Wellness Tourism, Next Trend in Taiwan?

Due to the outbreak of COVID-19, people’s awareness of the wellness sector has risen ever high. Nowadays in the global tourism market, wellness tourism has been recognized as the next focus after COVID-19 fritters away. However, in the current tourism industry in Taiwan, there is yet no such collective consciousness on this rising trend.

This article will hence reveal what wellness-related products have been developing by suppliers in Taiwan, the measurements those suppliers have taken to remedy the collapsing travel industry in harsh times, and the recommendations on how the Taiwanese government could do to promote wellness tourism to locals and international travelers.


What Is Wellness Tourism?

Wellness tourism is usually being mixed up with the term “medical tourism”. Even though both terms express the concern for health, the objectives and destinations are distinct. (HTLT, 2017). While medical tourism is a means of travel seeking more affordable or higher quality of medical treatment, surgeries, or health check outside travelers’ home countries, wellness tourism focuses more on enhancing one’s personal wellbeing, both physically and spiritually. In other words, medical tourism is a collective activity of people reactively responding to illness, whereas wellness tourism is proactively for disease prevention. (GWI, 2018). Wellness is not solely a choice of lifestyle, but a potential growing business with a huge yield in it. (Reuter, 2019). Consequently, wellness tourism is the strong crosspoint of two fast-expanding industries: the tourism industry ($2.6 trillion) and the wellness industry ($4.2 trillion). As Asia is the key market of tourism development, its growth sector in both wellness travels and revenues ranked top across the globe in the last five years. (Reuter, 2019).

Difference Between Wellness Tourism and Medical Tourism (Source: Global Wellness Institute)


Wellness tourism consists in three sectors: physical, psychological, and spiritual. Example activities are listed as follow:

  • Physical: fitness training, beauty treatments, detox diet or weight management, essence treatment, stress relief such as massage or spa
  • Psychological: wellness-related education, mindset building
  • Spiritual: meditation and yoga


Wellness Tourism Trend in Taiwan

Taiwanese government has been boosting Taiwan as the perfect medical tourism destination in Asia Pacific region. In the past decade, Taiwan gained its reputation for its professional, high quality yet cost-effective medical service. (BioSpectrum, 2019). Solely in 2015, over 300,000 medical tourists flocked in Taiwan for better health cares, contributed over NTD$ 16 billion revenue (US$ 491 million). (TaiwanToday, 2006). Wellness tourism is usually packed along with medical travel, more precisely, as appendant of medical travel. Despite the broad and profound Chinese medicine culture, abundant natural resources, and organic agricultures, wellness tourism has never been promoted systemically and widely.


Wellness Activities in Taiwan

Sup (Stand-up Paddle)

SUP has become a popular water sport worldwide. It has developed into different forms – SUP yoga, SUP fishing, SUP touring, and surfing. This activity empowers people’s connection with nature, self-consciousness, and well-being.

This first-participant-friendly water sport gains its popularity in Taiwan. There are now more than twenty different spots springing up around the coastline. While manage to balance themselves on the swinging board, SUP players could experience the beauty of Taiwan. GuiShan Island (Turtle Mountain Island), an island with a dormant volcano, is one of the most popular sites for SUP surfing.  As the spring underneath the ocean spewing the surface, the ocean appears dreamlike gradient colors that not elsewhere could see.

Gui Shan Island Video Intro (Source: Taiwan Tourism Bureau)



Diving once be described as Zen in mobility, has become one of the most popular wellness activities around the world. Diving helps people to increase the flexibility of body muscles, improves blood circulation and concentration capacity. Moreover, it is also been recognized as a good method to relieve stress and build up self-esteem. (Fleet, 2017).

Taiwan, as a country surrounded by the ocean, has excellent innate qualities to develop a diving business. Famous spots of diving such as Green Island, Orchid Island, Xiaoliuqiu, and Kenting, are the international level diving sites that attract hundreds of thousands of diving fanatics visit yearly. In the 2016 DRT show, Wang Qinjie, the chairman of the Taiwan Mountain and Sea Angel Environmental Conservation Association, estimated that with proper environmental protection and sustainable development, Taiwanese diving tourism can reach NTD$ 4 billion annually. (Wang, 2016). Unfortunately, offshore fishing problems and environmental damage lead to stagnant and relatively poor development in Taiwan’s diving activities.

Xiao Liu Qiu Video Intro (Source: Taiwan Tourism Bureau)


Mountain Climbing & Camping

Mountain climbing is not only benefiting for one’s physical health as strengthen muscles, but moreover, it has mental and social benefits as well.

Taiwan, not to mention, is a mountainous island with over 100 peaks that serve all the expectations and requirements for hiking lovers. The majestic landscape of mountains attracts people all around the world to experience its beauty every year. As the travel ban was lifted and the pandemic situation still unstable outside the country, more and more Taiwanese people decide to go into the woods, enjoy the beauty of nature in the meantime practice social distancing. This trend could also be seen everywhere in the globe. Taiwan, known for its fruitful natural sources, claimed an award as the second-Best Adventure Destination and Best Leisure Destination in Asia. (Huang, 2020).

Camping has always been one of the most popular outdoor activities in Taiwan. It gains its popularity rapidly after the coronavirus outbreaks. Experts believe that the reason why camping becomes so popular is that it offers people a sense of security on social distancing, an escape from pressure and worriedness of coronavirus. Campers could Fendozin in the woods while seeking their inner peace and relaxation. The occupancy rate of the camping site increases on average by 30% during weekends, and it is expected to grow more as the travel regulations still lift. (Chang, 2020).

Taiwan Mountain (Source: 東勢林管處 – 合歡東峰)


Single House (B&B) and the Rising Development on Detox Camp

As mentioned in his lecture in August 2020, Travis Yu, a Senior Customer Product Manager from AsiaYo, stated the company observed the need for single house B&B or villa has dramatically increased in the past few months, since the coronavirus outbroke. People’s consciousness on social distancing leads to the phenomenon of need to travel without any touchpoints of meeting or sharing facilities with strangers, but only family and friends. According to statistics from the Taiwan Tourism Bureau, there are up to 9,555 legal registration B&B in July 2020, providing over 40,000 rooms. To stand out from these 9,000 counterparts, some of the B&B developed detox camps, providing a new concept of vacation to tourists. With limited capacity, this renewal camp provides a series of methods to bring physical, mental, and spiritual changes in people’s lives. Intermittent fasting is scheduled during the camp, and only well-designed nutritious organic juice and kombucha could be consumed in between. This way of eating habit is widely believed could be able to remove harmful substances from human’s bodies. Health talk and lectures, meditation and yoga, relaxing massage and sauna, both static and dynamic activities are included in this detox camp. Community events like cleaning beaches provide people to have the opportunity to reconnect with the environment, rethink the consequences of people’s daily life consumption, and rebuild the connection with the local community.

Target Segment of Wellness Tourism

People normally perceive misconception on wellness travelers as they are a small group of wealthy people enjoying a luxurious spa treatment or meditation in the exclusive resorts in nowhere. In fact, wellness tourism is a much broader style of travel, comprising consumers with distinct perceptions, motivations, and values. (GWI, 2018). The length of a wellness trip could also be as short as an activity experience, or a long stay in a countryside house. According to the Global Wellness Institute, wellness tourists could be divided into two types:

  • Primary wellness traveler: destination-oriented, the purpose of the trip is motivated by the concept of wellness.
  • Secondary wellness traveler: while traveling, these group of people are willing to add wellness elements into their trips.

As for customer segment division, it could be considered from different aspects. The steady growth of the spa industry shows that an increasing number of customers spending on self-care treatments. The majority of customers are women between their mid-age (35-54), but there is also a statistic showing men and customers under 35, revealing their interest in wellness treatments.

Family travelers are also a strong stream of wellness tourism. As the consistence of family normally across two to three generations, wellness products such as resort or villa providing different packages that suitable for every member of the family. Products such as detox meal for elderly, activities for kids and younger generations, relaxation treatment for mid-aged parents, it would be a good fit for family travel option.

Potential Competitors of Taiwan Wellness Tourism

Wellness tourism is expected to take over travel industry, reported by BBC journalist Peter Rubinstein in 2020. Nowadays big hotel chains and major lifestyle brands are expanding their portfolio on this sector, desperately wanting to share a piece of the pie. (Rubinstein, 2020). The graph below indicates the top 50 dedicated destination spas, which could also give us a clear overview on regional development in wellness tourism.

Global Supply – List of 50 Dedicated and Comprehensive Destination Spas (Source: HVS)

As for Taiwan’s wellness travel, the biggest competitor would be Thailand, a wonderland full of wellness products. Thailand is similar to Taiwan, famous for its friendliness of people, the diversity of landscape, and different activities to enjoy traveling from each individual’s perspective. The Thai tourism bureau has been promoting its health tourism long ago. The wellness tourism market keeps booming at a growth rate of 7% in the local tourism sector, according to Thailand Business News. (Luther, 2018). With its exclusive website to introduce wellness products within Thailand, in 2016 this industry contributed $1.26 billion in revenue for the country. Big chain hotels such as Kempinski are expanding their profile, adding wellness-oriented properties into their pipelines to meet the rising needs of wellness tourism. Activities such as Yoga, Pilates, and Muay Thai are long developed in Thailand with the fame that attracts thousands of tourists to visit Thailand just for those activities. Thai cuisine and cooking class abided with full of wellness mindset is also a pull factor in Thai wellness tourism. Not to mention vacation destinations like Ko Samui and Phuket, those places are well-designed for tourists to enjoy their wellness getaway.

Taiwanese Government Current Procedures and Future Recommendations

Currently, the Taiwanese government is solely promoting medical tourism or mixed up medical travel with wellness tourism. Though there were several studies discussing the possibility of developing health tourism, different parties yet reach a conscious on how to develop the unique wellness tourism in Taiwan. The term “Health Tourism” clearly shows the incomprehension of the trend occurring around the globe. On the official website of the Taiwan Tourism Bureau, there is no section marked “wellness” either. Instead, “LOHAS” travel appeared in Travel Suggestion, Special Interests filled the gap. LOHAS, however, could not be the substitute for wellness travel since they possess different concepts. LOHAS stands for “Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability” (Taiwan Tourism Bureau), which focuses on sustainable living, is totally different from wellness travel, which instead representing the mindfulness of individuals’ physical and mental health.

Since Taiwan possesses such an abundance of sources to develop wellness tourism, it is a pity that Taiwan wastes this great opportunity to shine. Taiwanese government should face up to the problem and integrate sources to promote this new trend of tourism. As described in the previous section, Taiwan in fact perceives diversified wellness products, but those products are spread all over every corner of Taiwan. If a user-friendly platform integrates all wellness products – hotels, resorts, B&B, detox camp, cold/ hot springs, organic restaurants, tours & activities, and others that could be found by travelers, so that FIT travelers can easily get wellness tourism information easily at one-stop. This integration concept should drive related industries to develop wellness products, or corporate with other partners in the industry, to deliver Taiwanese characteristics to both local and international travelers, hence break the existing development bottleneck. (Kang, 2015).

Statistics show that primary wellness travelers tend to spend more on a trip than regular travelers, to be more precise, 178% more than average spending on trips. (Rubinstein, 2020). Shi Chao-Huei, the Director of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in LA, suggested that while Taiwan keeps promoting its well-contained virus position, it should also position itself as a hot tourism destination post-coronavirus. Top selling points such as hiking, mountaineering, and diving could attract those health-concerned international tourists. (Huang, 2020).


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作者/關旅瑄,腦隨C班結訓。目前就讀於瑞士洛桑酒店管理學院 MGH Program,關注旅遊產業永續經營和品牌策略發展,期待將「台灣」作為旅遊品牌發揚光大。Author/ Rita Kuan. Currently a graduate student at EHL MGH program. Hopelessly in love with hospitality industry. Focus on sustainability and business development within the industry.