Failte Ireland Supports the Potential of Wellbeing Tourism

Holidays once meant excesses of food, drink and sleep, but more and more people want experiences that deliver on physical, emotional and spiritual levels. Wellness holidays are no longer reserved for spa breaks but have expanded to include everything from walking and yoga to extreme fitness boot camps, hot springs, skiing, cycling, cooking classes, and personal discovery. Wellness tourism is now worth an estimated €600bn globally, growing twice as fast as general tourism.

The wellness economy is alive and kicking in Ireland too. According to a recent report by research firm Euromonitor, it is worth around €2bn a year and this is likely to rise to around €2.3bn by 2020. The biggest chunk of this – €700m – was attributable to natural and healthy products while €685m was spent on functional and fortified foodstuffs. The wellness revolution in Ireland like most of the world is largely being driven by consumers and their quest for healthier lifestyles and habits, some of which have been triggered by bettering their minds, bodies and souls.

In response, Irish travel companies are increasingly catering to the demand for wellness holidays, offering new programmes which seek to alleviate stress by focusing on mindfulness and nutrition, allied with physical and mental wellbeing.

  • Macalla Farm, Clare Island is a retreat center and organic farm that run several retreats combining yoga with vegetarian cooking, meditation and horse riding.
  • New Wave Adventure is an award-winning therapeutic intervention grounded in the disciplines of psychotherapy, counselling or social work which uses outdoor activities.
  • Mental Health and Wellbeing Summit, Dublin is a one-day event that focuses solely on providing practical advice, tools and information managing mental health.

Ireland has easily climbed up the wellbeing tourism ladder as the definition and understanding of ‘wellbeing tourism’ has extended from the traditional ‘spa’ and ‘retreat’ break to recently engaging in the outdoors, nature, adventure activities, alternative therapies, alternative retreats, nutrition and education. Top of the Irish list of wellbeing breaks appeals to any age group from families taking a 3 day cycling holiday around Connemara and the Great Western Greenway in Mayo or a couple going on a 3-day yoga and meditation retreat on the Cliffs of Moher. Both equally transforming and engaging holistic wellness, mindfulness and sustainable when the activity is continued to be practised in the home environment. Wellbeing Tourism holidays whether domestic or international are changing our holiday and living habits for the better.

By 2022 it is predicted that 1.2 billion wellness trips will be taken globally each year. Physical fitness is an important draw for Irish holidaymakers who want to focus on wellness, with two-thirds of people planning activities such as yoga, pilates and nature hikes.

While the global adventure travel market is estimated at €80bn, the sector’s value to the Irish economy is valued at €850m and growing. And it is no longer aimed at only the very fit, said the Adventure Travel Trade Association’s director Russell Walters.

“Ten years ago, adventure travel was defined as risky, exciting and might have focused on real hardcore, energetic activities. Today, there’s been a maturing of the market, which, in and of itself, helps to broaden the appeal and broaden the growth of the market through mental and physical wellbeing,” (Russel Walters)