Wellness Tourists: In Search of Transformation

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Wellness tourists: in search of transformation
Cornelia Voigt, Graham Brown and Gary Howat

Cornelia Voigt is a Researcher, Graham Brown is a Professor of Tourism Management, and Gary Howat is an Associate Professor, all at the School of Management, Centre for Tourism & Leisure Management, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia.

Abstract Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore and compare the benefits sought by three different types of wellness tourists: beauty spa, lifestyle resort, and spiritual retreat visitors. Design/methodology/approach – Based on the findings from 27 semi-structured interviews with wellness tourists a benefits of wellness tourism scale (BWTS) was developed. It was used to measure 46 benefit items and was mailed to people included on the client/member lists of three Australian wellness tourism organisations. Findings – In total, six benefit factors emerged from a principal axis factor analysis: transcendence; physical health and appearance; escape and relaxation; important others and novelty; re-establish self-esteem; and indulgence. A one-way MANOVA, followed by a series of ANOVAS, revealed significant differences between the three types of tourists regarding the importance attributed to each of the six benefit factors. While all participants in the study sought transformation of the self, each identifiable group of tourists placed different emphasis on physical, psychological or spiritual transformations. Moreover, each group differed significantly in terms of demographic and travel behaviour characteristics. Originality/value – The relevance of this paper lies in its adoption of a comprehensive approach to the investigation of the potential differences between three wellness tourist groups regarding the socio-demographic profile, travel behaviour, and the benefits sought. Previous studies have focused on a single particular wellness tourist group. Furthermore, the BWTS may be applicable for use in future comparative studies of wellness tourist motivation. Keywords Tourism, Consumer behaviour, Personal health Paper type Research paper

Many factors have led to the emergence of the rapidly growing ‘‘wellness industry’’ of which wellness tourism is one. These factors include the increasingly hectic pace of living, high stress-levels among the workforce, the loss of traditional community structures and religious organisation, and the resultant desire to slow down, to simplify, and to find meaning in life ´ (Douglas, 2001; Pollock and Williams, 2000; Smith and Puczko, 2008). In addition, escalating health costs, growing scepticism of orthodox Western medicine, and rising consumer-centeredness in Western health-care systems have stimulated a desire to live healthier lives, and to experiment with more holistic, alternative healing therapies (Sointu, 2006; Weiermair and Steinhauser, 2003). The wellness industry is expected to develop further as these influences show no sign of abating, and growth in wellness tourism can be expected. However, wellness tourism remains an area with few empirical studies from which to glean in-depth information about who these tourists are or exactly what they are looking for, and what it is worth to them. From a marketing perspective, it is essential to understand the behaviour, needs and preferences of wellness tourists so that services and products can be designed that match customers’ expectations. Currently, there seems to be little understanding of how wellness tourists can be categorised, and what benefits they expect to obtain from their wellness tourism

This research is an outcome of a PhD project partially funded by the Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre, established by the Australian Commonwealth Government.





VOL. 66 NO. 1/2 2011, pp. 16-30, Q Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 1660-5373

DOI 10.1108/16605371111127206

experiences. The research presented in this paper...
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