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Destination Health

Health and wellness tourism is growing twice as fast as overall tourism.

The world is seeking wellness. Whether at home in our daily lives or traveling abroad, more and more people are making health a priority and propelling the global wellness industry to a $3.7 trillion market.

Wellness is the “state of being in good health especially as an actively sought goal,” and the sectors that make up this flourishing industry include beauty and anti-aging; healthy eating, nutrition and weight loss; wellness tourism; fitness and mind-body; preventive and personalized medicine and public health; complementary and alternative medicine; wellness lifestyle real estate; spa industry; thermal/mineral springs; and workplace wellness.

The Coachella Valley already excels in each of these sectors and is about to get a boost from the Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB).

With wellness tourism increasing globally – more than twice as fast as overall tourism – the CVB is launching an initiative to market the Valley nationally and internationally as a health and wellness destination.

“Wellness tourism now accounts for almost 16% of total tourism revenues – nearing 1 in 6 of total tourist dollars spent,” states Vicki Higgins, vice president of destination development. She adds that wellness travelers also spend more per trip with international wellness tourists spending 61% more than the average international tourist, and domestic wellness travelers spending a staggering 164% more than the average domestic tourist.

The focus came after the CVB’s 2016 Destination Development Plan identified our health and wellness industry as an “authentic experience” (in place and thriving) and one of the area’s top opportunities for growth. Working in close collaboration with community partners, stakeholders, and the local tourism industry, the CVB is actively developing and implementing a number of targeted strategies including an advisory committee of local businesses and wellness practitioners; a health and wellness interest section on the CVB website; and a fall spa promotion. The CVB also continues to expand health and wellness messaging through their social media and other digital platforms.

Upcoming projects include a fall 2018 Wellness Month for locals and tourists alike; fourth quarter events including Wanderlust Wellspring in October (Palm Springs), The Ironman 70.3 in December (Indian Wells and La Quinta) and a series of influencer videos to highlight the many health and wellness offerings in the destination.

The Desert’s many natural resources make it a popular wellness destination.

What does this mean for local health and wellness businesses?

There is tremendous opportunity for local businesses to benefit from the growing wellness tourism market. Medical Tourism Magazine states that there are more than 100 million tourists around the world each year seeking medical care, health, beauty, relaxation, recovery and rehabilitation and traveling to places and facilities with desirable climates and natural resources, hospitals, clinics, wellness spas, fitness centers and wellness resorts.

These travelers include those whose motivating factor for the destination choice is health and/or wellness, and those who seek to maintain their wellness or participate in wellness experiences while on their trip. According to the Global Wellness Institute, this second group accounts for the majority of wellness tourism (87%) and expenditures (84%). 

The CVB efforts will provide a cohesive platform and increase the number of travelers coming to the area specifically for health and wellness, and in general.

Local businesses can benefit greatly from taking part in the CVB initiative.

Will the local focus be only on large facilities and resorts?

The CVB is committed to promoting our health and wellness community as a whole, including partners of all sizes. Wellness tourism encompasses a variety of travelers who seek different experiences, ranging from resort facilities to independent services. Since it’s often difficult for one partner to offer everything that a visitor is seeking, the success of the CVB health and wellness initiative depends on partnerships, referrals and recommendations between businesses.

They are currently compiling health and wellness experiences and information for travelers, as well as health-related events; special deals on fitness classes, outdoor adventures and meditative rituals; nutritious culinary offerings or specialized detoxification programs; special packages which businesses develop in honor of the campaign, and more.

What opportunities are travelers seeking?

Medical Tourism Magazine describes the different types of tourism as such:

Wellness tourism consumers travel to maintain their well-being and life satisfaction through the experiences of healthy treatments and therapies that restore the vital balance among body, mind, and spirit bringing about overall well-being.

Health tourism patients travel for healing therapies in hospitals and clinics. This category includes medical tourism, aesthetic/plastic tourism, thalassotherapy (sea water) and thermal tourism such as mineral hot springs.

Maintaining excellence in services offered regionally is an important factor to success.

Medical tourism patients travel to hospitals and clinics for treatments in different areas including medical specialties (cardiology, neurology, transplants, etc.); preventive medicine; artificial insemination; anti-aging medicine and plastic reconstructive medicine.

These categories certainly overlap as those traveling for medical services benefit from complementary wellness therapies.

What will make this effort successful?

Part of the reason the health and wellness industry is flourishing in the Coachella Valley is our incredible natural resources. The warm sun, dry desert air and breathtaking landscapes have made the Valley a natural escape for health and healing for over a century.

Another reason is because we are good at what we do. The Coachella Valley is known for the quality of our health and wellness facilities and the breadth, knowledge and skill of our practitioners. Maintaining that quality is vital.

Health and wellness tourism expert Filomena Fernandes, MD, emphasizes that high quality health care and cooperation in a region can set that region apart. “The attractiveness and competitive advantage of medical tourism are: competitive prices on a global scale; international accessibility and proximity; international accreditation/certification; and excellence…including humanization of health care; hospitality/hotel structure; linguistically competent teams; pleasant environments and landscapes; and healthy gastronomy.”

Local residents are certain to benefit from the enhanced awareness and offerings the CVB initiative will create; our health and wellness community will benefit most by collectively supporting and participating in the effort.

Editorial by Lauren Del Sarto. For more information on this initiative, contact Davis Meyer at or (760) 969.1360.

Sources: 1); 2) Fernandes and Fernandes, Medical Tourism Magazine, Health and Wellness Tourism Today, June 11, 2013.

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