Health tourism, wellness tourism. Spain is one of the destinations promoting both concepts, joining and interconnecting them, but keeping the required differentiation. Because based on its differentiation, we take a global view of how tourism sector is being developed in this area over the last few years.
According to a study of the Tourism Ministry (the unique and last study made in 2013), differentiation is a key factor, however the union of these two concepts is necessary and inevitable:
“Health tourism is the process in which a person travels to be provided health services in a different country from the one he is living. The main reason for the trip is searching those health services in a wider sense.”
It is in this “wide sense” in which health services are understood, also called wellness services, which in fact are increasingly important in hospitality industry and most demanded among those travelling from inside and outside the country. There are a lot of people visiting Spain on holidays to take advantage of the Spanish health system, considered one of the most complete and efficient in the world. That’s why hotels close to hospitals are more valuable in Barcelona and Madrid, cities where you can find the best and world-famous health centres and hospitals in the country. Not to mention the constant travellers’ flow, choosing their hotel depending on its wellness and beauty services.
Wellness tourism is recognized by the Tourism Ministry as a sub-segment of health tourism, indisputably essential now and one of the economically best positioned in the sector. The investments made in this sense have not stopped and most of the top tourism firms in Spain (big hotel chains) accept that most of the improvements in this respect are already amortized.
“Health tourism (…) includes not just medical tourism, but the sub-segment wellness tourism, which has more to do with prevention of illnesses affecting tourist health.”
Taking this into account, we can clearly make the difference always talking about A) Medical tourism and B) Wellness tourism, as both are health tourism and highly important for the portfolio of the Spanish sector. Travellers profile from one and another segment vary and it is really important that businessmen, hoteliers and managers of the complimentary tourism industry catch them.
In this sense, the study of the Tourism Ministry includes a classification -definition of the health traveller profile that perfectly determines these two questions:
A health tourist is someone that travels looking for health club services or spa to reduce stress, thermal treatments or the most complex processes in a hospital. Based on tourism sector view, health tourism implies promoting that travelling to a particular place is good for your health because of its special climate, its natural resources or the health services provided in this place (Goodrich, 1994).
Exactly, an essential element is being introduced (whereby this type of tourism is much more demanded in Spain than in the rest of Europe -except Budapest and Switzerland spa cities-): the destination is essential because it is considered an optimal scenario for health care due to its climate or services.
A sunny destination with beaches, nature, gastronomy and well-connected is always a plus. Even more, if public health centres, security and atmosphere are also great, as in Spain.
Wellness made in Spain
Wellness and Spa tourism has notably increased over the last few years, trying to offer travellers the opportunity to enjoy a healthy getaway in top class destinations. In this sense, most of the accommodations started a reconversion process, creating spa hotels in Playa de Palma, wellness resorts in Almeria and promoting family hotels in Costa Adeje, Tenerife with jacuzzi and the rest of the major beach destinations in our country.
Luxury hotels in Tenerife with spa centres are a great example to follow: their facilities are the most and best worked, adapting them to the demand and taking advantage of the destination assets related to relax, health and wellness. In Spain, there are few places where you could spend some days disconnected from routine and absolutely committed to self-care. In the field of accommodation, we cannot forget those which mix leisure and entertainment like the only adults hotels in Costa Adeje, specialized in couple services and romantic getaways; and spa hotels in Tenerife, that combine the two main motivations for luxury tourism in our country.
Andalucia is another popular destination in Spain for spa and relaxation getaways. A region full of unique natural places, with national parks like Doñana, where you can feel the authentic nature just by walking alone with your sneakers and your backpack, to then return to your hotel to rest. In most of the accommodations in the Andalusian Coast, it is really common to find wellness facilities, as the spa hotels in Cadis, one of the most recommended cities for a relaxing family holiday. All usually stand out as All Inclusive resorts, although wellness treatments are a plus and require an extra fee.
This is in fact the key of the investment on wellness tourism: it is considered a special facility and an added value of the destination and the resort, which in most cases gives distinction and luxury to the establishment.
In this sense, other interesting destinations are Galicia, where thermal culture is ancient and well-preserved, with lots of spas all over the region, especially in the area of Rias Baixas; all Cantabrian Coast has a great health tourism offer, in addition to its gastronomy and wine; and Mallorca is one of the most exclusive spots to enjoy a relaxing holiday with top quality services.