Characteristic wellness market trends in the Middle East and North Africa
28 Nov 2019

Although one of the areas in the world where health and wellbeing tourism is the least developed, the wellness market there is flourishing! For the moment much smaller than Europe or Asia, it is growing very fast, even much quicker than in other continents. Total Wellness Institute has published the main trends in this sector which we summarize below.

Read also: The wellness trend in the Middle East: the case of Dubai

A very promising wellness market

Health and wellbeing tourism sales are 10.7 billion dollars in the MENA countries (the Middle East and North Africa) – a drop in the ocean vs. European sales of 210.8 billion dollars!

But growth in the MENA wellness market is very fast – at 13.3%, more than twice as fast as the average annual world market growth of 6.5%. Spas grew 15.4% (for sales of 2.8 billion dollars), and hydrotherapy by 30.4%.

The sector expects a major acceleration of the wellness trend in the MENA, with an increase of 75% between 2017 and 2022 to reach 18.7 billion dollars.

Embark on a world tour of the swimming pool market!

4 major wellness trends to watch closely!

Medical tourism is growing fast

Every year, nearly 24 million people go abroad to get medical care, including thermal treatments. A fast-growing trend – it is estimated that medical tourism could increase from 15 to 20% in 2019. The MENA countries are the first in line to absorb this surge with, in particular, the United Arab Emirates which hosts 20% of all the establishments in the world entitled to treat foreign tourists. This is a major opportunity as health and wellbeing-centered tourism generates 53% more income than traditional tourism. Many of these new medical structures provide additional wellness services like spas, which leads us directly to the second trend!

The emergence of a model coupling medical and wellbeing treatments to attract more tourism

The Persian Gulf States are fertile grounds for medical and wellness services as they intend to create multi-service centers. These structures do not just promote their state-of-the-art medical equipment but also provide all-round offers including accommodation, fitness and alternative medicine. A good example is Dubai Healthcare City, featuring a whole range of wellness services like sensory deprivation tanks (an innovation we have already presented) and Dilmunia Island in Bahrain which will offer hydrotherapy and massage services in its hotels. True miniature cities!

Increasingly authentic establishments

Following on from points 1 and 2 above, hotels are adapting, forsaking their historic focus on luxurious, artificial buildings to propose more natural and authentic experiences based on local flora, fauna and culture. Several specialized structures have developed an approach mingling modern wellness technologies with older treatments (like Turkish Baths, massages and nutrition), which have all the charm of these countries of the Thousand and One Nights. For example, by 2021 the Lux Al Zorah in the United Arab Emirates will organize safaris coupled with a wellness offer! Many spas have already been built to accommodate this passion, rising from 4,465 in 2015 to 6,057 in 2017.

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Hot springs are back in business!

Most MENA countries have natural hot springs. Some, like Tunisia and Algeria have already been developing their hydrotherapy business for many years and are sure to continue! 54 new thermal centers will open in Tunisia in 2020. Others, like Oman, Saudi Arabia and Iraq, are just starting, attracting many wellness sector investors. The number of water-cure establishments in the MENA increased from 324 in 2015 to 416 in 2017! As our ambassador to Israel Nir Oz explained at Piscine Global Europe 2018, people in this region are fond of innovations in pools and wellness so we expect to see many new establishments in the years to come to meet this demand, which is further boosted by an increase in tourism.

A promising future for a fast-growing wellness market and for many investors who have already profited from this opportunity to build their wellness establishments. To read the full report, check out the Global Wellness Institute website! For more ideas about health and wellbeing-related tourism, see the example of Greece which used thermal tourism to get out of its economic crisis!


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