By Bill Becken, MultiView
In an increasingly chaotic world it is not surprising that wellness travel should be the fastest-growing sector of the travel industry. According to a study by the Florida-based Global Wellness Institute, travelers are spending more than $500 million on wellness trips, comprising some 15 percent of the global travel pie.
On those trips, travelers can be expected to exploit tried and true, as well as emerging, means of rejuvenation and relief, mostly at spas and resorts, but also at in-town clubs and hotels. These destinations compete strongly with one another to add-value, purpose, and results-driven experiences at proliferating venues around the world.
Here are just a few of the trends travel planning professionals and healthcare purveyors can expect to see over the coming year.
Forest Bathing & Earthing
Immersion in nature is now a planned experience, not so be taken for granted. These moments take the form of touching the earth, simmering in warm mud or geothermal waters, walking through thick and remote forest paths, and wallowing in silence. Earthing emphasizes supervised physical touching of hands and feet with the earth. Costa Rica, with its pristine beaches and mythical rainforests, and other spectacular scenery and geography, has embraced these demands — whether at Irazú, one of its active volcanoes, or on Osa Peninsula, whose unspoiled beauty makes Earthing easy. Forest bathing is not actually bathing but strolling through the forest very consciously to connect with nature, using the senses to bond with the natural environment. As the healing hot springs therapy, Costa Rica has 72 individual hot springs in some very sublime settings.
The spa industry is only now seeing the reinvention and rediscovery of the sauna experience, a sweating and bonding tradition with deep Finnish roots. There are now “Sauna Aufguss” events, where “sauna-meisters” direct theatrical performances of song and dance to complement and these healthful rituals. Find this concept showing up in hip, social “amphitheater” or “hangout” saunas, such as Helsinki’s new high-design Löyly sauna complex or Scotland’s new loch-side “Hot Box,” with DJ and bar. Quirky pop-up saunas float on lakes or even hang from bridges. Trendy urban “sweat lodges,” like NYC’s chic detox destination, Higher Dose, bring buzzworthy social infrared sauna treatments. The point is to mitigate the sauna moment as a solitary experience and bring it closer to a social, literally “outside the box,” experience.
The Power of Silence
A number of locations are creating spaces and environments of quiet and silence as a way to help patrons to manage stress via natural healing. “The number one reason we are seeing unprecedented growth in spa visits is stress management,” said Lynne McKnees, president of the International Spa Association (ISPA), in a recent Travel Market Report article referring to the latest study managed by the association. If time, space and silence will be the most precious of all future luxuries, retreats such as the “Silent Spa,” at Therme Laa Hotel, north of Vienna, Austria, are ahead of the curve. The hotel features completely silent amenities (with the exception of check-in and the restaurant) and a spa where guests here only the lap of the water design. Other hotels are following suit.
Pursuit of Mental Wellness
The “Mind” is finally getting equal billing with the “body” in the spa world. ISPA’s 2017 U.S. Spa industry study notes that one growth vector in the spa marketplace is brain performance and mental health (commensurate with the worldwide upsurge in anxiety and depression). Meditation is at once totally mainstreaming and generating new genres (consider “dream” and “floating” meditations). Spas and other wellness destinations are bringing in specialists, especially psychotherapists. For example, ESPA Life at the Corinthia Hotel in London has just brought in a “Neuroscientist in Residence” (Dr. Tara Swart from MIT) to create new programs addressing mental wellness, resilience and positivity.
Hospitality concerns such as Marriott, MGM Grand and Six Senses and are joining forces with design firms such as Arup Labs and Delos® to optimize the designs of buildings and create subsystems for human health. These measures can include circulation of air, conditioned air, incorporating water, light, and sound and any number of health-related activities in themselves (usually involving human movement).
Six Senses Douros Valley in Portugal uses shapes, harmonics and mathematic ratios to help guests resonate with their environment at the cellular and conscious levels.
Delos® Stay Well™ rooms integrate wellness technologies and features that help optimize health and well-being through such details as air and water purification to dawn-simulation and circadian lighting. Initially seen in wellness rooms offered at the MGM Grand Las Vegas, these amenities are now featured in six Marriott International Hotels as well.
Individual hotel brands can adopt their own approaches to wellness. Six Senses Hotels has made a dent in this concept with a sleep program that is providing touchstone for the trend. The approach is nominally biometric, says CEO Neil Jacobs. “We just test the makeup of moisture in the body, which allows us to analyze things,” he noted in a recent travel trade report. A special Six Senses spa team can then use the results to recommend lifestyle changes and what activities a guest should undertake at the resort, etc. The team can then integrate the biometric results with its “Sleep with Six Senses” and “Eat with Six Senses” programs. The former attempts to optimally maintain light, heat and body temperature levels to improve sleep and deploys everything from advanced circadian lighting to dedicated “sleep ambassadors” to further tailor each guest’s sleep experience with the environment.
Bill Becken is a freelance researcher and writer with more than 20 years’ experience in business-to-business communications and publishing. Most recently, Becken has contributed stories and top-tier executive interviews to B2B outlets with a focus on technology, travel and transportation. He can be reached at [email protected].