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USA Tops The Rankings For Wellness Tourism Says Global Wellness Institute

At $1.2 trillion, the USA represents over a quarter of the global wellness sector, estimated to generate $4.4 billion annually.

The Top 10 Wellness Markets

It’s no surprise the world’s most populous countries (e.g., China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Russia), or the wealthiest (e.g., Switzerland, Australia, Netherlands), or countries that combine size with wealth (e.g., the US, Japan, Germany, the UK, etc.), spend the most on wellness.

The US is by far the largest market, at $1.2 trillion–nearly double the size of the second-largest market, China, at $683 billion. In fact, the US accounts for 28% of the entire global wellness market, while the top ten markets represent 71% of the world’s total.

Where Do Consumers Spend the Most on Wellness? (Wellness Spending Per Capita)

Consumers in the wealthiest economies spend the most each year on wellness. The report provides data on how much the wellness market contributes to the national GDP (what percentage of the economy it represents). Globally, the wellness economy represents 5.1% of total GDP; roughly 1 in every 20 “dollars” spent by consumers worldwide is on wellness.

For Small, Tourism-Dependent Countries, Wellness Is an Outsized Percentage of Their Economy

It may seem surprising to see Aruba rank in the top 10 for consumer spend on wellness, as it’s not as wealthy as the other ranked countries. This is the tourism effect, where high-spending inbound wellness tourists represent a disproportionate part of the wellness market.

The report ranks countries by the ratio of the size of their wellness economy to the size of their total GDP/economy, and the small, tourism-dependent countries really stand out. For those top five nations, the wellness market represents an eye-opening percentage of total GDP: Seychelles (16.5%), Maldives (14.5%), Aruba (11.9%), Costa Rica (11.4%), and St. Lucia (10%).

This is a window into the powerful contribution that wellness tourism brings to their economies, but also shows how in these small countries wellness is more of an “export industry” and for the most part out of reach of locals.

The world’s largest wellness tourism economy

New research data shows that the United States of America is the leading country worldwide for wellness industry and tourism. Although the data is a little backdated (2020), it shines an interesting light on just how well the wellness sector in the USA has developed to take advantage of all that the country has to offer.

According to the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), wellness products are easily available in the USA, with its sophisticated wellness markets, world-class cities, natural resources, recreational infrastructure, and diverse cultures and heritage spreading in varied geography and topography.

Nature and majestic landscapes—from Arizona’s deserts and canyons to Colorado’s snowy mountains to the coastal beaches and the lakes of Michigan—provide a respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and the opportunity to engage in sports.

There is also an abundance of urban wellness activities available—from city hotels that prioritize wellness, offering not only gyms and spas but unique, exceptional amenities for a good sleep, healthy menus, nutritious food, and finding social connections and a sense of community.

Many US cities have prioritized wellness by creating public art installations, recreational spaces, urban trails such as the Highline in New York City, and green paths and trails for citizens and visitors to enjoy walking, running, and cycling near nature.

Photo: Marcedo via Pixabay


More about the GWI

The GWI is the world’s largest research and educational resource for the global wellness industry. Among the many information and research involving the spa and wellness industry, the GWI launched last year the Geography of Wellness microsite.

The platform provides key stakeholders in the 218 countries featured in GWI’s “The Global Wellness Economy: Country Rankings” a unique opportunity to take a deep dive into their country’s position in the various sectors and sub-sectors of a spa and wellness find,ustry which generates US $4.4 trillion into the global economy.

According to Susie Ellis, GWI chair and CEO,

“GWI’s dedicated country reports enable participating countries the ability to better identify emerging growth opportunities within all eleven of the wellness sectors our researchers measure, giving a clear picture of how wellness business and activities are impacting their overall economies.” 

What does the GWI data show?

According to GWI data, the USA’s wellness economy remains the largest globally, although it contracted from US $1.4 trillion in 2019 to US $1.2 trillion in 2020. The Physical Activity segment experienced an 18% contraction in 2020 yet remains number 1 globally at $215 billion.

The GWI believes, however, that a vast huge number is poised to grow again as the world continues to recover post-pandemic.

In “The Global Wellness Economy: United States,” the report highlights that the USA is by far the world’s top wellness economy, boasting the largest markets in 9 out of 11 wellness sectors—spanning physical activity, healthy eating, mental wellness, beauty and personal care, wellness tourism, and more.

In 2020, wellness tourism in the USA generated 114.8 million trips, injecting some US $162.1 billion into the economy. The USA’s 26,700 spas (day, medical, destination, and hotel/resort spas) had an economic impact of US $15.1 billion. Over 300 thermal and mineral springs had a more minor impact on the economy, reaching US $0.62 million in 2020.

In Summary

While the US may be streets ahead regarding the wellness industry and wellness tourism, other countries are taking advantage of the boom in demand for these sectors. As more up-to-date data is released to cover more of the post-pandemic age, we will be able to track trends, such as the fastest-growing wellness economies globally.

Image: GWI


It certainly seems as if there is no stopping this vital segment of societal growth.   With the overall development of the wellness industry and take-up of services on offer continually growing yearly, who knows just how high these figures will be in the future?

What are your thoughts on this wellness data? Let us know in the comments.





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