17 Jul 2018 Spa Business Handbook
 

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Spa Business Handbook - Africa Rising - Waking up to wellness

Industry Insights

Africa Rising - Waking up to wellness


Africa has flown under the radar in the spa industry, but with many countries now focused on health and wellness tourism, that’s about to change. Elaine Okeke Martin tells us more

Elaine Okeke Martin, Spa & Wellness Association of Africa
Elaine Okeke Martin, founder & president, Spa & Wellness Association of Africa
Guests can enjoy spa treatments while they look out at wildlife and stunning scenery in Africa
Guests can enjoy spa treatments while they look out at wildlife and stunning scenery in Africa
Guests can enjoy spa treatments while they look out at wildlife and stunning scenery in Africa
The continent offers vast natural resources and opportunities to create authentic, indigenous experiences

There’s an energy you feel in Africa from the light, the earth, the air, the rain – and you really feel alive when among lions. Africa can offer guests spa treatments while they look out to elephants grazing the trees.

One to watch
South Africa, Egypt, Mauritius, Kenya, Morocco and Tanzania all have well-established spa industries, but Kenya is one to watch; it has a government goal for 2030 that includes a budget dedicated to medical and wellness tourism. The Kenya Tourism Board has recently launched a joint venture with Kenya Airways to promote the country, and Kenya’s largest infrastructure project since independence in 1963 – a US$3.8bn Chinese-built high-speed railway, the Madaraka Express – has just launched, connecting the port city of Mombasa with the capital of Nairobi. The train travels through two national parks, and tour operators plan to use it as a tourism booster.

Wellbeing goals
Africa is ‘Transforming Tourism’ and I’m happy to be part of it. I’m happy to see the development of the African Charter on Sustainable and Responsible Tourism – signed last year by 20 countries – and its goals for 2030, which are an obligation to reflect on the connections between tourism and sustainable development.

Good health and wellbeing is a factor that countries in Africa must look at. Defining the health of both locals and tourists is important, and we must not create a gap between the two. Tourism plays a critical role in achieving water access and security, as well as hygiene and sanitation for all, but hotel development needs to be regulated to ensure that hotels and resorts do not siphon off – quite literally – much-needed water from local communities.

SWAA’s role
The Spa and Wellness Association of Africa is a non-profit organisation that aims to develop and maintain internationally recognised standards and to improve the knowledge and technical skills of all spa and wellness professionals. SWAA is now becoming a coalition for African countries, and works to promote Africa as a wellness destination. We consult various government departments as well as national associations in the African spa and wellness industry. We support tourism boards to see how we can help them set up budgets for wellness tourism. Some African countries – including Tanzania, Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Tunisia and Mauritius – have targets for 2030 that include medical and wellness tourism budgets. We can see that the interest is there, and industry figures like those laid out by the Global Wellness Institute (GWI) help governments look at ways to develop the sector and promote their countries.

Education and standards
We’re planning to develop standards for African indigenous treatments, as we start to collect data on local treatments and African medicinal plants, with the support of the GWI Africa Wellness Initiative. Our networking events, held in different countries each year, provide a place where members can come and train, and we soon plan to have education providers available on our online platform so people in Africa can access the online training for just US$5-$10. We’ve made it mobile-friendly, so we can reach rural areas, where people might not have access to computers, but will have cell phones. We hope to launch this programme by mid-2018.

SWAA Unbuntu Education is an initiative within SWAA that helps to certify therapists and supports spa managers or directors through educational programmes. It also supports spas, wellness centres, beauty academies and schools in Africa with accreditation. Additionally, it provides a platform for less fortunate people in Africa who want to join our industry, giving them a start either through a SWAA-accredited school or spa.

Africa rising
Africa is waking up to wellness, and the diaspora has created a demand not only on the continent, but also internationally. Companies today need to cater to African skin types and demands, but that awareness is growing; just seven years ago, skincare companies weren’t too keen on adding a woman of colour to their ads, but today, product houses and media have woken up to ‘Africa Rising’. We have several made-in-Africa skincare lines, such as Terres D’Afrique, and the numbers keep growing.

Spas in Africa need to raise their standards to be able to cater to the demand from well-travelled wellness tourists seeking international and indigenous treatments. We can’t continue to get by with sub-par standards and expect to compete globally. Africa needs more skilled people, collaborations from governments and businesses to further develop these skills if we want to grow, and we also need to change the way we promote Africa as a whole.

The continent offers vast natural resources – from dramatic coastal landscapes to wild safari parks to untapped hot springs – and there’s incredible opportunity to build from that and use Africa’s rich ancestral knowledge to create authentic spa and wellness destinations and experiences.


North African spa market at a glance
Top in wellness tourism
Morocco: 2.5 million wellness trips worth US$1.5bn
Tunisia: 500,000 wellness trips worth US$321m
Egypt: 400,000 wellness trips worth US$307m

Top spa markets
Morocco: 1,785 spas with US$244m in revenue
Tunisia: 196 spas with US$76m in revenue
Egypt: 362 spas with US$67.5m in revenue

Top springs thermal/mineral
Tunisia: 74 establishments with US$67m in revenue
Algeria: 166 establishments with US$36.7m in revenue
Morocco: 11 establishments with US$13.4m in revenue

Source: Global Wellness Institute


Sub-Saharan spa industry
• 2,317 spas (up 23 per cent from 2013-2015)

• spa revenues: US$1.1bn (up 18 per cent from 2013-2015)

• Sub-Saharan spas employ 28,911 people(up 18 per cent from 2013-2015)

• 5.4 million wellness trips taken in Sub-Saharan Africa

• Wellness tourism expenditures topped US$4.2bn in 2015 (up 14 per cent from 2013)


Originally published in Spa Business Handbook 2017 issue 1

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