2. Yoga Tourism as a Niche Market: X. Y. Lehto, S. Brown, Y. Chen & A. M. Morrison
phenomenon. Yoga is not only practised on a daily basis, generalizing and synthesizing previous research work,
but also on vacations. For some people, practising yoga Redekop 1999 defined SIT as niche markets developed by
constitutes the central theme for their vacation. With the specific sites or places for groups or individuals who wish
increase in yoga retreats, seminars and conferences, to develop certain interests and visit sites and places
individuals are using their vacation time to strive for a more connected with a specific subject such as yoga or sports.
balanced life through yoga. However, research on yoga Special-interest tourists tend to share a common hobby or
tourists is virtually non-existent. Since there is less written interest that bonds them.
about the phenomenal growth in yoga tourism, it is essential
to acknowledge and research this area separately from The development of SIT reflects the need of travellers to
‘wellness’ tourism. spend free time more profitably by engaging in cultural,
physical, educational and spiritual activities (WTO 1985).
The phenomenon of yoga tourism is relatively new and Factors such as demographic characteristics, individual or
academic research in this area is in its infancy stage. The group philosophies or ideologies, advances in
shortage of information about the demand for yoga tourism communications and attitudes towards leisure, all have
has made it hard for tourism practitioners to develop and profoundly altered the pattern of demand for tourism and
serve this niche market. There is a need to answer some basic led to the creation of new forms of tourism products (García-
questions about this market. For instance, Who are the yoga Altés 2005). These factors were further demonstrated in
tourists? What motivates individuals to participate in yoga- several research works on SIT. The World Tourism
oriented activities away from home? What types of Organization’s report (1985) on active holidays and special-
destinations and settings do the yoga tourists prefer? What interest tourism revealed that three lifestyle changes had an
are the prominent factors that impact and dictate yoga impact on people’s travel patterns. The role that work served
tourism participation? This study explored this under- to democratize well-being and to produce a widespread
researched market by interviewing and surveying a group consumer society has given way from the traditional
of yoga retreat participants in central Indiana, US. More concentration on material goods to training and education
specifically, this research assessed the underlining and gradually to leisure and holidays. Medical advances
dimensions and factors of yoga tourists’ motivations, and have also contributed significantly to an increasing emphasis
uncovered factors that could potentially influence yoga on the mental health of people living in industrialized and
practitioners’ propensity to travel for yoga purposes. highly automated urban surroundings. In urban and
industrialized centres, leisure and tourism have become
Literature Review essential to health, physical and mental well-being.
Yoga tourism is a subset of wellness tourism, and they Subsequently, people are now demanding more experience-
both fall within the overall realm of special-interest tourism. based tourism products on vacations in addition to being
The literature review examined yoga tourism phenomenon surrounded by pleasant environments. Responding to these
both in the broader context of special-interest tourism and needs, came the rapid development of increasingly
against the more specific setting of wellness tourism. specialized and experience-based tourism product offerings.
Consumer involvement theory that has been applied by Trauer (2005) proposed that SIT tourists’ motivations were
researchers to explain high-involvement products such as multi-faceted in nature. In addition to treating SIT activities
special-interest tourism was also reviewed in an attempt to as status symbols, self-image, or a means to gain social
build some theoretical foundation for this research. acceptance and recognition, SIT was also perceived as
facilitating personal fulfillment, happiness and paradise.
Special-Interest Tourism and Yoga Tourism SIT research has embraced yoga tourism as one of the
The development of tourism has been accompanied by subjects within its typology. As early as 1985, the World
a diversification of tourist motivations and competition Tourism Organization placed yoga within five groups of
among similar products from a variety of destinations. special-interest and active holidays under the category of
special-interest tourism (SIT) has grown against this social life and competition (WTO 1985). SIT has increasingly
background to become an important niche market for captured the attention of researchers, as is evident in the
destinations that are growing or expanding their market increasing amount of conceptual and empirical research
shares (Weiler and Hall 1992). A number of researchers have work on this subject. However, few existing studies on SIT
proposed definitions for SIT from various perspectives have dealt directly with yoga tourism as a form of SIT.
(Brotherton and Himmetoglu 1997; Douglas et al. 2001; Read Nonetheless, SIT development and conceptualization
1980; Redekop 1999; Weiler and Hall 1992; WTO 1985). By provides a general background and support for the growth
26 Tourism Recreation Research Vol. 31, No. 1, 2006
3. Yoga Tourism as a Niche Market: X. Y. Lehto, S. Brown, Y. Chen & A. M. Morrison
of and research on yoga tourism. ‘For many, yoga means spiritual nourishment. But for others,
it’s just, well, nourishment’. That is, the varying levels of
Yoga tourism is well developed within the SIT attitude towards yoga could lead to different behavioural
programmes of several destinations, such as India, the origin and psychological outcomes. From this overall framework
of yoga activity, where flocks of yoga practitioners spend of SIT, the ‘special-ness’ of the activities and the ‘special-
their vacations (Yoga Tourism: online) and Turkey, where ness’ of the tourists can be discerned.
yoga breaks were offered in 2003 near Antalya on the
country’s southern coast as a part of the Turkey special- Wellness Tourism and Yoga Tourism
interest and activity holiday series (Yoga Breaks Offered
2003). For destinations, yoga tourism is a product concept The relevant wellness tourism literature is reviewed in
that is based on ‘celebrating your destination with yoga’ this section as it provides a conceptual and methodological
(‘Concept of yoga tourism’: online). While introducing yoga backdrop for researching yoga tourism. Travelling to improve
practices, retreats, or seminars into visitors’ itineraries, the an individual’s health, such as through cruising or a change
yoga tourism experience is usually provided together with in climate, has long been a motive for travel (Mathieson and
enjoying local art, history, monuments and nature. As Wall 1982). The earliest form of health tourism dates back to
demonstrated in various yoga tourism programmes, the hub two millennia ago in India, Greece and Persia, at a time when
and the theme in this form of tourism is the yoga practice, Greek physicians espoused the therapeutic values of
around which the total travel experience is planned and particular environments (Douglas et al. 2001). Mineral baths
developed. This form of tourism is well suited as a component and spas in England, Baden-Baden in Germany and Vichy
of the larger context of SIT, which has been growing to fulfil in France were the most famous places and are still popular
travellers’ unique needs by developing customized special- places to visit (Douglas et al. 2001). As a result of the
interest travel experiences or products. increasing physical, moral and spiritual ‘damage’ of urban
living at the turn of the century, wellness tourism has
While there has been no empirical research on yoga witnessed a resurgence in contemporary society (Weiler and
tourism, there has been some initial exploration in trade Hall 1992). The escape or ‘push’ from a mundane, alienating
articles on yoga tourist typologies based on travel motives urban environment has been recognized as a major
(Spence 2001). While spurred by the broad environmental motivating force in tourism; the desire for a healthy lifestyle,
changes and lifestyle movements, yoga tourism motivations which is a significant intrinsic reward of travel, is also a
were seen as being derived from three important ‘push’ major contributor (Weiler and Hall 1992). Capitalizing on
factors that served as the drawing factors for people to go for this resurgence, tourism industry practitioners have
yoga trips and vacations and thus fuelled the demand for advocated healthy, holistic type of vacations. Lederman
yoga tourism (The Best of Kerala 2005; Spence 2001). The (1996) suggests that a vacation should affect a person in a
first push factor is to ‘get away from routine work’ that could meaningful and permanent way. In her book ‘Vacations That
help balance work with wellness and relaxation during or Can Change Your Life’, she profiles holistic vacations that
after work. As reflected in yoga trip and vacation offerings, address the ‘whole person’ by fully integrating mind, body,
yoga breaks have been offered as the main activity or are and spirit. She also lists retreats that have a spiritual focus;
included as part of travel packages targeted at those who describes adventures that heal the body or mind/spirit after
seek relief from the ‘work battlefield’. The second push factor abuse, trauma, substance abuse, or illness; and details a
is to ‘seek an authentic yoga experience’ in which yoga lovers variety of learning vacations that teach specific skills such
look forward to quality and specific care and authentic yoga as foreign languages, defensive driving, backpacking, music,
training courses. Travellers in this group tend to be very art, crafts, writing, homebuilding, and cooking. The central
knowledgeable in the subject area of yoga and practice it benefit for the provision of these activities is to maintain and
frequently. The yoga tours promoted by entities such as the improve psychological and physical health and functions,
yoga associations and magazines are mostly targeted at this according to Lederman.
group of travellers (Hill 2004). The third push factor is to
‘enjoy yoga fun’, which motivates travellers to enjoy yoga as While health and wellness tourism has historically
a fun activity while they spend their vacations away from been present in tourism, it has long been dominated by the
home. Yoga tours are well incorporated in some vacation sub-sector of spa tourism, the initial form of health and
packages such as beach or seaside vacations, and wellness tourism. The spa business has witnessed renewed
honeymoons (Searle 2005; Sternthal 2005). Individuals with popularity in contemporary society and has burgeoned into
these motivations constitute the majority of the yoga tourist a $10.7 billion industry. The number of destinations, resorts,
group; however, they may participate in different activities and day spas has risen to about 9,600 in the US and 1,300 in
and travel in various patterns. As Klein (2002) indicated, Canada (Fodor 2003). The growth in the number of hotels
Tourism Recreation Research Vol. 31, No. 1, 2006 27
4. Yoga Tourism as a Niche Market: X. Y. Lehto, S. Brown, Y. Chen & A. M. Morrison
and resort spas has been outpaced by the growth in the problems, and relieving, or alleviating, stress or depression.
overall spa industry, according to a 2002 survey In this context, yoga tourism, similar to the general wellness
commissioned by the International Spa Association, the tourism programmes, may fulfil these needs. The wellness
largest trade association for spa professionals. tourism literature to a large extent provides a theoretical
platform and methodological measurements for constructing
Several definitions for health and wellness tourism a basic research model on yoga tourism.
were proposed, based on the spa tourism model. For example,
Mel Zuckerman’s definition (Verschuren 2004), proposed In synthesizing the literature on special-interest tourism
in the early 1980s, was arguably regarded as the best and health and wellness tourism, and their relationships
description of health and wellness tourism though with yoga tourism, this research proposed that:
containing more information on spa tourism:
Proposition 1: There are varying motivational factors
Today’s total spa-places providing programmes devoted to that underlie the yoga tourism phenomenon.
an individual’s health and fitness, redesigned to make the
guests feel significantly better than when they arrived. Proposition 2: Individuals’ mental and physical well-
The combination of fun, exercise, a healthy and balanced
diet, pampering relaxation, and education on managing
being influences their propensity to travel as yoga tourists.
stress offers magnificent chance for renewal. A spa is a
comfortable environment in which to learn how to use the Leisure Involvement
tools of life enhancement and get motivated to back into the
real world and practice what they have learned. Involvement theory was originally introduced in the
social sciences literature, but has been adopted and studied
While yoga tourism used to be placed within the extensively in the field of marketing and consumer behaviour,
category of social life and competition or sport sector by the especially in the context of leisure and recreation. According
WTO (1985), it is mostly regarded as a sub-category of health to Rothchild (1984) and Kapferer and Laurent (1985),
or wellness tourism as they share common functional involvement is ‘an unobservable state of motivation, arousal
characteristics in travel motivations and social values, which or interest. It is evoked by a particular stimulus or situation
emphasize improving an individual’s quality of life and and has drive properties and behavioral consequences’.
involve relatively active participation, often in outdoor Tourism researchers have adopted involvement theory from
settings (Weiler and Hall 1992). Yoga tourism and spa leisure studies. Most research in leisure and tourism has
tourism appear to share some common features in terms of centred on the enduring properties of leisure and recreation
why individuals pursue them. They sometimes share activities and their relationship with ego (Havitz and
common spaces, too, with a significant number of yoga Dimanche 1997). According to Havitz and Dimanche (1997),
programmes offered in the spas, resorts and retreats’ settings leisure involvement is used to refer to how people think about
(Fodor 2003). leisure and recreation and their behaviour consequences
such as the individual’s engagement with various
The search for wellness is derived from both physical
recreational activities and associated products, leisure
and mental conditions. Wellness elements include exercise,
services, or settings. Researchers have considered
a healthy diet, use of vitamins/supplements, following a
involvement from various perspectives. Attempts to measure
prescribed personal programme, and fulfilling emotional,
involvement in the recreation and tourism literature have
mental or spiritual needs (Verschuren 2004). Moreover,
generally focused on the antecedents or the behavioural
today’s health and wellness consumer seeks to look and feel
consequences of involvement (Havitz and Dimanche 1990).
better, to lose weight, to slow the effects of ageing, to relieve
It is apparent that antecedents or consequences of
pain or discomfort, to manage stress, or to partake in the use
involvement offer insights into understanding tourists’
of natural supplements like vitamins and minerals to
behavioural tendencies. They give directions to product and
improve their health (Gold Coast City: online). While these
service development and are of very practical value for
elements serve as underlying factors for the booming wellness
targeted marketing programmes. Accordingly, this research
tourism phenomenon, they may also represent many of the
also proposed that:
factors that influence yoga tourists’ travel motivations.
Besides the elements shared with health and wellness Proposition 3: Different levels of involvement with yoga
tourism, yoga tourism particularly represents holistic, will lead to varying levels of propensity to travel as yoga
naturopathic, alternative, aboriginal, Eastern medicinal tourists.
practices/therapies that meet the demand for fitness
improvement, healthy lifestyle education, nutrition The dimensionality of involvement has been a critical
counselling, healing, preventative medicine, solving personal issue for researchers. They have devoted most effort towards
28 Tourism Recreation Research Vol. 31, No. 1, 2006
5. Yoga Tourism as a Niche Market: X. Y. Lehto, S. Brown, Y. Chen & A. M. Morrison
conceptually exploring and refining its measures and yoga destinations and additional motivational factors.
constructs. Many researchers treated involvement as uni-
dimensional and tended to use single-faceted scales to Measures and Statistical Analysis
measure it. Others treated involvement as a multi-faceted
l Eighteen Likert-scale statements were employed to
concept. Havitz and Dimanche (1990, 1997) proposed that
capture the respondents’ motivations for taking yoga-
multi-faceted scales are more appropriate than single-faceted
centred leisure trips. Since there were no prior
scales for measuring leisure and tourism involvement, and
measurement scales tested or proven for use to assess
hence proposed a four-faceted concept that they would
yoga tourism motivation, the 18 measurement
represent enduring leisure involvement. The four facets were
statements for this study were developed based on an
extensive review of the yoga literature, input from yoga
Leisure Involvment experts (yoga instructors) and traditions of travel
1 Attraction: the perceived interest/importance of motivational scales.
the product or activities, a pleasure or hedonic l A five-item scale was used to measure the respondents’
value of the product or activities derived from general sense of mental well-being including their
participation or use; assessment of general satisfaction about life, how they
2 Sign or symbolic value attributed by the consumer felt about jobs, family relationships, and other social
to the product, its purchase or consumption; relations such as with colleagues and friends.
3 Centrality to lifestyle: including both social
l A five-item Likert scale was developed to assess
contexts such as friends and families-centred
respondents’ level of involvement with yoga. The
around activities and the central role of the
involvement scale was adapted from Havitz and
activities in an individual’s life;
Dimanche’s (1997) multi-dimensional definition of
4 The perceived risk associated with the product involvement.
Source: Havitz and Dimanche 1997 The data analysis followed a three-step procedure:
(1) Mean and frequency analysis were first used to provide
This research followed the multi-dimensionality of
a general profile of the sampled respondents.
involvement argument and designed measurement
statements for yoga involvement based on the four facets (2) Factor analysis was performed on the 18 motivational
proposed by Havitz and Dimanche 1997. statements. Factor analysis is a multivariate statistical
method for dimensionalizing data and detecting
Data and Methodology structure. For this research, it was employed to detect
Self-administered surveys were distributed to 80 underlying dimensions of yoga tourism, thus
individuals at a yoga retreat that was held in a Midwest US addressing the aforementioned proposition one, i.e.,
resort in October 2004. A total of 75 retreat participants there are varying motivational factors that underlie the
responded to the survey questions. The questionnaire yoga tourism phenomenon. While factor scores were
collected information about generated through the factor analysis, the mean values
of each original motivational statement were used
(1) yoga vacation motivations; while assessing yoga tourism motivations. The decision
to go for original statements instead of using factor
(2) yoga vacation trip characteristics such as travel party scores was due to the small sample size in this study.
composition, money spent, and destination Additionally, by using the original statements, more
preferences; variation in motivations was captured.
(3) perceived physical well-being, mental well-being, and (3) Lastly, multiple regression analysis was conducted.
yoga involvement levels; and Multiple linear regression attempts to model the
(4) socio-demographic factors. relationship between two or more explanatory variables
and a response variable by fitting a linear equation to
To obtain information not captured by the structured the observed data. In this research, it was used to assess
survey questions, a comment card was also given to all how well an individual’s mental and physical well-
participants for them to give feedback on preferences about being along with their yoga involvement level could
Tourism Recreation Research Vol. 31, No. 1, 2006 29
6. Yoga Tourism as a Niche Market: X. Y. Lehto, S. Brown, Y. Chen & A. M. Morrison
predict their likelihood to take yoga trips These yoga tourists were highly involved with
(aforementioned propositions 2 and 3) and what the practising yoga on a daily basis. Half of the respondents
relative importance of these factors are. (50.7 per cent) were avidly practising yoga either on a daily
basis or once every two days. The majority of the respondents
Research Findings attended yoga classes at a yoga centre near home (80 per
cent). Half of them (55.2 per cent) had been doing yoga for
Profile of Yoga Tourists five or more years. In terms of their physical and mental
The yoga tourists in general had higher levels of well-being, the overwhelming majority of the yoga tourists
education with over 21.5 per cent holding a Master’s or Ph.D. rated their current physical health condition as good or
degree and another 31.7 per cent holding Bachelor’s degrees. excellent (92.6 per cent). Further, these individuals appeared
In general, the household incomes of yoga tourists were high to be physically very active. Over 80 per cent participated in
with close to 40 per cent reporting incomes of $100,000 and physical exercise regularly (a few times a week or daily).
higher. The respondents were predominantly females (85.9 Further, the yoga tourists also seemed to be happy people.
per cent). More than half of the respondents were middle- They were generally satisfied with their ‘personal life’ (42.9
aged (35–54). The single largest group (45 per cent) of the per cent stating ‘very happy’), ‘family life’ (34.9 per cent
yoga tourists was from either the professional or technical stating ‘very happy’), ‘relationship with colleagues’ (22.6
fields. The types of jobs they held usually required per cent stating ‘very happy’) and ‘job’ (23.3 per cent stating
‘specialized knowledge’ (44 per cent), ‘working with many ‘very happy’), ‘friends’ (33.3 per cent stating ‘very happy’).
people’ (37 per cent), ‘specialized skills’ (36 per cent) and ‘a They also reported that on an average day, they had about
lot of mental effort’ (34 per cent). In contrast, ‘sedentary jobs’ one to two hours to relax and pursue activities that they
(17 per cent), ‘a lot of travelling’ (6 per cent) and ‘a lot of enjoy (63.3 per cent).
physical labour’ (4 per cent) were not common within this
group. On the average, the respondents worked 38.35 hours Factor Analysis of Yoga Tourism Motivations
a week. To assess the dimensionality of yoga tourists’
The top five motivations (based on a one-to-five scale motivational factors, exploratory factor analysis was
with M=five indicating the highest agreement) for going on conducted on the 18 yoga trip motivation statements. The
a yoga trip were: extraction method used was the Principal Components
Analysis with Varimax rotation and Kaiser Normalization.
l ‘to renew myself’ (M = 4.46) Four factors emerged from the analysis (Table 1). They
l ‘to relax’ (M = 4.46) explained 69 per cent of the original variance and they all
carried Eigen values higher than one. By examining the factor
l ‘to be more flexible in body and mind’ (M = 4.42)
loadings of the statements that loaded heavily on each factor,
l ‘to let go of stress from a busy life’ (M = 4.41) these four factors were labelled as: (1) seeking spirituality;
l ‘to help me gain a sense of balance’ (M = 4.38) (2) enhancing mental well-being; (3) enhancing physical
condition; and (4) controlling negative emotions (Figure 1).
In terms of trip characteristics, almost half of the The statement ‘to get away from daily routine’ was excluded
respondents travelled with friends (47.8 per cent), while from all four factors as it failed to load heavily on any of
another 27.5 per cent travelled solo. Travelling with spouses, them (below 0.4 on all four factors). It is not clear as why this
parents or other family members appeared to be not as statement failed to load high on any of the four factors. One
popular. On average, the respondents had taken 2.54 yoga possible explanation could be that yoga practitioners are
trips (with yoga as the primary purpose of the trip) in the integrating yoga into their daily routine and it is a way of
past five years. The majority of the respondents (68.5 per facing ‘real life’ rather than escaping from it.
cent) spent less than $1,250 per trip on an individual basis.
Over half of them (56.5 per cent) stated that they were likely (A) The ‘seeking spirituality’ dimension
or very likely to take another yoga trip in the coming year. 1. ‘To give me clarity in making decisions’,
The respondents were also very well travelled individuals
2. ‘To deepen my spirituality’,
with an average of 5.36 overnight leisure trips over the past
two years. When asked about what would be an ideal location 3. ‘To renew myself’,
or setting for a yoga trip, the consensus seemed to be 4. ‘To meet and interact with people with similar
somewhere ‘warm/sunny/tropical and near water’. Parallel interests’, and
to that, the most frequently mentioned destination was Costa 5. ‘To attend yoga seminars that are not available in
Rica. my home area.’
30 Tourism Recreation Research Vol. 31, No. 1, 2006
7. Yoga Tourism as a Niche Market: X. Y. Lehto, S. Brown, Y. Chen & A. M. Morrison
(B) The ‘enhancing mental well-being’ dimension was where a= the regression constant and 1... k
represented by partial regression coefficients
1. ‘To remember to be happy and grateful’, The dependent variable (Y) was represented by ‘how
2. ‘To let go of stress from a busy life’, likely are you in the coming year to take a yoga trip (yoga as
3. ‘To relax’, the main purpose of trip)’. The independent variables X1, X2,
4. ‘To be more flexible in body and mind’ and X3, X4 were represented by: (1) level of yoga involvement (X1);
(2) physical health condition (X2); (3) general sense of mental
5. ‘To help me gain a sense of balance in life.’ well-being (X3); and (4) income (X4).
(C) The third dimension, ‘enhancing physical condition’ was
represented by The literature indicates that an individual’s level of
1. ‘To exercise’, involvement with a particular activity can lead to
behavioural consequences. Therefore, the level of
2. ‘To strengthen my muscles, especially arms and involvement with yoga (X 1) was used as one of the
abdominal’, independent variables. Past research has shown that
3. ‘To tone my body’ and involvement, the emotional status with an object or activity,
4. ‘To keep me from overeating.’ is a multi-dimensional construct. Applying Havitz and
(D) The last dimension on controlling negative emotions’ was Dimanche’s 1997 multi-dimensional definition of
represented by two statements: involvement, the construct of ‘yoga involvement’ was
represented by the following statements:
1. ‘To help me not get angry’ and
2. ‘To help me not feel anxious.’ ‘I feel my life is fulfilled through yoga and meditation’
Multiple Regression ‘Yoga and meditation is an important part of my life’
In order to examine factors that potentially influence ‘The spirit of yoga is similar to my values’
the likelihood of taking a yoga trip in the coming year,
‘If there is a conflict of schedule, I prefer to go for yoga than
multiple regression analysis was used. The model tested was other activities’, and
explained as follows:
‘ I can spend a whole day doing yoga and meditation without
doing anything else’.
Y= + 1X1 + 2X2... + kXk
Table 1. Exploratory Factor Analysis on Yoga Trip Motivations
Motivations Factor 1 Factor 2 Factor 3 Factor 4
To relax -0.20508 0.715415 0.119698 0.452634
To let go of stress from a busy life -0.06017 0.697536 0.32983 0.25826
To excise 0.02305 0.496708 0.635044 0.03401
To remember to be happy and grateful 0.449671 0.739983 0.088374 0.142957
To strengthen my muscles -0.03921 0.089862 0.914834 0.046652
To tone my body 0.10416 0.236258 0.848105 0.128143
To be more flexible in body and mind 0.330701 0.701029 0.393358 0.081677
To help me not get angry 0.317915 0.333722 0.176854 0.740739
To help me not feel anxious 0.428451 0.356309 0.010555 0.66946
To keep me from overeating 0.193232 0.036775 0.569451 0.535475
To give me clarity in making decisions 0.749796 0.099837 0.217224 0.24991
To deepen my spirituality 0.84064 0.332391 0.04078 0.077471
To attend yoga seminars that are not available in my home area 0.645671 0.072006 0.069341 0.262647
To meet and interact with people with similar interests 0.789441 -0.04723 -0.00426 0.147213
To get away from daily routines 0.276023 0.016378 0.352485 0.314288
To renew myself 0.568722 0.426268 0.251193 -0.12471
To help me gain a sense of balance in life 0.43691 0.721272 0.143279 0.081915
To improve my physical health 0.196741 0.239494 0.762085 0.079034
Tourism Recreation Research Vol. 31, No. 1, 2006 31
8. Yoga Tourism as a Niche Market: X. Y. Lehto, S. Brown, Y. Chen & A. M. Morrison
These statements represented the centrality, or the yoga trip. The positive signs for yoga involvement, physical
importance of yoga to one’s life. The Cronbach’s Alpha value health, and mental well-being indicated that all three factors
was high at 0.85, indicating good internal consistency for would positively influence participation in a yoga trip. The
the five statements. An index of the additive value of all five size of the standardized coefficient for each independent
statements was used to represent the involvement construct. variable represents the effect size of the independent variables
on the dependent variable. For example, the effect size of
The yoga literature revealed that enhancing one’s yoga involvement with the likelihood of taking a yoga trip
physical condition is one of the key motivations for partaking was 0.30, indicating that a one unit increase in yoga
in yoga. Self-evaluation of physical health (X2) was used as involvement will result in 0.30 unit increase in likelihood of
the second independent variable for possible contributing taking a yoga trip while holding all the other independent
factor for going on a yoga trip. The literature also suggests variables constant. Similarly, the effect sizes for physical
that yoga participants are motivated by an increasing sense health condition and mental well-being were 0.35 and 0.22,
of balance and happiness. Five Likert-scale sense of respectively.
happiness variables were used to represent the sense of
happiness and well-being (X3). These statements were: The tolerance statistic, an indicator for multi-colinearity
level, was much higher than 0.20, indicating that that there
‘I feel happy about my job’, ‘I feel happy about my personal
life’, ‘I feel happy about my family life’, ‘I feel happy about
were no significant multi-colinearity problems among the
my relationship with my colleagues’, and ‘I feel happy independent variables. This indicates good stability of the
about my relationship with friends.’ beta coefficients. The Durbin-Watson statistic at 1.972
indicates uncorrelated error terms, again indicating a good
The Cronbach’s Alpha value was as high at 0.81, fit of the model.
indicating good internal consistency of the abvoe five
The past literature in tourism has shown that income Physical
level has a strong influence on an individual’s ability to
travel. The income variable (X4) was introduced in the model
to account for variances determined by a person’s financial
freedom to engage in leisure travel. As indicated by Table 2,
the overall model was significant at the p = 0.05 level. The Yoga Enhancing
model accounted for about 28.9 per cent of the variances (R2 Spirituality
= 0.289). Yoga involvement, physical health condition, and
mental well-being were significant (p < 0.05) in explaining
the likelihood of an individual taking a yoga trip. The income
variable was not significant in impacting intention to take a
Table 2. Regression Model: Likelihood of Taking a Yoga Negative
variables Coefficients t Sig. Tolerance
Figure 1. The Dimensionality of Yoga Tourism
involvement 0.30 2.58305 0.012 0.806716
Physical health 0.35 3.178606 0.002 0.896405
being 0.22 2.073409 0.042 0.959502
Discussion and Implications
Household This research shows that the typical yoga tourists are
income -0.01 -0.13412 0.894 0.884105 predominantly females in their forties, working as
Sum of Mean professionals, and with higher than average household
Squares df Square F Sig. incomes. Their jobs seem to require interacting with people,
Regression 24.34712 4 6.086779 6.609898 0.000158 special skills as well as mental efforts. While they appear to
Residual 59.85578 65 0.920858 have busy schedules with long working hours, they seem to
Total 84.2029 69 be generally happy people satisfied with work and family
R2 = 0.289 and social life. They also tend to be very well travelled. When
32 Tourism Recreation Research Vol. 31, No. 1, 2006
9. Yoga Tourism as a Niche Market: X. Y. Lehto, S. Brown, Y. Chen & A. M. Morrison
they undertake travel specifically for yoga, they tend to be tourism product planning and marketing. Ricci (2003) stated
accompanied with friends or by themselves. Their yoga that many Americans now turn to yoga in search of inner
destination preferences appear to be either a nature-based peace or at least an hour or two of tranquility. But oftentimes,
setting not too far from home or beach resorts with warm this is not enough, so more and more yoga practitioners are
climates. As for motivations for taking yoga trips, the factor looking to spend their coveted vacation time at a yoga retreat
analysis showed there were four major dimensions to combat the effects of 60-plus-hour work weeks and chronic
underlying the motivational statements. These four multi-tasking. This research lends empirical support to
dimensions seem to be consistent with the four benefits that Ricci’s 2003 observations. The research indicates that serious
yoga practitioners believe that yoga brings them: spirituality, yoga practitioners would just travel for the purpose of
physical and mental health as well as emotional balance. A practising yoga (yoga as a trip purpose). The question is,
strong sentiment from the open-ended comment cards was ‘What programmes could better suit their needs?’ It seems
the joy of practising yoga with people who shared similar that opportunities to interact with people with similar
interests. A yoga trip is deemed as the ‘best balming effect’ interests and building camaraderie and mutual support play
and ‘best dose of calming effect’ on participants. A yoga trip an important role for motivating yoga tourists in addition to
seems to be a luxury that busy working professionals perceive other factors such as the quality of seminars and venues. As
as contributing to a balanced life. far as destination preferences for yoga trips is concerned, it
appears that yoga tourists are happy to just visit a sunny
Although most of the current literature falls into the place, ideally with a beach or water body around. The desire
area of spa tourism, general knowledge about health and to go to the ‘home’ of yoga – i.e., different regions of India – is
wellness tourism depicts a phenomenon more akin to yoga not apparent in this research. However, due to the small
tourism. Health and wellness tourism programmes are sample size, this result should be interpreted with caution.
professionally delivered to help individuals find and More rigorous examination is needed in terms of how
maintain a sense or attitude of well-being or find personal important destination settings are to yoga tourists. This could
fulfillment, meaning and purpose in life while combining be a research area of interest that bears important implications
the quest for health and wellness through travel, leisure, for tour operators targeting and serving this niche market.
and fun (Verschuren 2004). These wellness benefits could
potentially be shared and sought after through yoga tourism A further implication is that the level of yoga
programmes. This exploratory study provided some involvement has a positive impact on yoga tourism. As
empirical evidence and support for Verschuren’s discussed in the literature review, special-interest tourists
proposition. follow an advancing ladder in developing their activity
While health and wellness tourism are usually treated preferences. As their involvement levels with an activity
as one area and cited without differentiation, these are very increase, they move from being generalists to specialists. This
different tourism products. Verschuren (2004) posits that scenario could well be mapped with yoga tourists. They
individuals with medical conditions travel to experience could potentially develop from participating in yoga as one
therapies that will help to make them well or to improve of many activities on a vacation trip, to travelling for yoga as
their health. A person who seeks a wellness travel experience, the primary trip purpose. Borrowing Trauer’s (2005)
however, is generally healthy to start with, and seeks conceptualization of special-interest tourism, yoga tourists
therapies to maintain his or her well-being. Applying could potentially move along a yoga spectrum — a
Verschuren’s definition, yoga tourism seems to fall into the progression from yoga as activity (casual leisure) to yoga as
‘wellness’ dimension of health and wellness tourism. purpose (serious leisure). This advancement of
Holistic programmes such as yoga retreats make use of specialization of interests and activities may have
positive thinking, visualizations and workouts implications for yoga tourism product development. The
synchronizing body and mind. Yoga tourists actively seek current yoga magazines and programmes are mostly
to enhance emotional, intellectual, spiritual wholeness, in targeting the sophisticated yoga practitioners by theming
addition to physical well-being. Yoga tourists mostly are trips with a yoga focus. For this group, the destination choices,
physically healthy as the perceived physical condition of an settings, quality of seminars and activities could be the central
average yoga tourist is very high. The multiple regression concern. However, for tourists who welcome yoga as a
analysis results show that perceived physical well-being peripheral benefit/activity, the emphasis could be different.
does have an impact on individuals’ future yoga travel Different strategies could be more effective. This is in line
propensity. with the central and peripheral routes of cognition and
persuasion theory. For instance, yoga for fun could be more
This research also bears some implications for yoga suitable to connect with the less serious yoga tourists as
Tourism Recreation Research Vol. 31, No. 1, 2006 33
10. Yoga Tourism as a Niche Market: X. Y. Lehto, S. Brown, Y. Chen & A. M. Morrison
posited by Klein (2002) and Searle (2005). These ‘doing yoga yoga specialization continuum – yoga as an activity versus
for fun’ tourists could participate in different activities and yoga as a purpose – because all respondents were travelling
travel in various patterns. This bears implications for yoga for a yoga purpose.
tour providers in their efforts to promote yoga as a more
mainstream leisure pursuit. For instance, how is yoga being This research, while exploratory in nature, delineates
packaged into other holistic or non-holistic activities such the socio-demographic and motivational characteristics of
as skiing, diving or dancing and what combinations of yoga tourists. While yoga tourism is gaining in momentum,
activities and programmes would better cater to tourists with research in this topic area is in its infancy stage. Synthesizing
varying levels of yoga involvement? yoga literature, this research incorporated concepts and
constructs that have been employed to explain tourist
Conclusion and Limitations behaviour into the yoga tourism setting. This research
This research study has certain limitations. Two provides basic profile information about typical yoga
obvious shortfalls are the convenience sampling and small tourists, preferences for yoga destinations, and motivations
sample size. Interpretation and inference from this research for taking yoga trips. This should provide practical
should be done with caution. While the sampling for this information for tour operators and destinations that are
study is fairly representative of the US yoga tourists, more trying to develop niche travel markets by tapping into the
research is needed to corroborate it with yoga tourists from growing special-interest tourism market. They should now
other Western markets. It is hoped that future research will be able to better assess the needs and wants of this market
build on this exploratory work and increase the rigour and niche. At a conceptual level, this research tested the
validity of research in this area. As non-yoga tourists were applicability of the constructs of consumer involvement and
not included in the survey, the research does not provide well-being in explaining yoga tourism behaviour. In
opportunities to compare yoga tourists with non-yoga summary, this research provides a good baseline for future
tourists. It also does not permit further examination of the research on the yoga tourism phenomenon.
ARDELL, D. B. (1977). High Level Wellness: An Alternative to Doctors, Drugs and Disease. Emmaus, PA. Rodale Press.
ARDELL, D. B. (1986). High Level Wellness. Berkeley, CA. Ten Speed Press.
BROTHERTON, B. and HIMMETOGLU, B. (1997). Beyond Destination – Special Interest Tourism. Anatolia 8(3): 11-30.
DOUGLAS, N., DOUGLAS, N. and DERRETT, R. (2001). Special Interest Tourism: Context and Cases. Brisbane, New York. John Wiley and Sons.
FODOR. (2003). Fodor’s Healthy Escapes: 288 Spas, Resorts, and Retreats Where You can Relax, Recharge, Get Fit, and Getaway From it All (8th ed.). New
York. Random House, Inc.
GARCÍA-ALTÉS, A. (2005). The Development of Health Tourism Services. Annals of Tourism Research 32(1): 262-266.
HAVITZ, M. and DIMANCHE, F. (1990). Propositions for Testing the Involvement Construct in Recreational and Tourism Contexts. Leisure Science
HAVITZ, M. and DIMANCHE, F. (1997). Leisure Involvement Revisited: Conceptual Conundrums and Measurement Advances. Journal of Leisure
Research 29(3): 245-278.
HILL, M. (2004). Get Away From It All. Travel Weekly, Factiva database. http://www.travelweekly.co.uk/Home/Default.aspx. Accessed
on 25 March 2005.
IYENGAR, B. K. S. (1989). The Tree of Yoga. Boston, Mass. Shambhala Publications, Inc.
KAPFERER, J. N. and LAURENT, G. (1985). Consumer Involvement Profiles: A New Practical Approach to Consumer Involvement. Journal of
Advertising Research 25(6): 48-56.
KLEIN, D. A. (2002). Inner Peace, Good Eats! Newsweek 139. 18 March
LEDERMAN, E. (1996). Vacations That Can Change Your Life. Naperville, Illinois. Sourcebooks, Inc.
MATHIESON, A. and WALL, G. (1982). Tourism Economic, Physical and Social Impacts. Harlow. Longman Scientific and Technical press.
MUELLER, H. and KAUFMANN, E. L. (2001). Wellness Tourism: Market Analysis of a Special Health Tourism Segment and Implications for the
Hotel Industry. Journal of Vacation Marketing 7(1): 5-17.
PARKER-POPE, T. (2002). Doctors Study: The Health Benefits of Yoga. The Wall Street Journal, 23 July.
READ, S. E. (1980). A Prime Force in the Expansion of Tourism in the Next Decade: Special Interest Travel. In Hawkins, D. E., Shafer, E. L. and
Rovelstad, J. M. (eds) Tourism Marketing and Management Issues. Washington D.C. George Washington University.
REDEKOP, D. (1999). Key Trends for the Travel Industry. Travel Exclusive: 1-7.
RICCI, J. (2003). Yoga Escapes. Berkley/Toronto. Celestial Arts.
ROTHCHILD, M. (1984). Perspectives on Involvement: Current Problems and Future Directions. In Kinnear, T. C. (ed) Advances in Consumer Research
11. Provo, UT. Association for Consumer Research: 216-217.
SEARLE, R. (2005). Beaches; Holidays; Resorts; Tourism. Travel Trade Gazette. UK and Ireland: 9-10.
34 Tourism Recreation Research Vol. 31, No. 1, 2006
11. Yoga Tourism as a Niche Market: X. Y. Lehto, S. Brown, Y. Chen & A. M. Morrison
SPENCE, E. (2001). Be There Now. Health 15: 116-120.
STERNTHAL, E. F. (2005). Valentine Getaways. Travel Agent 319: 63-65. Januaer 17.
TRAUER, B. (2005). Conceptualizing Special Interest Tourism’s Frameworks for Analysis. Tourism Management In Press, Corrected Proof, Available
online. 8 January 2005.
THE BEST OF KERALA (2005). http://www.keralabest.com/. Accessed on 29 March, 2005.
VERSCHUREN, F. (2004). Spa Health And Wellness Tourism - A New Product Portfolio At The Canadian Tourism Commission. http://
programsproduct_developmentactivitiesproduc_clustersspa_wellness. Accessed on 18 March 2005.
WEILER, B. and HALL, C. M. (1992). Special Interest Tourism. New York. Halsted Press.
WTO (1985). The Role of Recreation Management in the Development of Active Holidays and Special Interest Tourism and Consequent Enrichment of the
Holiday Experience. Madrid. World Tourism Organization.
YOGA BREAKS OFFERED (2003). Travel Weekly: The Choice of Travel Professionals. Reed: 50-59. 8 September.
CONCEPT OF YOGA TOURISM. http://yogatourism.com/. Accessed on 17 March 2005.
GOLD COAST CITY Strategic Destination Development - Special Interest Tourism. (2000). http://www.goldcoast.qld.gov.au/attachment/
tourism/ts_part3_12.pdf Accessed on 15 March 2004.
HAWAII HEALTH AND WELLNESS. http://www.hwta.net/. Accessed on 20 January 2005.
YOGA TOURISM. http://www.india-tourism.net/Yoga.htm. Accessed on 17 March 2005.
Submitted: April 18, 2005
Accepted: September 11, 2005
Tourism Recreation Research Vol. 31, No. 1, 2006 35