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A defining moment for wellness travel

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The Global Wellness Tourism Congress (GWTC) has announced a heavy-hitter lineup of speakers for its first-ever conference, which will be held in New Delhi, India, on October 5, 2013. The Congress will feature tourism experts like Jean-Claude Baumgarten, former president and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), and ministers of tourism from around the world, who will be welcomed by Dr K Chiranjeevi, minister of state for tourism, India.

More attention has been paid to medical tourism (defined as travel for medical/cosmetic/dental surgical procedures or enhancements) than wellness tourism (travel to pursue activities that maintain or enhance health and wellbeing). But the most recent research shows that wellness tourism is already twice as big a market (US$ 106 billion vs US$ 50 billion). At the GWTC, for the first time, the conference agenda will be solely focused on global wellness tourism: from defining and sizing the segment, to identifying the best strategies that can help stakeholders further grow this packed-with-potential travel category.

The Congress will also represent the first time that ministries of tourism from 30 different nations are invited to share their current strategies and future plans to attract more business and leisure wellness travellers. In addition, SRI International will present the first research report that benchmarks global and regional markets, and also gauges the powerful economic impact wellness tourism has on a nation’s revenue, job creation and healthcare costs.

“Wellness tourism is poised to reshape tourism as we know it. So many 21st-century forces are coming together to fuel it: On one hand, we have the rise of chronic diseases, and on the other, the stress brought by modern life. Diverse forms of niche travel are gaining on the old, mass-market model, and what people want to achieve during their ever-diminished time off is changing. Millions more every year are demanding destinations that deliver physical, emotional, spiritual and environmental health, along with enjoyment,” says Jean-Claude Baumgarten. He adds, “On this, consumers are out in front of most governments. It’s becoming urgent for all stakeholders to now clearly define, and communicate the diversity in, wellness tourism and fully understand the social and economic opportunity that it represents.”

Elite line-up

The Congress co-chairs are Andrew Gibson, group director of spas, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, and Susie Ellis, president and CEO of the Global Spa & Wellness Summit. Case studies illustrating unique, successful national wellness campaigns will also be presented throughout the day.

Morning Session

Jean Claude BaumgartenOphelia YeungAmitabh KantCostas Christ

Jean-Claude Baumgarten: Baumgarten is the recent past president and CEO of the WTTC, the global authority on the economic and social impact of tourism and travel. He is currently chairman and CEO of CREWE Associates, a management consultancy.

Costas Christ: Costas Christ is an editor-at-large at National Geographic Traveler magazine and sustainability ambassador, Six Senses Hotels, Resorts and Spas.

Amitabh Kant: Kant is the author of Branding India – An Incredible Story and was the force behind the award-winning ‘Incredible India’ and ‘God’s Own Country’ campaigns. He is currently CEO and managing director of the Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation.

Ophelia Yeung: Co-director of the Center for Science, Technology and Economic Development at global research firm SRI International, Yeung will present The Wellness Tourism Economic Impact Study, the most comprehensive research on wellness tourism ever undertaken.

Afternoon Session

Josef WoodmanCurtis SchroederDr Mariela de Oliveira SilveiraLaszlo Puczko

Curtis Schroeder: As the former CEO of Thailand’s Bumrungrad Hospital, Schroeder led the transformation of a modest private hospital into a medical tourism star, expanding it to become the largest private medical center in Asia, with over 100 facilities in eight countries. He is currently the CEO of Intermedika.

Dr Mariela de Oliveira Silveira: Dr Silveira is on the board of directors for the Kurotel Medical Center for Longevity and Spa, named the ‘Best of Brazil’. She holds advanced degrees in medicine, medical acupuncture, cognitive behavioural therapy and nutrology, and is an expert on the latest innovations in medical and wellness care.

Josef Woodman: Founder and CEO of Patients Beyond Borders (and author of the popular book series by the same name), Woodman is an outspoken champion of affordable, high-quality choices for health consumers worldwide.

Collaborative forum

The Congress will conclude with a facilitated think-tank session where all participants will collaboratively synthesise a more cohesive, global plan for the future wellness tourism industry. “I expect this conference will finally and firmly put wellness tourism on the map, and further galvanise an emerging travel movement that can embrace the opportunity to uniquely change people’s lives,” says Gibson. “The Congress will give the ministers of tourism and private sector stakeholders that attend a fresh perspective and create ideas they need to get way out in front of this wellness tourism curve, to take an early, profitable lead,” he adds.