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Rooibos leads the way as a wellness tourism destination

The global wellness tourism sector is experiencing unprecedented growth as tourists increasingly prioritise health, relaxation and self-care in their travel experiences.

Research analysts value the current size of Africa’s wellness tourism market at USD 89.56 billion. However, it is expected to reach USD 114.24 billion by 2029. When looking closer to home, the Western Cape (45,2%), Mpumalanga (14%), and Kwazulu-Natal (12,9%) rank among the top three provinces for wellness tourism. Many international and local visitors enjoy travelling for health and wellness activities. The statistics include travelling for short breaks and spa getaways.

According to the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), wellness tourism is a fast-growing segment. Interestingly, it has been growing by 6.5% annually (more than twice the growth rate for tourism in general).

What is wellness tourism?

Wellness tourism can be defined as “travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s well-being. With so much non-wellness embedded in today’s travel, wellness tourism brings the promise of combating those negative qualities and turning travel into an opportunity to maintain and improve our holistic health. Moreover, the wellness industry is experiencing massive growth and is transforming into a multi-billion-dollar industry (Global Wellness Institute, 2021). 

There is a diversity of wellness experiences on offer around the globe. On the African continent, there are walking yoga safaris in Zambia and safari spas in Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, and Germany, which offer climatic health resorts. 

Although there are many wellness experiences worldwide, the South African Rooibos experiences are unique.   

World distribution of unique features per country for travel destinations
World distribution of unique features per country for travel destinations. Photo supplied by the South African Rooibos Council (SARC)

Why is Rooibos ideal to promote tourism?

Adele du Toit, spokesperson for the SA Rooibos Council (SARC), says South Africa’s breathtaking landscapes, vibrant culture and rich biodiversity are well-positioned to emerge as a leading African wellness tourism destination. “One asset that stands out is Rooibos – a potent botanical treasure unique to the country.”

She says Rooibos presents a valuable opportunity for SA to differentiate itself in the competitive wellness tourism market. “By incorporating Rooibos into spa treatments, wellness retreats and culinary experiences, South African businesses can offer tourists a unique and authentic taste of local wellness traditions.

“Rooibos has long been celebrated for its antioxidant properties and numerous health benefits. From boosting immunity to promoting heart health and reducing stress. It has garnered a global following among wellness enthusiasts seeking natural remedies for modern-day ailments. Moreover, Rooibos has become a symbol of wellness and rejuvenation.”

Rooibos, boosting wellness tourism to South Africa

an experienced female instructor meditates in the park practices yoga does stretching and exercises

Against this backdrop, she believes the Rooibos industry stands poised to leverage its natural bounty to drive wellness tourism and boost the local economy in the following ways:

#1 Wellness retreats amidst Rooibos plantations

Tea plantation

“Imagine waking up to the sight of lush Rooibos fields stretching as far as the eye can see, with the scent of Rooibos wafting through the air. Wellness retreats nestled among Rooibos plantations offer tourists a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the serenity of nature while indulging in Rooibos-infused spa treatments, yoga sessions and meditation practices. These retreats provide a holistic experience that rejuvenates the body, mind and soul, drawing wellness seekers from around the globe to South Africa’s doorstep.”

#2 Rooibos tasting tours

For the curious palate, Rooibos tasting tours offer an exploration of flavour and aroma, guided by experts who unveil the nuances of Rooibos varieties. “Visitors can sip on freshly brewed Rooibos while learning about its cultivation, processing and health benefits. These immersive experiences not only showcase the country’s rich tea heritage but also support local Rooibos farmers and tea/tisane artisans, creating a sustainable link between tourism and agriculture.”

#3 Rooibos Spa and wellness packages

Spa massage face treatment

She says while many of the country’s luxury resorts and wellness retreats have embraced Rooibos as a cornerstone of their spa and wellness offerings, there is a compelling case for doing so. “Firstly, Rooibos possesses remarkable antioxidant properties, making it a natural contender for skincare. Its abundance in polyphenols helps combat free radicals, slowing down the ageing process and promoting radiant, youthful skin. Incorporating Rooibos extracts into facials or body wraps can revitalise and rejuvenate the skin, offering clients a holistic wellness experience. Rooibos also boasts anti-inflammatory properties, making it an ideal ingredient for soothing massages and aromatherapy sessions. Integrating Rooibos into spa therapies also aligns with the growing demand for sustainable and locally sourced ingredients.”

#4 Rooibos Culinary experiences

Tasty summer picnic with fresh tea and croissants on the beach at sunset.

Beyond the teacup, Rooibos inspires culinary creativity, infusing dishes with its distinctive flavour profile and healthful properties. Culinary tours and cooking classes allow not only tourists but also locals to discover the versatility of Rooibos in the kitchen, from savoury stews and marinades to sweet desserts and baked goods. By showcasing Rooibos as a culinary ingredient, SA’s food tourism scene gains a unique selling point, attracting foodies eager to explore the country’s vibrant gastronomic landscape.

“Wellness tourism holds immense potential to drive economic growth, promote sustainable development, and showcase the country’s natural beauty to the world. By highlighting the ecological benefits of Rooibos cultivation and promoting sustainable practices within the wellness tourism sector, South Africa can further enhance its appeal as a responsible and forward-thinking destination for wellness-minded travellers worldwide,” says du Toit.

Conclusion

With a growing concern for creating a work-life balance, a positive body, mind, and soul connection, and life optimization, travellers are expressing a need for travel experiences that boost their wellness lifestyle.

Rooibos is becoming the game changer for South African Wellness tourism. By offering unique experiences such as wellness retreats in Rooibos plantations, tasting tours, a spa day where you can immerse yourself in the smells and tastes of Rooibos, and several culinary experiences, South Africa is leading the way.

South Africa is waiting for you to come and experience not only our friendly hospitality, exceptional accommodations, and vibrant culture.

Brigette Taim of Meropa supplied the article, which was compiled in collaboration with the South Africa Rooibos Council (SARC).

Related article

Bibliography

Global Wellness Institute. (2021). Global Wellness Institute, The Global Wellness Economy: Look-ing Beyond COVID, December 2021

Kontic, Ljiljana & Todosijević, Miloš & Kontic, Jovan. (2022). Wellness as a Key Factor for the Sustainable Development of Tourism in Serbia. 10.31410/tmt.2022-2023.317.

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