"Wellness and Silver Age Tourism" By Dimitris Fragakis, S.General of GNTO for TRAVEL magazine
Secretary General of the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO)
Wellness tourism is a relatively new segment within the global travel and tourism industry but the practice of wellness focused travel is not new. Since ancient times in Greece we had the famous Asclepeions! They were spaces and facilities for healing. In addition they promoted self-therapy through rest, relaxation and exercise. Asclepeions also became home to future physicians. The father of Medicine, Hippocrates received his medical training at an Asclepeion on the island of Kos. Prior to becoming the personal physician to the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, Galen treated and studied at the famed Asclepeion at Pergamon. Romans traveled to baths, hot springs and seaside resorts for treatments, healthier climates, purification and spiritual rituals. People have visited the Dead Sea for its therapeutic properties.
In Greece we are blessed by a great wealth of natural assets and healing traditions for wellness and medical tourism. We also have new hotels, spa and leisure centers, luxury resorts, great doctors, medical scientists and hospitality experts in these segments of tourism. Although, we still need to establish a strong national brand image for medical tourism and wellness tourism. We can become leading market players.
Greece and GNTO’s new strategy is focusing in motivating travelers to explore our culture, to experience everyday life in Greece and increase their knowledge of our country. Our main target is to fully embrace sustainable travel and offer to the global community of explorers, local experiences and ideas for trips to non-traditional Greek destinations. Part of that definitely is Wellness and Silver Age Tourism.
Medical tourism is an older, more established concept. It has a growing international profile and is easier to define. Our government is equally paying attention to both sectors. Wellness tourism is also very important for us and I can assure you as the Secretary General of GNTO that our strategy is to differentiate ourselves and effectively capitalize on our specialties. Our tourism campaigns will include and analyze our advantages in a competitive environment.
Another tourism segment that is important for us is Silver Tourism. Greece is already a place that retired North Europeans prefer to enjoy their lives. They buy houses in Greek islands and have wonderful, sunny days all year long. But we must do more. Global ageing is the challenge of our era. By the year 2025, the elderly will represent a very significant proportion of the globe’s entire population as more people lead longer lives.
Mature travelers are already important to the tourism industry, and they will grow in importance even more as their size and wealth. Leisure has a positive influence on the lives of elderly people. It helps seniors' physical and mental fitness, leading to greater life satisfaction.
Unfortunately, many tourism businesses pay no specific attention at understanding senior travelers. The tourism companies based in Greece should understand senior travelers' needs, as well as their travel behavior, in order to develop products and services. Travel agents must apply these to offer better service to this significant age group.
Our Government is carefully building collaborative relationships with key players in the above sectors. The goal is to promote our strengths and market our specialized offerings to domestic and international stakeholders in the tourism industry.