Why wellness tourism is on the rise in the Philippines

The feel-good factor

By Delna Mistry Anand

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Published: Thu 15 Jun 2023, 9:39 PM

The Philippines, known for its white sand beaches, expansive forests, and famous diving spots, also offers a rich contrast of ancient landmarks and modern skyscrapers. But beyond this, the country holds a rich history of healing practices that date back to the 16th century at the start of Spanish colonisation. Traditionally, the Filipino healing system takes a holistic view of the individual, including environmental factors that affect a person’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. With the introduction of Western medicine, traditional and herbal therapies paved the way for modern wellness.

In today’s times, more and more people are acknowledging the need for wellness breaks — be it solo or even with families — giving the wellness tourism industry an unprecedented surge. Rather than focusing on entertainment and sight-seeing, travellers now seek rejuvenation, relaxation, and holistic experiences, which is exactly what makes the Philippines an attractive destination for wellness seekers.

A remarkable diversity of landscapes, ranging from pristine beaches to lush rainforests, and a topography so distinct from the Middle East, has been attracting tourists to the Philippines. Over the years, the country has turned itself into a dominant hub for medical and wellness treatments provided at affordable prices. While the natural greenery offers a perfect backdrop for meditation, yoga, sound healing, and other rejuvenating practices, the trademark Filipino hospitality offers a nurturing touch of healing and pampering.

“We are giving the Philippines a fighting chance at becoming a tourism powerhouse in Asia. And we recognise that medical tourism and wellness tourism hold one of the keys to this endeavour because we have the people, we have the facilities, and we are adjusting government policies to ensure that the climate for medical tourism to thrive will ensue,” the Department of Tourism said in a statement, quoting Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco.

“People from the Middle East are already familiar with the level of care that Filipinos can give. The culture of care and compassion shown by Filipinos who are in these facilities give us the strategic advantage,” Frasco adds.

Destinations, such as Palawan, Boracay, and Siargao, have gained popularity for their breathtaking beaches, while the rice terraces in Banaue and the Chocolate Hills in Bohol provide a sense of tranquility and oneness with nature.

Wellness retreats and spa resorts, such as Aegle Wellness Center at the Mykonos Village of Balesin Island, Mithi Resort and Spa — a 15-minute leisurely drive from Tagbilaran City, the capital of Bohol Philippines, Niyama Wellness Center at the Anya Resort Tagaytay, and multi-awarded The Farm at San Benito have put the Philippines on the global map for wellness tourists. These establishments provide luxurious accommodations, state-of-the-art facilities, and expert wellness practitioners trained in various therapeutic techniques

“Our guests come from around the world and visit us for various reasons — whether it’s solo travel for medically supervised programmes, couples on romantic getaways, families looking for fun and transformation, or corporate guests on a wellness ‘workation’. We, at The Farm, have designed deeply transformative programmes promoting health and well-being, supported by healing experts, licensed and internationally-trained integrative medical doctors, and highly experienced hospitality professionals,” says Preet Inder Singh, general manager of The Farm at San Benito. “Guests report achieving renewed energy, spiritual enrichment, mental clarity, stronger immunity, glowing skin, and overall cellular healing after their stay with us,” he adds.

Middle Eastern tourists, who have a deep appreciation for age-old practices, find themselves drawn to the country’s traditional healing methods. ‘Hilot’, the ancient Filipino art of healing through touch, is gaining wider recognition for its therapeutic benefits. Other indigenous practices, such as ‘dagdagay’ foot massage and ‘ventosa’ cupping therapy, are also attracting wellness enthusiasts — be it expats in the GCC region or Filipino nationals who’ve made this region their home.

“I have been blessed to live in Dubai for 16 years and to have travelled to more than 50 countries from all over the world but yearly, I always go back to my home country — the Philippines. The natural beauty, world-class wellness resorts, and majestic spa treatments allow a deep sense of healing and rejuvenation, which makes any flight to the Philippines worth it,” says Josh Yugen, Dubai-based Filipino entrepreneur and award-winning writer.

The accessibility and connectivity between the Middle East and the Philippines contribute significantly to tourism, thanks to the increase in daily and weekly direct flights.

The world, post-pandemic, has become more conscious of healthy living and even healthy holidaying. People are constantly seeking new destinations to explore, not just scenically but also for their healing offerings. And when you can enjoy natural greenery, some (much-needed) rainfall, adventure, cultural heritage, holistic wellness, and nurturing hospitality, while having fun and feeling youthful and radiant — all in one place — who can refuse?


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