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Travel for wellness

by Heather Leggett

PhD researcher Cornelia Voigt with her Sir Frank Moore AwardPhD candidate Cornelia Voigt has won an award for her groundbreaking research into the wellness tourism phenomenon.

The School of Management researcher, who recently completed her PhD, is the recipient of the Sir Frank Moore Award for Excellence in PhD research, awarded for outstanding research in the tourism field by the Sustainable Tourism Cooperative Research Centre (STCRC).

Cornelia was selected from a number of PhD researchers from around Australia, all of whom had been awarded a research grant from the STCRC to conduct their research, jointly funded by their respective universities.

Cornelia’s research is the first of its kind in Australia, exploring the reasons why people become ‘wellness tourists’, visiting beauty spas, spiritual retreats and lifestyle resorts.

“Wellness tourism, where people travel to improve their health or wellbeing, is one of the fastest growing tourism offerings in the world, particularly over the last five years,” Cornelia says.

“But despite this rapid growth, I couldn’t find much research on the phenomenon in the English language, in particular any research that compared different types of wellness tourists, their motivations and current lifestyles.”

Cornelia conducted interviews and sent questionnaires to wellness tourists to explore the benefits they sought from their holiday and the extent to which they linked their experiences to ‘wellness’.

She found that the three groups differed in their current lifestyles and motivations for travel.

“Beauty spa visitors had the unhealthiest lifestyle of all wellness tourists, but they were also the happiest,” Cornelia says. “Spiritual retreat visitors seemed to have the healthiest lifestyle overall.

“I also discovered that beauty spa visitation is taken to improve levels of happiness, while spiritual retreat visitation is taken for personal growth and fulfilment. Lifestyle resort visitors seem to be seeking a mix of both.”

Study into the travel industry is no stretch for Cornelia, a keen traveller who moved to Australia from Germany in 2003. Her professional background is in marketing, and she worked as a web designer for a number of years, before deciding to focus on her academic career.

Cornelia completed a Master of Strategic Marketing at the University of Wollongong, where she had a taste of marketing in the tourism industry. She came to Adelaide with her husband in 2005 and decided to enrol in a PhD at UniSA, focusing on the tourism field.

Cornelia says that while her research has been a lot of hard work, it has also been very rewarding.

“Receiving the research scholarship from the STCRC and UniSA was rewarding in itself, but to also win the Sir Frank Moore Award was overwhelming,” she says. “I am extremely proud.

“One of the greatest advantages of being in the STCRC program was being able to meet other PhD students, some whom I got to know really well. The people in the program are doing amazing research.

“I’m especially proud that my research will have practical applications. Understanding differences between wellness tourist groups and their motivations allows wellness tourism providers to tailor their communication efforts and product or service developments to wellness tourists’ expectations.”

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