As global spa tourism booms, Thailand reaps the rewards

Thailand is sometimes portrayed as a non-stop party destination for intoxicated youths in Hollywood films such as The Hangover and The Beach. But increasing numbers of tourists are coming to Thailand for the exact opposite experience, an experience at which the Kingdom, with its centuries-old traditions, excels: wellness.

Dubbed Asia’s Spa Capital by the Asia Spa Awards in 2015, Thailand’s health and wellness tourism has been expanding as a part of itsoverall tourism industry. Health and wellness tourism was forecast to grow by 10 percent in 2017, after reeling in over $1.25 billion in revenues in 2016. Thailand was voted the World’s Best Spa Destination in 2015 at the World Spa Awards.

At the most recent World Spa Awards, one Thailand-based international hotel chain, Anantara, took home 12 awards and was named the World’s Best Hotel Spa Brand. But Anantara is far from the only Thai spa that has garnered international recognition and awards. Chiva Som in Hua Hin has been revitalizing the health and wellness of locals and travelers alike for decades, and its training program has been producing a corps of wellness experts working at top spas worldwide. And other Thai spas, especially boutique spas, are quickly gaining a sterling reputation.

Globally, the spa industry is one of the fast growing segments of tourism, according to Lonely Planet, the publisher of global travel guides, which said that wellness tourism is forecast to grow by 10 percent this year. The United States-based Global Wellness Institute has forecast that the global spa industry will reach $1.69 trillion by 2020.

“There are so many new combinations of travel destinations that focus on … ‘healthy’ experiences – that appeal to both men and women and come at much more affordable price-points,” said Susie Ellis, CEO of the Global Wellness Institute.

The Asia-Pacific leads the world in total number of spas, and treatments in Asia-Pacific are significantly more affordable than in most other regions. Within spa and wellness tourism: “Thailand is a key market in the Asia-Pacific and is a hot destination,” according to a report by U.S.-based Orbis Research.

“Rising disposable income in emerging economies continues to be the main driver of spa tourism, supported by hectic lifestyles and work pressures, which drive the need to de-stress,’’ Orbis wrote.

And with the numbers of tourists traveling to Thailand for spa treatments, detox and cleansing regimens, and even meditation and mindfulness retreats, the Kingdom’s wellness industry can expect to remain healthy for a very long time to come.