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ITB Berlin 2012: Keeping healthy is increasingly important when on holiday

ITB Berlin 2012: Keeping healthy is increasingly important when on holiday

German citizens are becoming more and more aware of the importance of staying healthy and energetic. Increasingly, they are taking health vacations to reduce everyday stress or to stay fit for their jobs. Over the past five years holidays at wellness and spa resorts have risen by 30 per cent. By contrast, medical tourism has declined. According to the findings of the World Travel Monitor®, commissioned by ITB Berlin, over the same period the number of cure, rehabilitation and hospital stays abroad has fallen by 18 per cent.

Germans especially interested in health vacations

At 3.3 million vacations, equivalent to 4. 6 per cent of all trips abroad, Germans are more interested in foreign health and medical tourism than their European neighbours. Currently, health and medical travel accounts for a total of 9.4 million trips or 2.4 per cent of all European travel abroad. Across Europe, over the past five years health vacations have increased by 38 per cent. Medical tourism has also risen by 24 per cent.

Martin Buck, the director of the Competence Centre Travel and Logistics at Messe Berlin: “Everywhere in Europe health vacations, which help to prevent society-related illnesses, are becoming more and more popular. This is a big opportunity for organizers, hotels and destinations to expand and improve their services.“

Germans and Russians are much keener to take health vacations than their European neighbours. Whereas the German market for health vacations abroad is approximately six times the size of Russia’s, with German citizens medical tourism accounts for only 22 per cent more. The French market is the third largest for foreign health trips, while Holland’s is the third largest for medical tourism abroad.


Among German citizens the most popular foreign destination for health trips is Spain, followed by Italy and Austria. The countries most visited for medical reasons are Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. In Europe as a whole, the most popular countries for health trips are Spain, Italy and Austria, while Hungary, Germany and the Czech Republic are the leading destinations for medical tourism.

Women prefer cure leave to wellness vacations

According to the World Travel Monitor’s® survey, socio-demographics also play a part. At an average age of 48, Europeans taking health vacations are younger than people travelling for medical reasons, who are 53. German travellers in both categories are older than the European average. People taking health vacations are 52 and those travelling for medical reasons are 61. Women prefer to travel for medical reasons rather than take health vacations. However they outnumber their male counterparts in both categories.

Massages less popular with Germans

Europeans say that when taking health vacations they prefer relaxing (50 per cent), followed by walking / hiking and swimming (43 per cent each). Among Germans, the most popular activities are walking / hiking (48 per cent), relaxing (47 per cent), followed by swimming (44 per cent). Germans are slightly keener on wellness programmes (30 per cent) than their European neighbours (26 per cent). By contrast, massages are less popular with Germans (15 per cent) than with Europeans as a whole (26 per cent).

Russia and China: a small, but growing share of the market

At growth rates of slightly under 100 per cent and 100 per cent plus respectively, at 0.4 million and 0.3 million trips each in 2010, at three per cent each of the holiday market in all categories, Russia and China are developing into attractive markets for health vacations, particularly for their neighbouring countries.