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L.A. Times Travel Show: Experts foresee growth in wellness travel

January 17, 2014|By Christopher Reynolds
  • Panelists Linden Schaffer, Anne Dimon and Diana Wright discussed health and wellness travel Friday morning at a session for travel professionals at the Los Angeles Times Travel Show.
Panelists Linden Schaffer, Anne Dimon and Diana Wright discussed health… (Christopher Reynolds /…)

Travel industry veterans say the health and wellness traveler – whether she’s looking for a dentist in Mexico or he’s aching to do yoga in Bali – has become an increasingly important figure in the travel business. One result of that is a boom in options for that kind of traveler.

At a Friday morning panel discussion on this subject at the Los Angeles Times Travel Show, panelists pointed out several signs of businesses rushing to woo these travelers.

Linden Schaffer, director of the New York-based wellness tour operator Pravassa, noted that airports in San Francisco, Dallas, Burlington, Vt., and Chicago have all added yoga lounges in recent years. (And at LAX, she noted, the vegan chain Real Food Daily has opened an outlet in Terminal 4.) Meanwhile, rooftop yoga offerings have become a hotel trend, and many lodgings are striking deals with spinning studios so that they can direct guests easily to that kind of exercise.

Anne Dimon, publisher of Travel to Wellness, said her reader feedback suggests “we’re going to have a trend of more and more walking holidays,” and more cooking-class trips, as well.

Panel moderator Anne Marie Moebes of Well-Being Travel called this trend “a huge opportunity” for tour operators and travel agents.

Diana Wright of SpaFinder Wellness cited a 2013 report by SRI International that estimated wellness travel amounts to 14% of all tourist spending, which makes it more popular than sports-related travel, comparable to culinary travel and smaller than cultural travel. That corner of the travel industry grew at 9.6% yearly from 2007-12, she said – a remarkable performance given the economic downturn of 2008. The spa industry alone was a $73-billion global business in 2012, by the report’s reckoning. (For more details on health and wellness travel: www.globalspaandwellnesssummit.org)

Even Las Vegas – not conventionally thought of as a haven for wellness – is seeking a piece of this pie. Since 2012, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority has had a medical and wellness tourism manager on staff. That manager, Cheryl Smith, noted that Las Vegas now has 45 spas within about four square miles, and that four of them have received 5-star rankings from Forbes – one of the greatest concentrations of high-end spas on Earth. Smith also noted a boom in hiking and paddle-boarding at Lake Las Vegas.

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