Wellness Tourism Scams: Medicine for Healthy People

March 11, 2019

Medical tourism -- and medical treatment in general -- is limited by the fact that there are only so many sick people at any given time. Wouldn’t it be great if we could expand the customer base to include, well, healthy people? Welcome to wellness tourism!

“Wellness” is such a vague term that it can mean almost anything anyone might want it to mean. Basically it is the opposite of “illness,” so it can be more or less a synonym of “health.” But in the world of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), “wellness” has taken on a life of its own. In this philosophical model, standard medicine is focused on diseases and symptoms (arguably a slanderous accusation), whereas wellness is concerned with healthy lifestyle and “holistic” wellbeing.

In truth, every sane person is in favor of promoting healthy lifestyles to avoid illness and promote wellbeing. In practice, however, the wellness craze has created a market for medicine for healthy people. Nowhere is this more obvious than the burgeoning field of wellness tourism. People are spending over half a trillion dollars a year on this business, and it’s growing faster than most. Of this money, around $90 billion is spent by people whose entire purpose of travel is to engage in wellness activities. The rest, a considerable majority, engage in some sort of wellness endeavors as part of an overall vacation package.

But what are we even talking about here? What is a “wellness activity” with regards to wellness tourism?

It can be as simple as a visit to the hotel spa or a day trip to a hot springs in the midst of a vacation, but the big growth is in dedicated wellness tourism, often referred to as “retreats.” A wellness retreat is a lot like a regular vacation, but with much more emphasis placed on specific activities intended to address the visitor’s physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing. These can be according to ancient philosophies, such as Ayurveda or traditional Chinese medicine, they can be devoted to various New Age concepts such as detox or life coaching, or they can be a mixture of various ideas. The visitor’s goal may be weight loss, depression relief, or more nebulous wellbeing or “reboot” goals.

Some of these retreats are found in the countries that have been associated with the relevant cultural practices for thousands of years. As such, wellness tourism has been booming in India, Thailand, Bali, and many other places. But it is also huge in the United States, Europe, and most other developed nations.

Of course, with such ambiguous definitions of means and goals, and with so much money being spent, the field is ripe for every kind of scam and fraud. These can range from grossly substandard facilities to insufficient or incompetent staff, and even dangerous, harmful, or abusive situations. Victims of wellness tourism fraud can find it difficult to have their injustices redressed within their home countries, and of course the situation is even worse for those who traveled overseas.

The good news is that you have MyChargeBack to help you. We are an international fund recovery service headquartered in New York, and we have recovered over $10 million for our clients on every continent. If you have been the victim of a wellness tourism scam, contact MyChargeBack today for a free consultation.