Destination Marketing – The Wellness Opportunity

Last week I sat on a panel at Maldives Wellness Summit. During the Q&A I finally worked out what the end game was for the organizers. This was a destination marketing play. They were hoping to establish Maldives as a wellness destination.

I have to say, I’m generally not a big fan of trying to educate an entire market. It just takes too much time and usually lots of money. And it gets even harder when you need to first get them to unlearn something before you teach them the new thing. And that’s really what these folks were hoping to do.

The Sunny Side of Wellness

For several years, the Maldives has been marketed using the slogan – The Sunny Side of Life. Admittedly, it’s not the most imaginative of slogans. It could equally apply to any number of other tourist destinations. Still, it does kinda give you a good idea of what you’ll get – a fun time in the sun. Islands, beaches, diving, water sports, etc. This is why most tourist come to the Maldives. The Sunny Side of Life speaks to that.

Maldives – Your Wellness Getaway doesn’t quite speak to the majority of visitors to the Maldives. Indeed, if you were to survey those who are currently making the trip, you’d probably find wellness is far from the minds of most. Relaxation and indulgence, from what I’ve observed in my 15 plus years living, working and holidaying in the Maldives, would be top of the list.

To be fair, the Maldives does have plenty of the components needed for a wellness destination. Ingredients. Fresh air, pristine beaches, abundant reefs and waters all around. And there are also a few resorts that have embraced wellness in every aspect, not just in the spa. Six Senses, for example got their start in the Maldives, long before Wellness became a thing.

So, is this really enough for the whole country to be considered a Wellness Destination? Probably not. Although it is a pretty good start. Certainly, it potentially offers a solid foundation from which to launch a serious destination wellness campaign.

But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Why not?

Wellness or Uniqueness?

Well, wellness in and of itself, isn’t really unique. It’s all the rage, sure. But not necessarily unique. You could have a wellness destination in the middle of city, or in a remote desert, or in a jungle. Just about anywhere. So that means that no matter what it does, Maldives will probably never own the position in the mind of the majority of travellers as a Wellness Destination. Most people will always see the Maldives for what it is – an amazing island nation, made up of 26 atolls and over 1,000 coral islands, with some of the best marine environments anywhere in the world.

When you think fashion, you probably think of Paris or Milan. Think gambling and casinos, you probably think Las Vegas or Macau. When you think IT startups, you probably think Silicon Valley. Of course, all of these destinations could change their focus. For example, instead of Brand Paris being all about fashion, the city might decide to focus on technology. But it would take some time before the world at large accepted this new identity. They’d have to first unlearn Paris as the home of fashion and then relearn Paris as the hub of technology.

Wellness with a Twist

I don’t disagree that Maldives should try to look beyond the Sunny Side of Life. But if it wants to be known for Wellness, it needs to at least put their own unique spin on it. Forest Bathing was a trend identified in the Spafinder Wellness 365 2015 Trends Report. The idea is that being at one with nature can help people achieve a higher state of well-being. Maybe Coral Reef Bathing could offer the same? Or maybe they can uncover some traditional Maldivian healing techniques or native medicines? Perhaps the island’s sand, formed by crushed corals, has a unique composition to aid skin rejuvenation?

Without some elements like this, I don’t think Maldives really can or should become a Wellness Destination.

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