In an interview, Lutz Lungwitz, President of the German Medical Wellness Association and vice-president of Global Healthcare Travel Council, Berlin, discusses the different factors that are boosting the country’s position as the preferred Medical Wellness destination.
1) What trends are you noticing within the tourism industry in Germany,what do you think is driving thesetrends and how are you responding?
It has been established that Medical Wellness is the combination of conventional medical services, alternative therapies and offers the relaxation of a traditional spa. Therefore, Medical Wellness could be advertised in hotels, clinics, hospitals and day-spas.Firstly, the sustainable trend in the tourism industry in Germany is growing. Germany was well known for its outgoing tourism sector but has a fast-growing incoming tourism sector too. The country sees a growing number of tourists from many European, Asian and American countries. And health and medical wellness tourism plays a growing role in these developments; not only on an international level but on national and regional levels too. Secondly, an ageing Europe and economic challenges are playing a big role and creating an impact on the future markets of health and medical wellness tourism in Europe and in Germany in particular. The tourismindustry in Germany is getting ready to serve these growing numbers of elderly tourists, whether they are inbound or incoming, who are looking for medical assistance and treatments while on holidays. Another big thing is the digital transformation of the tourism industry. Within the health and medical wellness tourism market, health data management plays a growing role. Today, travelling is connected to the travel of private data and this has tobe safe and have the highest standards of data security. This involves big data, mobility, augmented reality and private data security and brings its share of challenges as well as opportunities. And the German Medical Wellness Association raises awareness, is calling for adaption and delivers consulting for these changes. According to reports, the Medical Wellness industry is set to increase to a billion-dollar market worldwide. This is our basis for the project development for hotels, clinics, day-spa and destinations.
2) How do you stand out from the tourism crowd in Germany, what is unique about your offering?
Medical Wellness tourism is not mainstream tourism. Its orientation means specialisation and differentiation at the same time. It needs a special understanding and a specially designed service for the special needs of the customers – the medical wellness tourists. We were already experts in medical wellness tourism, when it was a very niche market in the global tourism industry. We from the German Medical Wellness Association were the first; and we are well experienced experts now. We can tell, teach, plan, consult and manage the specialisation and differentiation towards a medical wellness orientation for all the different elements in the tourism industry, whether it is a tourist destination, a resort hotel or a tour operator.The uniqueness of our services shows, that we pursue both, regional and international projects, each attempting to “think outside the box”. Likewise, we pursue the goal of a clear positioning of the customer, if desired, in the medical wellness and rehabilitation market. Over the past few years, the field of Medical Wellness has expanded to include projects for healthy ageing and healthy living. Likewise, the medical device industry is developing new, interesting measurement methods, to support medical wellness. Healthy, active ageing is one of its core tasks.
3) What types of tourist are currently visiting Germany and where are they from?
Germany is a leading international destination for cultural tourists. Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, all are destinations famous for a unique combination of history, heritage and modern urbanity. When you think of Destination Germany, you think of Oktoberfest and Goethe, Bauhaus and Berlin, Hamburg Cruise Days and Cologne Street Carnival. But within the huge streams of tourists from all over the world there are growing numbers of medical wellness and health tourism tourists. With the rising middle classes in developing and emerging countries, a sustainable growing stream of tourists will come to enjoy the cultural divers and heritage rich destination that is Germany. Currently, the country is visited by a high number of young people from all over the world. This is due to the flagship destination and tourism magnet of Berlin, with all the low-cost carriers landing in the city. An oversupply of economic accommodation (hostels and high quality one-star hotels) eases the overnight stays of young people in Berlin.French and Italian tourists are also flocking in, due to a lower cost of living. Swiss citizens amplify their visits to Germany, due to an extremely strong and sudden increase of travel expenses inside Switzerland. Chinese and Japanese travellers opt for round-trip packages to travel from North to South (Berlin, Cologne, Heidelberg, Black Forest, and Bavarian Castles).These experiences with a large number of international tourists in Germany and Europe are helpful for us, for further developing of medical wellness hotels and resorts.
4) In which way investment capital/private equity could be used?
Of course, we try to invest in the market and find investors for Medical Wellness Hotels & Resorts, Clinics & Spa, but we also will share our expertise with international partners. So, we are very open to develop new international projects in different countries in the field of medical wellness, rehabilitation-programmes, elder-care, clinics and more, future life. We are happy to work with international partners to develop trend-setting and financially feasible projects.
5) Tell us about your role in terms of promoting Medical Wellness?
The German Medical Wellness Association (founded in the year 2004, www.dmwv.de) the umbrella organisation for Medical Wellness in Germany, is a member of the International Medical Wellness Association and it’s a part of the travel-trade industry, specialised for health and wellness. It is a non-government organisation, but in contact with the federal ministry for health and with the federal ministry of economic affairs and energy, department of tourism. One of its targets is the development of international health tourism programmes, international exchange programmes and the development of future concepts for the medical industry and hotels and clinics. We are also developing some special education programmes for medical wellness, so the industry can get well-educated employees. (AH)
Lutz Lungwitz is the President of the German Medical Wellness Association and vice-president of Global Healthcare Travel Council, Berlin.