South Korea Promoting Wellness Tourism

South Korea will expand support for wellness tourism to attract health-conscious tourists across the world by combining it with unique local content such as beauty, oriental medicine, food and public saunas, the government said Wednesday.

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism hosted the “International Forum on Wellness Tourism 2016” in Seoul to discuss the latest market trends and strategies with government and industry officials in the tourism, hotel and health sectors.

While medical tourism targets patients in need of treatments, wellness tourism is a more proactive and broad concept that seeks to improve or maintain health and quality of life by picking destinations for spas, beauty, fitness, meditation and other healthy activities.

The ministry said it will expand support to develop Korean-style wellness content by combining beauty, meditation, temple stays, oriental medicine and public bathhouses.

“We will expand the scope of treatment-focused medical tourism by combining health and healing to expand the rising tourism market,” Kim Jong, vice minister of culture, sports and tourism, said. “We will work with provincial governments to combine characteristic tourism resources with medical tourism as a way to promote regional tourism.”

Among the unique health offerings are public bathhouses, or “jjimjilbang,” where locals hang out and do health and beauty rituals. Large ones are equipped with restaurants, outdoor swimming pools and hair salons in addition to the usual baths and saunas.

Jim Ki-nam, a professor of the department of health administration at Yonsei University, speaks during the International Forum on Wellness Tourism 2016 held in Seoul on Aug. 31, 2016. (Yonhap)

Experts say one of the good ways to promote wellness travel is by taking advantage of existing assets such as oriental medicine, skin care and healthy food to tell compelling stories to lure health-conscious people.

“South Korea has great potential in wellness tourism as many foreigners are interested in the beauty industry and Korean women’s skin care regimen and fitness. Korean companies need to look beyond selling products to combine health experiences to expand the market,” said Jim Ki-nam, a professor of the department of health administration at Yonsei University.

The global wellness tourism market is estimated at 446 trillion won (US$438.6 billion) in 2013, accounting for 14 percent of the total tourism industry and more than double that of medical tourism, according to SRI International.

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