With the strong support of government policies, China’s health and wellness tourism is booming
Data shows that China has stepped into an aging society with over 200 million older population and an increase of eight million more old people each year. It is estimated that old people will account for one third of the population by 2050. Such trends will surely drive the development of Health and Wellness Tourism – a new travel mode aimed at promoting health.
Health and Wellness Tourism takes “health” as its core. Based on the health industry, this tourism approach integrates health, wellness, senior care, recreation and travel. This new mode has satisfied consumers’ increasing demands for health and wellness and thus has become a trend in China’s and even global tourism industry development.
In 2016, when China’s tourism was experiencing a boom and social demand kept rising, the National Tourism Administration issued its Standard for Demonstration Destination of Health and Wellness Tourism, which defines Health and Wellness Tourism as: tourist activities that help people achieve balance of body, mind and spirit through various ways including beauty and fitness, nutrients and diets, mind cultivation and character improvement, and environmental protection. The government actively encourages investment in and project development of Health and Wellness Tourism.
The Standard requires that the demonstration destination of health and wellness tourism should include two areas: the core area and the supporting area. The core area must feature unique resource superiority for health wellness tourism and the supporting area should be able to provide powerful support to public services such as recreational options, information consultancy, tourism safety education etc. The government hopes to build a range of comprehensive wellness tourism destinations.
In October that same year, the State Council issued the Healthy China 2030 scheme which calls for developing new activities and modes of health services, integrating health, wellness, tourism, culture, internet, fitness, medical rehabilitation and food services together, making standards and regulations for health and medical tourism industry to construct health tourism destinations with international competitiveness, developing traditional Chinese medicine tourism, building health service industrial clusters and virtuous cycles, supporting the development of medium, small and micro-sized enterprises, encouraging the construction of athletic clubs and carrying out of sports events and leisure activities such as skiing, hiking, water sports, racing, aviation, X-sports, and equestrian, and creating fitness industrial belts and demonstration areas with regional characteristics.
It can be obviously seen how determined China’s government is in developing the wellness and health industry. To follow the policies, many real estate developers are gradually turning to wellness and health needs. The focus is more on real estate for elders. Besides, SPA hotels and resorts also emphasize more on wellness, and new project planners always bear wellness in mind from the very start.
The following wellness and health tourism types are now seen in China’s market.
Culture oriented: This type of tourism aims to develop tourism products that benefit the mind and spirit, a current demand from the market and modern living styles. The developers explore and make use of a destination’s religion, customs, history and culture, so that the tourists can experience a cultural journey as well as mental nourishment. Good examples include building cultural tourism destinations through the utilization of religious resources, minority group resources, tea culture and ancient town resources, or building Chinese ancient civilization studying academies dependent on Chinese traditional culture.
Ecological environment oriented: Based on a destination’s original ecological environment this type of tourism covers wellness, senior care, recreation and cultivation options. Destinations are always found in areas with a good natural ecological environment and a pleasant climate. Categories may be further divided into hot-spring wellness tourism, forest wellness tourism, mountain area tourism, island wellness tourism, lake area wellness tourism, mineral tourism, countryside wellness tourism, etc.
Food oriented: It is the Chinese tradition to prevent and cure diseases with food. Food is undoubtedly a significant part of health tourism. Food-oriented tourism is usually combined with green farming and ecological cultivation, offering programs such as sightseeing, farming, food processing and cooking. They will provide tourists with healthcare functional food rich in natural herbs and plants extract. It’s also a good way to drive the comprehensive development of heathy food industry chain. If possible, TCM resources will also be adopted to offer wellness guidance.
Senior care oriented: Projects that fall in this type are comprehensive senior care destinations which feature accommodation, facilities and services designed for elders. There will be recovery and rehabilitation services, travel programs, migratory-style travel experience, fitness and sport programs, education, cultural exploration, and etc., all of which are designed exclusively for elders. Developers combine medical treatment, climate, ecological environment, recovery services and recreation options. They rely on distinctive environmental resources and target elder groups of strong economic power. Such programs usually drive the mutual development of other industries as well such as nursing, food, medicine, elders’ products, finance, tourism and education. In health maintenance and senior care system, food, environment and climate are the core factors.
To sum up, the future development of health and wellness tourism will emphasize more on the construction of leisure farms, wellness holiday destinations, wellness valleys, hot-spring resorts, eco-hotel/hostels, and wellness towns.