Last week we shared the news on the new Wellness Tourism Association (WTA) that was created by a group of wellness industry executives with the goal of helping further define this tourism industry, educate consumers, and identify credible wellness suppliers and operators. And this past Wednesday, the Monaco government tourist office announced that they are now a founding member of the new association, making it the first tourism board to join and sit on the board of directors. But, if you were left wondering how exactly this association works and how it benefits you, we have the answers. We reached out to Anne Dimon, president for the Wellness Tourism Association, to answer some of the questions we had regarding this new professional association.
Michelle Marie Arean (MMA): Why was the Wellness Tourism Association created? What’s the goal for this new organization?
Anne Dimon (AD): The WTA was created basically to fill a void as the “official” voice of the wellness tourism industry. The Global Wellness Institute has identified Wellness Tourism as a $500-plus billion global industry and growing. Companies and individuals around the world are jumping on this ‘wellness wagon’—some using the word legitimately, others, let’s say are taking liberties with the term. The WTA will bring standards to the growing sector of the tourism industry for the benefit of all.
MMA: What did you feel was missing in the industry that this organization could fill?
AD: The industry was missing a unified voice, and an organization to set standards and qualifications not only for the education of consumers and travel advisors, but for the good of the industry as a whole.
MMA: Why do you think the wellness travel trend has boomed so much in recent years?
AD: It’s human nature to want to be happy and healthy. For many, using vacation time—away from the stress of every day life—can be the perfect opportunity to take stock, reboot or find the tools one needs to find that health and sense of well-being we all seek. New advances in science and technology have also made it easier for us to become more knowledgeable about how to be more proactive in our own health care so more of us are living a ‘wellness lifestyle’ and wanting to continue living that lifestyle when we travel.
MMA: How would agents benefit from being part of WTA?
AD: Agents, too, will need to meet certain qualifications and becoming a member will help give them credibility with consumers. They will also be able to raise their profile with suppliers and have opportunities to network.
MMA: And how can agents join?
AD: Cost for individual agents is an annual fee of $300 dollars and the year only begins when we have 30 supplier members. To qualify, agents need to show us that they are already working in the sector and promoting themselves as wellness specialists, and that they are already helping plan and book wellness-focused travel for clients.
MMA: In the press release that Recommend received, co-founder and chairman Andrew Gibson, v.p., well-being, Luxury Brands, AccorHotels, says that: “We plan to support and further the growth and development of the wellness tourism industry through networking, education, communication and marketing.” Can you give us some examples of what you have planed to help the industry when it comes to networking and education in the wellness sector?
AD: For starters, we will have an annual meeting where all members can meet with each other for networking and education. We are working with the Hospitality & Tourism Department at Fort Hays State University on a Delphi Study that will help educate the university about industry needs and, in turn, better serve the industry with more qualified entry-level employees. We are also working on our own survey that will educate members about what consumers are seeking in a wellness vacation. We are collaborating with the Global Wellness Summit on its Wellness Tourism Initiative for the further education of all. As an industry sponsor, we are working with the Travel & Adventure Show in four U.S. cities in 2018 to help educate consumers and travel agents via the distribution of information, plus hosting a panel.
But Dimon also added that there’s more in the works. So agents, keep your eyes out for more updates and programs from the new Wellness Tourism Association.
For more information, visit wellnesstourismassociation.org.