness travel elements are important for all travelers, but they’re even more important to younger travelers (49 and under) than for the 50-plus-group. Even offerings one might associate with older travelers (i.e., hot springs) rank as more important to younger travelers. The differences are more significant in some instances, such as environmentally friendly properties and outdoor adventure programs, but the trend is consistent.

Wellness property elements, ranked 1-10; 1 = “not important at all” and 10 = “extremely important”

50 and older vs. 49 and under

Beach access: 8.2 vs. 8.8
Pools & swimming: 8.3 vs. 8.6
Outdoor adventure programs: 7.3 vs. 8.5
Access to nature/scenic outdoors: 7.9 vs. 8.4
Fitness/yoga facilities & classes: 7.7 vs. 8.4
Healthy cuisine/specialty diets: 8 vs. 8.3
Environmentally friendly property: 6.9 vs. 7.7
‘Do good’ for community/voluntourism: 6.6 vs. 7.4
Traditional sports like golf or tennis: 7.2 vs. 7.3
Hot or mineral springs: 6.6 vs. 6.9
Weight loss programs: 6.6 vs. 6.8
Spiritual healing: 6.4 vs. 6.6
Alternative medical services: 6.vs. 6.6
Detox programs: 6.2 vs. 6.6
Healthy sleep programs: 6.3 vs. 6.2
Traditional medical services: 5.9 vs. 6

The Biggest Age “Importance Gaps”

Several wellness components at properties stand out as significantly more important for Millennials and Gen X. The top five “importance gaps” are 1.) outdoor adventure programs (i.e., hiking, surfing, etc.); 2.) environmentally friendly properties; 3.) properties that actively “do good” for local community or have voluntourism programs; and 4.) fitness/yoga classes and facilities; and 5.) beach access.

Baby Boomers Want Luxury Spa Resorts; Millennials & Gen X Rate Eco-Resorts Much Higher

Agents shared what types of wellness travel properties are most desired/booked by their Baby Boomer and older, and younger Millennial and Gen X, clients.

For the 50-plus crowd, luxury spa resorts (with a focus on relaxation and stress-reduction) rank highest by considerable margins. And the next three types of travel destinations all had parity in scores.

Baby Boomer Top Properties:

#1 Luxury spa resort
#2 Beach focused (sand-and-sea destinations)
#3 Eco resort in wild nature (focus on hiking, adventure, biodiversity/wildlife, etc.)
#4 Healthy cruise (w/programming like spas, fitness classes, etc.)

Millennial & Gen X Top Properties:

For travelers 49 and under, the top three, most desired/booked wellness travel properties (by significant margins, and with great parity) are:

#1 Beach focused (sand-and-sea destinations)
#2 Eco resort in wild nature (focus on hiking, adventure, biodiversity/wildlife, etc.)
#3 Authentic yoga retreats

Gen X: the #1 wellness travel booker

Agents also note which age groups are now most likely to book wellness travel. And as Baby Boomers age, each year they’re increasingly being replaced by Gen X and younger. The top two age groups below lead by significant margins. And the young 26-35 year olds (Millennials) increase their lead on the over-65 this year.

Who books wellness travel?

1) 46-55 (older Gen X and very youngest Boomers)
2) 36-45 (Gen X)
3) 56-65 (heart of the Boomers)
4) 26-35 (Millennials and youngest Gen X)
5) Over 65 (includes oldest Boomers


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