What do James Bond,  King Herod the Great, Audrey Hepburn and Antonio Banderas have in common.  For those who attended the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai this year, the answer was clearly exhibited throughout the show in the form of Wellness. From healing waters in Slovenia, mud baths in Jordan, balneotherapy in Bulgaria, Ayurveda in India and oxygen bars in Dubai, this rapidly growing sector was omnipresent on the stands, immersed in destinations, tucked into trade brochures and highlighted as the new developing sector. Centuries-old, or the new boy on the block, resorts, treatments, therapies and destinations were on display and eager to be visible with new products under the Wellness umbrella.


Recently opened, the Burgenstock Hotel & Alpine Spa has revived Alpine health with four new hotels perched 500 metres above Lake Lucerne, all enjoying lake views and accessible by boat only – no car fumes, no pollution! And with the legendary names of Audrey Hepburn  and Sophie Loren linked to the area, this is fashionable wellness inscribed on the map. Also opening its doors is The Retreat Palm Dubai with its Rayya spa, designed on the principles of Feng Shui, scattered with aloe vera plants and oxygen bars flavoured with essential oils and a range of rejuvenation packages on offer.


Dating back to the Romans, medieval gentry and alchemists, the healthy waters of Slovenia have packaged medical tourism and today integrate its natural resources into medical health programmes.  Jordan is renowned for its minerals and super salty waters of the Dead Sea and in days long gone attracted King Herod the Great and Queen Cleopatra who were fans of the healing and purifying benefits of the muddy waters and natural thermal pools. And of course, India will forever cherish its own ancient science of Ayurveda and holistic therapies.


Drink, bathe and be happy is the motto at the Grandhotel Pupp in Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic, one of the oldest traditional hotels in Central Europe where the water is said to be 30,000 years old and where traditional treatments are used for today’s increasing ailments. Guests from the silver screen have included Gregory Peck, Sharon Stone, Antonio Banderas while the hotel itself has been filmed as a backdrop for Casino Royale.


There is a growing trend of specialist resorts and medical spas serving this market. From around the globe, these include The Chenot Palace Health Wellness Hotel in Azerbaijan, Soukya International Holistic Health Centre in Bangalore, The Velaa Private Island, Maldives Begnas Lake Resort & Villas and Himalayan Nature Spa in Nepal, Santani Wellness Resort & Spa in Sri Lanka and Longevity Wellness in Portugal.


Wellness has now carved its name into destinations and is rising as a halo area in tourism. The travel industry is proactive in developing this trend and has firmly entrenched this sector in the industry, especially with the global spotlight on health. And as Dubai positions itself as an up and coming medical and health destination, it makes sense why such significant events are hosted in a destination that has identified the growth market in wellness.


Jane Wilson, Editor of The Healthcare Holiday www.thehealthcareholiday.com