February 09, 2018
A new organization dedicated to wellness tourism has welcomed the Monaco Government Tourist Office as one of its founding members -- and its first destination marketing organization (DMO) member.

Based in Denver, the nonprofit Wellness Tourism Association was launched last week by a group of wellness-industry executives whose goal is to create a network "of and for" members of the burgeoning wellness-travel sector, and to help consumers recognize legitimate and credible wellness-tourism suppliers and operators.

"Our mission is clear and concise," said WTA co-founder and chairman Andrew Gibson, vice president of wellbeing at AccorHotels. "We plan to support and further the growth and development of the wellness tourism industry through networking, education, communication and marketing."

As a founding member, Monaco will have a seat on WTA's first board of directors, according to Cindy Hoddeson, director of the Monaco Government Tourism Office in North America, who noted the Mediterranean's long history in health and wellness dating back to classical antiquity, when ancient Greeks and Romans utilized the Mediterranean Sea for thalassotherapy (i.e., seawater treatments). Today, Monaco offers a variety of luxury spas and healthy-eating venues, as well as fitness opportunities from jogging on the harbor and hiking the Via Alpina to rowing in front of the Monaco Yacht Club and practicing yoga on the beach.

"Monaco's sea bathing history goes back to 1860 with the opening of the Etablissement des Bains -- Monaco's first baths where people came to benefit from the curative powers of the Mediterranean," Hoddeson said. "Becoming a member helps reinforce the value the Principality of Monaco has always placed on wellness as being part of the overall holistic travel experience."

Other founding members of the WTA include Canyon Ranch; the Art of Living Retreat Center, a wellness retreat facility in Boone, N.C.; Grail Springs, a wellness retreat in Bancroft, Ontario, Canada; and Unicomm LLC, producer of the long-running Travel & Adventure Show.

"It makes perfect sense to have our own association. Especially since there is some confusion with consumers and travel agents as to what constitutes legitimate 'wellness travel,'" said Anne Dimon, the other WTA co-founder and its president, who is CEO of TravelToWellness.com. "While 'wellness' is often thought to be a luxury category of travel, we also want to ensure we represent a diverse range of members across consumer segments."

WTA membership will be open to qualifying DMOs, hotels and resorts, destination spas, tour operators, travel advisors, wellness educators, and others with an interest in supporting the industry.