By Adam Singleton
Because of the rise in wellness tourism business owners on the Big Island of Hawaii have got together to promote a travel initiative that they collectively hope will prove so successful that it will eventually be adopted by the rest of the state.
The Hawaii Island Wellness Travel Association, composed of 120 business owners and holistic professionals, has set up a meeting with both the Big Island Visitors Bureau and Hawaii County officials to take the initiative further at which they hope to agree marketing strategies, develop effective packaging and adopt a set of rules for health and wellness travel to Hawaii, which they regard as a booming business.
As recently as 2005 almost $50,000 was set aside by Hawaii Tourism Authority to be used to quantify how well wellness tourism could be developed in the archipelago. A leading research company was approached to produce a comprehensive study of the health and wellness tourism market for the state of Hawaii. However, significant progress stalled once the report had been produced, and only now, some two years later, is the idea being re-launched.
One of the most vociferous proponents and advocates of wellness tourism Lew Whitney, co-founder of the Kokolulu Farm and Qigong Center based in North Kohala said: “We’ve been trying for years to persuade the Hawaii Tourism Authority that this (wellness) offers a great opportunity for the whole state of Hawaii and not just the Big Island.” Over the last nine years the Center has offered a range of cancer retreats and meditative healing programs and Whitney admits that it has been a struggle getting the message across to tourism chiefs. However, Whitney highlights that the Center, located on the northern tip of the Big Island, has been successfully trading for almost 10 years, and with little promotional help from the Hawaii Tourism Authority has managed to remain in business, albeit with the help of some charitable contributions.
Indeed, leading research group Mintel produced a comprehensive Market Research document which looked at wellness tourism being offered throughout the world in places as far flung as Japan, Hungary, India, Austria and Thailand. It concluded, amongst other things that markets were expanding as more and more people, of all ages, made their vacation choices based on health and wellness travel demonstrating that that the sector had a bright future.
As more people take to using alternative and natural remedies, tying wellness into hotel deals in Hawaii could herald a bold new initiative that in the long run may well add an extra string to the already well developed tourism bow for the state.