Representatives from Slovenia, Finland, Jordan and the Healing Hotels of the World consortium gathered at World Travel Market in London last week for a panel entitled “Trailblazers of Wellness Tourism,” sponsored by the Global Wellness Institute.
Eva Stravs Podlogar, head of the Directorate for Tourism and Internationalisation in Slovenia, said that her country has a strong tradition of wellness travel, with an association of spas formed 50 years ago.
Today, Slovenia’s Minister of Economic Development and Technology, Zdravko Po?ivalšek, previously worked for Terme Olimia, one of the country’s most famous spa resorts.
“We are so lucky to have a minister who understands tourism in general and spas in particular,” said Podlogar.
Liisa Renfors, tourism product specialist for Finland, said while her country doesn’t have the long history of spa culture that Slovenia has, “It is coming.”
Finland has been developing wellbeing themes since 2005, said Renfors, and is shaping its wellness tourism message around the idea of nature.
The Nordic country is spending more money this year promoting the message abroad and is focusing on four points: Finnish sauna tradition; pure, natural water, silence and health from the forest; Finnish traditional healing; and healthy, organic, locally grown Finnish food.
In Jordan, Dr. Abed Arabiyat, acting managing director of Jordan Tourism Board, said his small country offers a diversity of experience, including the Dead Sea – “the largest natural spa in the world.”
Arabiyat said he is focusing on Jordan’s spiritual atmosphere as well as organic, Jordanian food, and is pushing a big campaign in the UK, Germany and France.
“We have the product, and we have the experiences, and we’re trying to sell the authentic experience,” he said.
Podlogar agreed that authenticity is key to a successful wellness experience.
“It’s about feeling the country where you are,” she said. In Slovenia, she added, “People want to be active, but they also want to spend half a day reading and relaxing in the healing waters.”
Renfors said authentic Finnish wellness experiences often involve traditional lakefront cottages with rowboats and saunas, and that many of these experiences are catered to families.
Elisabeth Ixmeier, co-founder of Healing Hotels of the World, said the best healing hotels are the ones where the owners are passionate about what they’re doing.
“In a very short time, you get a new level of happiness,” she said. “Customers don’t mind where (the hotel) is – they want the experience.”
The Healing Hotels of the World consortium features properties in 46 countries, and Izmeier said it focuses on holistic health.
“Health has a lot to do with the mind,” she said. “(People) seek a purpose in their lives, because life has become so empty. To come back to yourself again – to feel yourself again and to find purpose – it’s the same passion in every country.”