NATIONAL REPORT—Wellness is a broadly used term to encompass the state of being well and the related activities, products and services that contribute to this feeling. However, it’s much more than that.
It’s also a business. From personalized in-room workouts to authentic journeys of the mind, body and spirit, the industry is growing at a rapid clip. The Global Wellness Institute predicts the wellness tourism industry will reach nearly $1 trillion on a global scale by the year 2020.
“Primarily, it comes down to demand,” said Anne Dimon, president of the Wellness Tourism Association (WTA). “More traveling consumers are mindfully making healthier decisions in their day-to-day lives, and they want to take these new practices and habits with them when they travel, so they look for hotels or resorts that can accommodate their needs and wants. Additionally, in smaller but growing numbers, consumers are looking to use their vacation or holiday time to plan quick or extended getaways with a specific wellness focus in mind.”
WTA polled its members to find out the top wellness travel trends and narrowed it down to five growth areas: solo travel; a rise in newcomers to healthy living; greater flexibility with length of stays; mental health matters; and demand for specific solutions and increasing awareness of the value proposition.
Here, Dimon shares insights on each wellness trend that will shape the hospitality industry and how hoteliers can prepare for what’s to come:
Solo travel: “Wellness is a very personal undertaking, so when someone books vacation time with wellness as the primary focus it is not surprising that he or she might want to take that vacation minus a travel companion who might, even inadvertently, undermine their specific goals or objectives,” said Dimon. “Traveling solo allows the person to really concentration on the self. Good health is wealth, and taking the time for self-care is truly the new luxury.”
Rise in newcomers: “More travelers are reading and hearing about wellness travel and realizing that it’s an option available at various price points and accommodating many and varying interests,” she said. “They also believe that getting away from their daily, often stressful lives might help them become happier and healthier. Also, medical science continues to tell us that we can make a difference with our own health, and these newcomers are realizing that they need to take the time to be proactive which, for some, results in a wellness vacation or wellness retreat.”
Flexible length of stays: “This trend is driven totally by the consumer,” she said. “As some of our members told us, there are guests that want longer stays to reach their specific goals—weight loss, for instance—while others want to take shorter wellness breaks and spread them out throughout the year.”
Mental health: “As our lives become more fast paced and our levels of anxiety—real or imaginary—increase, we see wellness travel with a focus on mental health as one of the most prominent developments in the industry,” she said. “This could be as simple as incorporating meditation and mindfulness-type activities into a retreat program, or full-on mental health programs such as those offered through LifeWorks, [an evidence-based program dedicated solely to optimizing brain health].”
Specific solutions: Because a wellness vacation is, by the WTA definition, planned with a specific wellness-related goal in mind—weight loss, stress management, improved sleep, a general overall reboot, learning to make healthier decisions about food, natural ways to control or eliminate chronic pain—and there are an increasing number of result-focused offerings now available in the marketplace, “travelers can look for programs that offer solutions to their own specific needs,” she said. “Once the consumer acknowledges the goal or objective of his or her wellness-focused trip, then they can zero in on those properties that offer the solutions they are looking for.”
For hoteliers who may not have a health program in place, Dimon recommends that hoteliers first accept the fact that the demand for wellness activities, services and amenities is not, in itself, a trend, but a major shift in the way an ever-increasing number of consumers choose to travel.
“They might want to round up the managers of their various departments—F&B, rooms, guests services, marketing and the spa manager, if the property has a spa—to discuss whether it is, in fact, a good strategy to move in this direction,” she said. “In addition, make a note of the hotel’s current assets or offerings that could easily work into a wellness initiative. Are current guests (consumers and the corporate market) asking for these wellness lifestyle offerings? If the answer is yes, then one important place to start is by offering healthy food options on restaurant menus and via room service. And, by this I mean more than just salads. Also, a property with available space could add a daily yoga or meditation class, offer guided walking or cycling tours, or have the chef give a talk or demo on how to prepare healthier dishes.”