Consumer demand for wellness is higher than ever in the travel industry – a recent study by The Global Wellness Institute estimated that the wellness market is now well over $3.4 trillion. The spa industry alone grew 58 per cent from $60 billion in 2007 to $94 billion in 2013 and wellness tourism racks up more than $5 billion in revenue annually. Indeed, the worldwide wellness tourism industry has become a multi-billion dollar sector that’s growing faster than travel in general – this is one trend that’s not going anywhere but up.
Wellness has moved way beyond the niche market of yoga retreats and fitness camps, informing and redefining virtually every aspect of the travel industry, from luxury hotels and spas to business hotels, and even airports – people are no longer content to put their wellness lifestyles on hold when they travel. And whilst it’s easy to see the demand, the challenge for those of us in the industry is how to correctly gauge our response.
Much like the word ‘luxury’ the word ‘wellness’ has become so ubiquitous that its definition is vague to say the least. The key to successfully meeting the expectations and demands of today’s traveller is to clearly understand and anticipate what the word really means to today’s traveller. We asked some of the world’s top travel and wellness experts to define wellness and offer up specific advice for hotel spa owners:
Contributing Spa and Health Editor for Conde Nast Traveller, Daisy Finer, says, “I do think the word wellness, and wellbeing are over used – as is the word spa. What people are looking for is balance. The days of it being enough to stick a spa in the basement and offer a massage are over. The places I love are those that subtly nurture the heart and make us feel young and free of spirit again. It is about a richness of experience where all the senses are satisfied. It is about reaching out and connecting with each other and finding inner healing, resilience and joy.”
Celebrity health blogger, Alice Liveing (Clean Eating Alice), defines wellness as the art of “creating a unique journey to achieve the most balanced and sustainable approach to health and happiness, without neglecting one for the other. This to me means embracing life with all it has to offer, from holidays to birthdays, and enjoying those moments just as much as I enjoy eating well and keeping active. Restriction and punishment are simply not an option.”
Physical, Mental & Spiritual
For wellness journalist and presenter Amanda Byram, mindfulness should be on the menu: “Wellness to me means overall physical and mental and spiritual health. Each individual aspect is so important, but alone they cannot create total wellness. So for me, physical wellbeing is key, combined with a peaceful mind, or at least awareness of a mind that needs to be calmer, and a belief in something bigger, which for me is the power of the Universe.”
Louise Chester, MD of Mindfulness at Work, certainly agrees: “Whether you are looking for more spaciousness and calm, focus and clarity; mindfulness is the perfect tool to help you achieve this. What’s more, having learnt this skill, it’s then accessible at every moment of your life. Offering guests the opportunity to practice mindfulness is such a nourishing gift – and one they will thank you for, for years to come.”
Going the Extra Mile
Hip and Healthy founder and Editor, Sadie Reid, weighs in: “It is so important that when we go on holiday we give ourselves a proper break. I love hotels that go that extra mile when it comes to wellness: offer yoga mats in the rooms; have vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free options marked on the menu clearly and be innovative when it comes to creating these healthy menus; treatments that are entirely bespoke to you; guided meditation classes to help unwind the mind; organic food where possible; organic, all-natural spa products.”
Leading nutritionist, Amanda Hamilton, says wellness offerings ought to be bespoke, “For me wellness is about personalisation, starting with better profiling of guests before they come. This may mean clients using wearable technologies that can be tracked for valuable pre-visit data, functional tests or simply getting the right people to ask the right questions. It certainly doesn’t mean endless burdensome questionnaires to be filled out. I am waiting for the day I can get a client’s microbiome profile before they arrive and get my team to design a programme to suit. This can also extend to mean personalisation of menus – from juices, tea blends and dishes using functional ingredients to match a client’s specific needs. In my experience, the upside of all this effort is that it builds an extremely high level of client loyalty.’
Educate & Inspire
“There is a huge gap in both the top end and at mid range for a more curated, bespoke well-being experience in resorts around the world” Says Dan Roberts, celebrity trainer and founder of The Dan Roberts Group, “The wellness industry has grown rapidly in the last 20 years, but a lot of growth has been in style over substance. I feel luxury resorts are currently missing a huge opportunity and instead offering services they think sound good rather than fully thinking about the guests’ needs. Resorts should be bold, and not just do what is trendy, but also educate, challenge and inspire. It’s amazing how much you can change a client’s life in a relatively short space of time.”
Fitness blogger Zanna Van Dijk cautions us not to neglect enjoyment: “Wellness to me is finding your own personal balance and sustainable approach to health. Eating in a way that nourishes your body. Training in a way you enjoy. Enjoying travel and exploring new cultures. Glowing from the inside and feeling incredible along the way.”
NYC based author and yoga guru, Elena Brower, who counts Gwyneth Paltrow amongst her students, says that first impressions count: “When it comes to a spa experience, the first and most important aspect is the staff, particularly the greeting staff, the way they hold themselves; how they speak and even move can cause a state change in a client, helping us to slow down and receive more fully.” Brower adds, “The spa environments should have flowing water of some sort, to help us move through any lingering stress more readily and treatment products should be free of pesticides, colourings and preservatives. Rather than synthetic scents, high quality diffusers can be used for diffusing essential oils, which can be of emotional and physiological benefit.”
It’s All About the Food
Contributing Spa and Health Editor for Conde Nast Traveller, Daisy Finer, adds: “My personal passion is centred on FOOD in hotels – hence my new baby: www.SPA.Kitchen. It consistently surprises me that more hotels don’t offer consciously healthy food. Just look at the rise of Deliciously Ella and the Hemsley Sisters, and the fact that both Jamie Oliver and Nigella are eating clean. What’s the point in a lymphatic massage if you are then tempted by that ubiquitous basket of white bread?”
Susan d’Arcy, The Sunday Times Luxury Travel and Spa Editor, advocates balance: “Wellness should be all about the 80:20 approach, achieving an intelligent balance between your health and the very enjoyable temptations of a modern lifestyle. For me, most spas are too po-faced. There is nothing wrong with indulging in the odd Krispy Kreme doughnut. Sophisticated resorts never encourage rapid weight loss. They are places where you eat really well, are able to try innovative and inspiring forms of exercise and, especially, where you can concentrate on giving yourself some stop-the-world quality time for reflection. At the top end, they educate and ease you into better attitudes towards nutrition, fitness and, increasingly, emotional and mental resilience. The very best ones also offer plenty of post-trip support, which is vital because it’s hard to change long-held habits.”
Long gone are the days where a holidaymaker is willing to endure the month it takes in beating themselves up in their home gym to lose the typical 8lbs gained on a two-week holiday. Today’s traveller no longer finds it agreeable to put their wellness choices on hold when they go away – and for those of us in the industry, it is imperative that this trend be adequately addressed. It is our calling to help guests to return home feeling rested and refreshed, happy and relaxed and ultimately, very glad they came.