What Is Unethical Health and Wellness Tourism?

The medical tourism business model has a major problem. Very succinctly, there are only so many sick people at any given time. That being the case, the only way medical tourism operators can expand their business is by expanding their customer base. And the easiest way to do that is by offering services to include healthy people too. The result is “wellness tourism.” Of course, that opened the door for scammers, who want their piece of the action, too. The result is wellness tourism scams.

“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.” Therefore, it can be more or less a synonym of “health.” But in the world of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), “wellness” takes on a life of its own. In this philosophical model, while standard medicine focuses on diseases and symptoms, wellness concerns itself instead with healthy lifestyles and “holistic” wellbeing.

Of course, every sane person is in favor of promoting a healthy lifestyle. We all want to avoid illness and promote wellbeing. But the wellness craze inadvertently created a market for medicine for healthy people. Nowhere is this more obvious than the burgeoning field of wellness tourism. This is a business worth half a trillion dollars a year! And it’s growing at a faster rate than most others.

Most people who sign up for wellness tourism do so as part of an overall vacation package. But a significant minority of aficionados spend around $90 billion a year just on traveling to wherever it is they engage in their wellness activities.

Why Do People Fall for Wellness Tourism Scams?

Wellness tourism can combine something as simple as a harmless 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. Another term for such programs is “retreats.” And a lot of them are scams. A wellness retreat is a lot like a regular vacation, but with a much greater emphasis on specific activities intended to address the visitor’s physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing.

Often, these retreats are heavily into ancient alternatives to modern medicine, such as Ayurveda or traditional Chinese medicine. Or they focus on various New Age concepts such as detox or life coaching. Some are a mix various fads. True, the specific goals of the participants may be weight loss, depression relief or more nebulous wellbeing or “reboot” goals. But they may opt for these retreats simply because up until now nothing else works for them. Not because they know anything about the exotic philosophy or fad.

They’re Not Just in Exotic Locales

To make it all look more authentic, as well as to reduce expenses, many of these retreats take place in exotic locales. Especially in the countries where the disciplines on display originated thousands of years ago. As a result, wellness tourism scams are a booming business in India, Thailand, Bali, and many other exotic venues. But they are 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 scams can find it difficult to address the injustice in their own countries. And the situation is even worse for those who traveled overseas.

The good news is that you have MyChargeBack to help you. We are an American fund recovery service with a global focus that assists our clients on every continent. If you are the victim of a wellness tourism scam, contact MyChargeBack today for a free consultation.