Algarve bids to become ‘Mecca’ for booming 600bn. wellness travel industry
The Algarve could be transformed into a ‘Mecca’ for health and wellness travel – benefiting from major investment linked to the booming 600 billion euros global industry – according to organisers of the 2019 Algarve Tourism Conference.
Tourist development consultant Andrew Coutts said worldwide ‘wellness tourism’ spend is rising rapidly and expected to surpass 900 billion euros by 2022, representing 18pc of the global tourism market. Meanwhile the GWI (Global Wellness Institute) predicts wellness tourism trips to grow by 8pc annually reaching 1.2billion by 2022.
The news comes ahead of the 2019 Algarve Tourism Conference running from 9am-5pm at the Hilton Vilamoura Resort on Friday September 27.
One of Portugal’s leading tourism events, it will be attended by Algarve Region Tourism Board (RTA) President João Fernandes and Algarve Regional Coordination and Development Commission (CCDR) President Francisco Serra. Other high-profile participants include GSI Health & Wellness Exchange, Revive Clinic Algarve, Grupo HPA Saude, Longevity, Vale do Lobo, ASPA and Pine Cliffs Resort/UIP.
The event is being delivered by ILM Real Estate Group in association with the Ireland Portugal Business Network (IPBN) and Faro’s Dengun Digital Agency.
Mr Coutts, CEO of the ILM Tourism & Hospitality Real Estate Group Portugal, is urging the region to join forces now and create a sustainable development plan to harness the full potential of the global wellness movement.
“The Algarve is on the cusp of a transformation linked to the fast expanding ‘health and wellness’ tourism industry,” he said. “Europe is currently topping the polls as the most popular destination for health and wellness travel, which is terrific news for the Algarve. Our region is in prime position and already benefits from a bounty of natural assets with strong supply chains and potential support services in areas including technology, sustainability and innovation. It has all the ingredients to become a ‘Mecca’ for health and wellness travellers worldwide. However, the onus is now on the local market to work together and harness the opportunity by creating a robust plan for the years to come.
“The wellness industry burst into mainstream consumer consciousness a few years ago. It’s now a multi-billion-Euro industry with businesses and governments piling investment into new strategies, products, experiences, and destinations. Wellness, hospitality, and travel are converging in diverse and unprecedented ways as businesses experiment with new partnerships and models to help travellers incorporate wellness into every aspect of their trips. The Algarve has perfect conditions for health, wellness and active travel as one of the sunniest destinations in Europe with easy access to beaches, oceans and countryside. This opens up opportunities for virtually all outdoor activities from water sports like surfing and kayaking to trail-running, hiking and restorative activities such as pilates and yoga. We are also witnessing a surge in professional sports related tourism with world class athletes and clubs increasingly looking to stage training camps in the Algarve.
“New opportunities being created by the health and wellness travel movement will form the central theme at the 2019 Algarve Tourism Conference, bringing together business leaders, decision makers, opinion-formers and experts from across the international tourism community. More than 25 speakers will share in-depth knowledge and help broaden understanding.”
The full-day conference will specifically address demand-side aspects of emerging tourism markets including current trends, case studies, potential source markets and ‘new consumer’ behaviour. A revolving panel of leading tourism and travel players, marketeers, technology experts, tourist lodging operators, real estate operators, hotel, resort and residential developers will further review business-related, supply-side opportunities in the Algarve.
Mr Coutts said the surge in ‘health and wellness’ travel is being influenced by a series of factors including an expanding global middle class and growing consumer demand for wellness lifestyles. A rising interest in experiential travel and increasing affordability of flights and travel options are pushing demand. And while the Algarve’s market potential remains undimmed Mr Coutts says current disconnects within the local business community risk limiting the pace of progress.
“Every year health and wellness travellers spend more than €600billion globally,” he said. “This is distributed among many segments of the tourism industry – from food and lodging, to activities, excursions, shopping, and other services. Within each segment, some expenditures may include wellness-focused activities, such as visiting a hot spring, getting a massage, or taking a meditation or fitness class. Other expenditures may be ‘generic’, such as transportation, general food and lodging, or buying souvenirs. As more consumers incorporate wellness into their lifestyles, there are more opportunities for all businesses to capture a share of the spend from these high-value tourists.
“However, one of the weaknesses we have observed in the Algarve is the disconnect between key operators within the tourism sector, leading to missed opportunities. Greater communication and cooperation across the sector between these markets would be mutually beneficial, as tourists are a major source of real estate investors. Meanwhile, the medical tourism industry remains relatively untapped in our region. We are beginning to see new high-level facilities in the Algarve combining modern and regenerative medicine with advanced wellness and preventative diagnostics, therapies and programmes. This will be another area of major growth in the coming decades. But in order to fully capitalise on these ‘new tourism markets’ for ‘new times’ we must develop a more fluid and connected approach when positioning and packaging tourism products to new consumers.”
Algarve Region Tourism Board (RTA) President João Fernandes, who also leads the Algarve Tourism Association (ATA), said the region is becoming more competitive and better known for its quality and diversity.
“The Algarve Tourism Conference is fast becoming one of the most important events for our industry enabling public and private sector professionals to share knowledge and best practice,” he said. “Crucially, it provides a platform to discuss larger global trends and the future for our region including where the greatest opportunities lie.
“A key objective of the RTA and ATA is to unite companies working across the Algarve’s tourism sector. We want the industry to work more collectively with an ambitious and progressive vision showing that our region offers much more than just sunshine, beaches and golf. One of the ways we can achieve this is by increasing our networking capacity which is where events like the Algarve Tourism Conference prove invaluable.”
IPBN Chair Aoife Healy said the trade group is supporting the conference for the second year running. The fast-expanding international business network aims to stimulate trade and investment between Ireland and Portugal. It has doubled membership in the last 12 months as is supported by committees in Lisbon and the Algarve.
“We are delighted to be co-organising the second edition of the Algarve Tourism Conference as we look to build on momentum from the inaugural event last Autumn,” she said. “The 2019 event provides a terrific opportunity for businesses to learn more about the future of Portuguese tourism. We are encouraging all firms with an interest in the sector to register and get involved. Our nations are strongly aligned in many sectors alongside Tourism and Healthcare such as Technology, Renewable Energy and Agriculture. The IPBN is looking to stimulate greater levels of bi-lateral trade and we are particularly encouraging more Irish firms to capitalise on the attractive exporting and importing conditions in Portugal which has no tariffs or customs procedures.”
Stakeholders from across Portugal’s tourism sector are being encouraged to attend September’s conference, most notably tourism and travel entrepreneurs and innovators, travel trade and destination management company (DMC) professionals, resort, hotel and tourism development lodging managers and operators, real estate developers and investors, real estate managers and realtors.