There are new and exciting developments within the School of Tourism with ground breaking research identifying the fusion between recreation, leisure and wellbeing. The rationale for co-locating a tourism and public health strategy is based on the recognition that creating a community culture where a tourist destination is seen to enhance and promote physical and mental health for both locals and tourists is desirable. A community that supports health creation can be a re-branding opportunity within a destination management approach, dovetailing health and wellbeing alongside a marketing and economic positioning. The concept of wellness tourism is emerging and is an area where strategic priority is being given in many European destinations. It is estimated that the market is currently worth $106.0 globally1 with predictions of major growth in the coming 5-10 years2.
Figures show that there are about 289 million wellness consumers’1 and trends due to an aging world population, failing conventional medical systems and increased globalization will ensure continued growth. Policy documents from the WHO, Health 2020 and data from the British Leisure Trends and Slow Tourism Report, 2011, the World Travel Market Global Trends Report, 2010, VisitBritain Foresight, 2010 plus the launch of the international trade alliance, Wellness Tourism Worldwide (2011) dedicated to the development and promotion of wellness tourism, all adds corroborating evidence of currency.
With much debate on aspects of wellbeing, social tourism and inclusion prevalent at both national and local levels, most notably in Bournemouth with the town’s 2026 vision group, there is momentum building in this area3. Promoting public health is a complex task but one than can be aided by other professionals. The whole can be greater than the sum of the parts and where a lack of co-ordination can bring confusion and disharmony. People do not lead their lives in a vacuum; we are all products of our culture, media influences, and the services we consume. There is a complex interrelationship between the individual and wider society, sometimes for good, but often leading to poor health. Much interest was stimulated by our appearance in the Big Ideas for the Future Report4, where Bournemouth University’s research linking tourism and public health was featured. We intend to capitalise on this interest particularly as it represents pan-School collaboration with the School of Health and Social Care and therefore builds on current strengths and expertise. The research output will be of interest to those responsible for policy, strategy and operational practice within the tourism industry and will lead to a greater understanding of this discipline engaging with the wellbeing agenda. Consequently, the societal impact extends beyond a public health perspective to also impact the ability of destinations to leverage health creation in re-branding and marketing, a potential synergy that can contribute to both sustainable health and economic gain.
1SRI International (2010) Spas and the Global Wellness Market, http://csted.sri.com/projects/spas-and-global-wellness-market-synergies-and-opportunities (accessed 07 September 2011)
2 Wellness Tourism Worldwide (2011) Wellness for whom, where and what? Wellness Tourism 2020 http://www.wellnesstourismworldwide.com/uploads/7/2/1/6/7216110/wtw_4wr_phase2_web.pdf (accessed 07 September 2011)
3 Hartwell H., (2011) Can we bring tourism and public health strategy together?, Guardian Professional, Thursday 28 July
4 Research Councils UK (RCUK) and Universities UK (2011) http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/Publications/reports/Pages/BigIdeas.aspx