The First Wellness Tourism Summit Celebrates Australia As No1 Wellness Destination 

Here’s what went down at last week’s Wellness Tourism Summit.

On October 14, the inaugural Wellness Tourism Summit (WTS) took place in The Tweed in Northern NSW, bringing together over 150 wellness professionals including retreat, spa, and wellness experiences operators. Joining WTS Founder and Chair of the Global Wellness Institute’s Wellness Tourism Initiative, Katherine Droga, at the Mantra Hotel in Kingscliff, delegates enjoyed a full-day program of presentations and panels discussing the rapid growth of wellness tourism and the resulting opportunities for the wellness industry in Australia. 

Katherine Droga

The day prior, the Global Wellness Institute announced that Australia had been ranked as the most desirable wellness tourism destination in the world by Industry tourism leaders globally, surpassing Thailand, who came second, and Indonesia, who came third. Australia ticks all of the boxes when it comes to what’s important for travellers selecting a wellness tourism destination, offering sought after fresh, healthy and locally grown produce, pristine nature and wildlife, refreshing spas and springs, refined sustainability practices, award winning accommodation and venues and local cultural connection.

The value consumers now place on personal wellbeing and mindfulness has boomed since the global pandemic with Wellness Tourism expecting a whopping 20.9% in visitor spend growth year on year through to 2025

Katherine Droga

Walking the talk, the summit started with a ‘Wake Up To Wellness’ offering, during which delegates started the day with a wellness activity of their choice, including breath work with Damian Chaparro from Aro-Ha Retreat, a mindfulness beach walk, or Qigong, serving the perfect start to a day of learning and connection.

Delegates practicing Qigong during the morning of the summit

Delegates learned about consumer trends, which included the need to slow down and detach from our busy everyday life, mental health retreats, and transformative travel. It wasn’t just about what we as an industry need to offer, but also how we offer this in a sustainable, or even regenerative way. The effort to conserve our planet and reconnect with nature was a recurring theme throughout the day, with examples of spas and retreats who use renewable energy as well as local produce only inspiring attendees to ‘do better’.

After a healthy lunch and a meditation break, SPA+CLINIC Editor Nadine Dilong took the stage with Waterlily Founder Michelle Reeve and Spa Vision Director Neil Owen as they discussed the evolution of the spa experience. The panel agreed that spa guests expect a holistic approach that doesn’t just look at a short-term ‘pamper session’, but something that allows the spa guest a memorable experience with long-term results, both mentally and physically, all while using ‘slow skincare’, i.e. locally and mindfully produced products. The aspect of social connection that a spa can offer through bathing and sauna offerings was discussed as well as equipment that can complement hands-on therapies. 

Nadine Dilong, Michelle Reeve, Neil Owen

Another memorable speaker was TV favourite Barry Du Bois, who shared his wellness journey as he went through several mental and physical hardships, and how he came to understand the importance of ‘wellness architecture’, i.e. surrounding us with materials and buildings that foster wellness (i.e. natural light, indoor plants, a space that has ‘soul’). 

Reflecting on the day towards the end of the program, Katherine Droga urged attendees to practice what we preach, and make sure wellness operators prioritise their own wellness. The day concluded with a literal ‘happy dance’ as delegates got up off their seats and turned the conference room into a dance floor to celebrate a successful day.

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