Simply put, wellness tourism is hot.
The rapidly growing travel niche is expected to hit $680 billion by next year, according to the Global Wellness Summit. It’s expanding 50 percent faster than the overall tourism industry.
Travelers take a whopping 586 million wellness trips each year. In fact, the wellness tourism niche encompasses 15 percent of global travel. That’s second only to cultural tourism. It is also lucrative, as wellness travelers spend 130 percent more than the average traveler. The 2016 Virtuoso Luxe Report identified the most sought-after wellness aspects as massages and other treatments, healthy cuisine, fitness classes, environmental beauty, and sports activities.
Which specific trends are fueling this incredible growth in wellness tourism? Discover seven of the biggest that you might want to experience on your next trip.
Food for Body, Mind and Soul
The definition of healthy encompasses many cuisine styles. But the common thread is a delectable dining experience, since wellness travelers won’t sacrifice flavor for health.
Southern California’s Golden Door offers organic spa cuisine that’s so fresh guests can pick it themselves. There, nutrition experts educate guests on how to nourish body and soul through a balanced diet.
Farm-to-table dining is another culinary wellness trend, and Blackberry Farm brings it beautifully to life. The Tennessee property, a working farm, showcases the bounty of its gardens, bakery, butchery and creamery in multi-course meals.
As well, hotels and cruise lines are increasingly offering light cuisine, with items low in salt and sugar, or smaller portions.
Many upscale hotel brands are offering guests wellness programs. Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts provides complimentary walking, jogging and hiking tours, some showcasing a city’s best-loved landmarks. Fairmont Fit, available to members of its President’s Club, offers complimentary Reebok workout gear and a yoga mat with stretch band. Trump Wellness offers healthy in-room dining options, weights and yoga mats, Under Armour apparel and footwear, and maps of running routes. And at Westin hotels, guests can borrow New Balance workout gear, book a room with exercise equipment, access video workouts, join a group run, or follow a local running map on their own.
With seemingly every hotel now offering spa treatments, properties can stand out with signature experiences. Often, these unique treatments spring from the destination’s culture or surroundings.
Yoga was born about 2,500 years ago in India. So it’s fitting that an Indian wellness resort, Ananda in the Himalayas, emphasizes the discipline. Experienced teachers design a specific yoga and meditation program for guests based on their goals. They offer different yoga styles, including techniques to unleash psychic energy and focus on breathing.
Miraval Resort & Spa in Tucson, Arizona provides a healing Nâga experience, created by its Thai massage masters. Therapists use strands of hanging colored silk as an extension of their body. They use the strands to suspend themselves and support the client. Nâga involves deep massage and stretching, which creates relaxation and restores circulation.
Lefay Resort & SPA Lago di Garda in Italy offers phytotherapy: treating conditions with medicinal plants. The resort employs more than 40 plants to create custom herbal teas. Those achieve a variety of goals, including relaxation, digestion, and purifying the body. Staff tailor-make teas for guests’ wellness needs.
Bark from locally plentiful sequoia trees plays a central role in a signature treatment at Switzerland’s Grand Hotel Quellenhof & Spa Suites. During a massage, the therapist applies herbal poultices containing bark essence. The sequoia ceremony provides stability and grounding.
The spa experience at Germany’s Schloss Elmau Luxury Spa, Retreat and Cultural Hideaway takes inspiration not from Europe but the Middle East. Its Turkish hamam features dome rooms with hot stones, tubs, steam baths and a tea lounge. The ritual begins with a full-body scrub with traditional soap lather. A massage with soap foam or oil follows.
Cruises on Board with Wellness
Cruises are increasingly offering innovative wellness options to health-minded passengers. One example: Canyon Ranch SpaClub aboard the ultra-luxurious Regent Seven Seas Explorer. It provides a range of wellness experiences, including yoga sessions on deck, a thermal suite with hot and cold experiences and exclusive body treatments inspired by locations the ship visits.
Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection provides ample active opportunities such as cycling and hiking. Passengers can even borrow Nordic walking sticks for a brisk stroll. The line offers certified on-board wellness instructors, a fitness center, yoga and exercise classes, and light and vegetarian meal options. Uniworld also offers TRX suspension training, which uses the body’s weight for exercises to develop strength, balance, flexibility and core stability.
Un-Cruise Adventures offers active experiences such as core strengthening while kayaking, as well as paddle boarding and snorkeling. An on-board wellness instructor provides massages and conducts yoga and stretching classes.
Wellness Takes Off at Airports
Often, a wellness journey begins at an airport. Airports in the know are jumping on the wellness tourism bandwagon with healthy offerings.
Fancy a little yoga while waiting for your plane? Airports in San Francisco, Dallas-Fort Worth, and Helsinki provide designated yoga rooms. San Francisco boasts two of them, as well as a quiet room for meditation. Other airports offering quiet rooms include Chicago O’Hare, Heathrow, Baltimore/Washington and Doha, Qatar.
Getting in touch with nature is a major element of wellness tourism, and some airports are bringing the outdoors in. O’Hare, alongside airports like Amsterdam, Dubai and Singapore’s Changi, have created green space indoors.
Airports including Phoenix, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Cleveland offer indoor walking tracks to pass the time before flights in an invigorating way.
Food options in airports have evolved considerably beyond fat- and salt-laden choices. Major airports are offering everything from organic, sustainable cuisine to vegetarian and vegan options. Some also source food and beverages locally, emphasizing what’s in season.
Let’s Get Physical
Even dedicated sun-and-sand travelers often seek a little exertion alongside their relaxation. The best physical options combine activity and nature: two keys of wellness tourism.
Water activities, including surfing, white water rafting and scuba diving, are riding a wave of popularity. Other adventures, such as zip-lining, also fuel adrenaline, which sets the stage for deep relaxation afterwards. Physical activities aren’t just for adults. Families love the combination of movement and the outdoors. Biking is one favorite for young and old alike.
Growing Wellness Tourism Advisor Savvy
A huge 86 percent of travel advisors expect wellness travel to grow, according to Spafinder Wellness 365. And 71 percent of them say consumers have become more aware of wellness travel within the last year.
As a result, more advisors are developing expertise in wellness tourism. Virtuoso has created a new community to help them design trips for health-focused clients. Virtuoso Wellness unites travel advisors with hand-picked partners including hotels, cruise lines, tourism boards and tour operators for networking and education.
To find a Virtuoso consultant to help you plan your next wellness journey, browse a catalog of professional travel advisors here.