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									Understanding Wellness Tourism: An Analysis of Benefits Sought, Health-Promoting
Behaviours and Positive Psychological Well-Being

Cornelia Voigt,
University of South Australia

Project Overview

 Wellness tourism is one of the most promising niche markets within the tourism field, but it remains an area with
 few empirical studies. Thus, the fundamental aim of this research was to advance the knowledge of wellness
 tourism by investigating wellness tourists and the nature of their experiences.

 Currently, there seems to be little understanding of who wellness tourists are, how they can be typologised, and
 the benefits they seek from their wellness tourism experiences. This thesis suggests a typology of wellness
 tourists consisting of three groups: (1) beauty spa visitors; (2) lifestyle resort visitors; and (3) spiritual retreat
 visitors. One purpose of the thesis was to compare these three groups to explore whether they are different or
 whether they share similar socio-demographic characteristics and motivational factors.

 Additionally, the wellness aspect of wellness tourism is poorly understood; thus another aim of this research was
 to establish a working definition of wellness that was operationalisable. The two major elements of wellness that
 were proposed for this research are ‘wellness lifestyle’ (i.e. the extent of living a healthy life) and ‘positive
 psychological well-being’ (i.e. consisting of ‘hedonic well-being’ or happiness and ‘eudaimonic well-being’ or
 personal growth and fulfilment). Consequently, another aim of the research was to explore the major wellness
 variables and examine whether wellness lifestyle and well-being levels differ among the three groups of wellness
 tourists identified for this study. Moreover, the relationships among the major variables (i.e. benefits sought,
 wellness lifestyle and positive psychological well-being) have received scant attention from tourism scholars and
 were subject of research in this thesis.

Objectives of Study

 This research sought to achieve the following objectives:
 1   To conceptualise the construct of wellness. This was based on a review of literature from the fields of health
     promotion, positive psychology, tourism, and leisure.
 2   To propose a wellness tourism typology and examine whether there are distinct differences in socio-
     demographic and travel behaviour characteristics across three different wellness tourist types (i.e., beauty
     spa, lifestyle resort, and spiritual retreat visitors).
 3    To understand how wellness tourists link their wellness tourism experiences to their personal wellness.
 4    To identify the benefits wellness tourists seek from their wellness tourism experiences.
 5   To determine whether benefits sought, wellness lifestyle and positive psychological well-being vary
     according to the three different wellness tourist types.
 6   To empirically examine the relationship between hedonic and eudaimonic well-being.
 7    To investigate the relationship between benefits sought and positive psychological well-being.
 8   To examine the relationship between wellness lifestyle and positive psychological well-being.


 An exploratory design formed the basis of this research, although it also contains elements of a more explanatory
 nature. A mixed methods research design incorporating both qualitative and quantitative methods was employed
 to answer the identified research objectives.
  First, semi-structured interviews with 27 wellness tourists explored the benefits they sought, and to what extent
  wellness tourists linked their experiences to wellness. Another objective of these interviews was to generate
  items for the survey instrument in phase 2. Data analysis in the qualitative research phase was carried out using
  qualitative thematic analysis. The qualitative research was followed by a quantitative phase involving 509 usable
  questionnaires from a mail-out to client/member lists of three different Australian wellness tourism
  organisations. The quantitative phase investigated wellness tourist group differences in regard to the major
  variables of the research (i.e. benefits sought, wellness lifestyle and positive psychological well-being), as well as
  the relationships among these constructs. The data analysis of this phase employed a variety of statistical
  techniques, ranging from exploratory factor analysis (EFA), chi-square tests for independence, MANOVAs and
  ANOVAS as well as hierarchical multiple regressions.

 Key Findings of Research

      Wellness tourists are not one single, homogenous group. There were statistically significant differences
       between the three groups of wellness tourists in regard to all demographic and travel behaviour
       characteristics, as well as in respect to all major variables, with the exception of eudaimonic well-being.
      A scale measuring benefits sought by wellness tourists was developed and exploratory factor analysis
       revealed six benefit factors: Transcendence; Physical Health & Appearance; Escape & Relaxation; Important
       Others & Novelty; Re-establish Self-Esteem; and Indulgence.
      The majority of wellness tourists in this sample did not routinely engage in an overall wellness lifestyle, thus
       not supporting the claim of several wellness tourism scholars that wellness tourists already life a healthy
       everyday life. However, spiritual retreat visitors had a significantly healthier overall lifestyle compared to
       beauty spa and lifestyle resort visitors.
      Although it is often proposed that health-promoting behaviour leads to physical and mental well-being, this
       research has shown that only the wellness lifestyle factor of Interpersonal Relations predicted hedonic as
       well as eudaimonic well-being. The other factors (Nutrition, Physical Activity, Stress Management, and
       Health Responsibility) did not predict positive psychological well-being.
      Depending on their content, benefits predicted positive psychological well-being in different ways.
       Accordingly, those wellness tourists who place high importance on the benefits of Transcendence and
       Indulgence are more likely to be happier and have a fulfilled life. In contrast, the benefit factor of Re-
       establish Self-Esteem predicted well-being negatively, meaning that those tourists who seek to regain their
       self-esteem are more likely to be unhappy and are less fulfilled.

 Significance of Research to Stakeholders

      This thesis provides the Australian wellness tourism industry with an enhanced knowledge of wellness
       tourism in general and the characteristics and needs of wellness tourists in particular. Understanding
       potential differences between wellness tourist groups and their motivations will allow wellness tourism
       providers to tailor their communication efforts and product and services development to wellness tourists’
      This thesis makes a unique contribution to the literature by combining constructs and theories from several
       research fields: tourism and leisure, health promotion, and positive psychology. This research leads to a
       better understanding of wellness tourists, by comparing three types of wellness tourists in regard to their
       socio-demographic profiles and in respect to the three major constructs of this research (i.e., benefits
       sought, wellness lifestyle, positive psychological well-being). Empirical research to understand the benefits
       sought, the wellness lifestyle and positive psychological well-being of wellness tourists, particularly in regard
       to the latter two constructs, has been basically non-existent. Moreover, the relationships among these three
       major variables are poorly understood.

 What Next

 I would like to continue working as a tourism researcher and lecturer and in 2010 I will work as a lecturer for
 Advanced Marketing at the University of South Australia.

For more information please contact Cornelia Voigt by email Cornelia.Voigt@unisa.edu.au or + 61 8 8302

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