WTA survey: Health, safety and nature important to guests

The Wellness Tourism Association’s (WTA) recently released 2021 Wellness Travel Consumer Survey reveals that health and safety, plus access to nature, remain important to guests.

Just under 2,500 consumers from 52 countries and territories took part in the three-month online survey to help the hospitality industry, tour operators and travel agents/advisors have a clearer understanding of wellness-minded consumers’ priorities as they begin planning their post-pandemic travels. This latest survey from the WTA was designed to reveal what assets, amenities, activities and other offerings are “extremely important” to key consumers as they plan their future wellness travels, what is “not important at all,” and what might influence them most when it comes to booking wellness-travel over the next two years. The survey was administered by the WTA in collaboration with WTA Research Associate, Danny Kessler, assistant professor at Dongseo University, International College in Busan, South Korea and was sponsored by the online payment platform WeTravel.

“What the survey does is reinforce the fact that safety and nature, are the two top priorities,” Anne Dimon, president/CEO, WTA, told Hotel Business. “Nature keeps cropping up, so we know as the industry recovers, nature is a priority for people, but also safety now, and not just physical safety, but obviously safety from this virus and any future viruses.”

The overall top five offerings rated “extremely important” were the following:

  1. A certified safe and clean hotel environment
  2. A purified water system throughout the hotel
  3. Access to fitness activities in nature
  4. A hotel environment with sustainable and green practices in place
  5. Guest rooms with an air filtration system to guarantee purified air

The ranking for “A certified safe and clean hotel environment” ranked number one across the three main generational cohorts (Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers).

The overall top five rated “not important at all” were the following:

  1. Access to mental health professionals
  2. Access to fitness trackers and apps that can monitor things like heart rate in real-time
  3. Access to nutritionists
  4. Access to medical practitioners for one-on-one consultations or medical testing that could predict a predisposition to future medical issues
  5. Access to other wellness practitioners

The ranking was followed by an open-ended question: “What ONE thing NOT mentioned in the 16 items would be a wellness “Must Have” when you begin to travel again.” Answers to the question generated more than 9,000 words. Three of the top themes that emerged were:

  1. Safety in terms of physical safety plus safe from exposure to COVID
  2. Access to stillness and quiet spaces
  3. Nature and the outdoors

Dimon said that pandemic has made people more aware of the benefits of being in nature. “They’re more aware that being out in nature can have an effect on your sense of well-being,” she said. “And it’s the peace and quiet that comes with nature, that allows people to get away from the hectic, sometimes often noisy lives they lead, especially if they live in a city.”

The desire to be in nature means that more remote destinations may be popular with travelers. “There is every indication that people are going to want to stay away from the congested cities, and select those properties that are a little bit more remote that are surrounded by nature, because it gives them that greater sense of safety,” she said.

Dimon said that one finding of the survey that was somewhat surprising is that guests wanted to see locally sourced products as amenities. “We’re now calling it regenerative travel,” she said. “There’s a movement for people who want to go to a destination and feel they are giving back to the destination, and supporting the destination, not just supporting the owners of the property. There was a time when you would go to, let’s just say Mexico, you’d stay in an all-inclusive and never stepped foot off the property. That’s changing. People want to engage the locals, they want to give back to the locals. They want to learn about the location, the history, the culture.”