By Tina Coleman, Southern Delaware Tourism

Southern Delaware is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the rapidly growing popularity of wellness tourism. Just what is wellness tourism and how fast is it growing?

Wellness tourism is defined as travel for the purpose of promoting health and well-being through physical, psychological or spiritual activities. This definition refers to “primary wellness tourism travelers” – those whose sole motivating factor in choosing a destination is wellness (for instance, week-long spa retreats.) 

What this definition doesn’t reflect is the even larger segment of “secondary wellness tourism travelers” – those travelers who seek out opportunities to participate in wellness activities while taking any type of trip, including healthy eating, exercise/fitness routines, mind-body practices, nature experiences, etc.

Particularly since the pandemic, people are more focused on self-care and healthy lifestyles. According to the report: “The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the ascendance of wellness as a dominant consumer value all around the world. Consumers are increasingly aware that all aspects of their lives — where they live; how they work; what they eat; and how they exercise, socialize and travel — impact their health outcomes, mental resilience and overall sense of well-being.” 

Wellness travel is predicted to increase by 21 percent annually through 2025, reaching 1,127.6 billion market size by the end of that year, according to the Global Wellness Institute. Interestingly, the sector’s 8.1 percent annual growth rate from 2017-2019 was more than 50 percent higher than the 5.2 percent growth rate for overall tourism. 

Additionally, wellness travel accounted for 6.5 percent of all tourism trips in 2020, but represented 16.2 percent of all expenditures, because wellness travelers tend to spend more money per trip than the average traveler.

Study results conclude that “the most accessible and attractive wellness tourism options are short, domestic trips, weekend trips and “city breaks” (e.g., spa weekends, weekend yoga retreats, etc.).

So, why is Southern Delaware the perfect destination for wellness travelers? Here are just a few of the reasons:

• Because it’s situated within a four-hour drive of 30 percent of the U.S. population.

• Because wellness travelers seek opportunities to eat healthy, enjoy spa and beauty services, and participate in eco, adventure and fitness tourism as well as mind-body and spiritual activities like yoga. Southern Delaware offers all of that now and more wellness-focused activities, opportunities and healthy venues are being added all the time. 

• Because Southern Delaware’s 26 miles of fabulous beaches, its bays, waterways, parks and miles of trails, and its significant number of recreational outfitters offer varied opportunities for both relaxation and healthy recreation. 

• Because The Culinary Coast and our agricultural riches – including wildly popular farmers’ markets – add to the growing and very accurate perception that this is an ideal destination for health-conscious foodies. 

• Because accommodations are recognizing and addressing the desires of their patrons for healthy eating options, expanded exercise facilities and spa services. 

A culture has developed here that makes Southern Delaware a premier destination for wellness travelers, year-round. The key to taking advantage of this growing trend will lie in recognizing and capitalizing on partnership and collaborative opportunities between wellness-focused and wellness-conscious businesses to create value added packages for our visitors – and in all of us working together to communicate to potential visitors the incredible possibilities for wellness travel that exist here.