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Fox Quarterly Winter 2023

Good Vibrations

Luxury Travel Lifestyle PR

Innovation in wellness is pushing the boundaries in the luxury travel industry. From sweat culture to men-only retreats, Mark Smith examines the wellness trends that will reverberate over the next 12 months

Sweat culture 

The enormous growth in sauna culture appears to be never ending. While saunas have been an integral part of wellness rituals for thousands of years, there is a new emerging sweat culture that is set to change the way people enjoy heat experiences in the next five years. 

Sauna at Six Senses Residences Courchevel (Source: Six Senses Residences Courchevel)

The global sauna market has been valued at £96 billion by Mordor Intelligence and is expected to grow at six per cent annually until 2028. In the UK, pop-up or mobile saunas are booming. The British Sauna Society has identified 56 of these businesses and since 2018 they have been doubling in number year on year. 

Community and a sense of belonging is at the core of this new trend, which places just as much importance on the spiritual aspects of saunas as well as the physical benefits. Take the recent movie, Smoke Sauna Sisterhood. The documentary, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival, focuses on how the darkness of a smoke sauna gives women the freedom to share their innermost secrets and intimate experiences. Then there’s Emma O’Kelly’s recent book Sauna: The Power of Deep Heat, an exploration of the benefits the sauna brings to body and mind, its connection to nature, its history and mythology.

Aufguss rituals, which are conducted by an Aufguss Master, using towels to swirl heat around a sauna, are becoming more widespread, and spas are now designing their thermal spaces specifically to accommodate these theatrical rituals, not least for younger audiences. Aufguss often includes music, essential oils and sometimes elaborate themes or storytelling. For many, they take on a spiritual significance and Aufguss fans form a global community.  

In the spa, leading designers are opening the sauna to the outside world with floor-to-ceiling glass offering impressive views of nature. Taking this one step further, spas are being positioned on stilts, in treetops and even suspended from modernist towers in the Alps. Future spa developments need to take this development into consideration for new projects. Ensuring that saunas are spacious, have plenty of room for movement and also can seat more than 10-12 people is a must. 

Beyond the gong bath

We know that sound is extremely powerful in shifting emotions. Brands also understand that sound can offer a lucrative revenue stream and new players andbig business are eyeing the sound therapy market. Myndstream, a global music brand dedicated to creating music for health and wellbeing, is bringing Academy Award-winning composers into the spa space. This company is also offering to create sonic branding for spas, whereby a spa could have its own unique sound or jingle like Apple, Coca-Cola or Nike. It is also promising to enhance the retail space with music developed specifically to encourage consumers to buy. 

International DJs are also creating waves in this arena. Brian d’Souza has collaborated with a Scottish skincare brand, recording nature sounds, Gaelic singing and traditional Hebridean instruments, working these into meditative soundscapes for use in spa treatments in luxury properties. 

At the other end of the spectrum, sound artist Justin Wiggan, the founder of Internal Garden, tracks the sonic vibrations of plants and trees and connects these to people in real time, creating an energic connection between the two. 

He combines his research into bio rhythms and biosonification with haptics to transfer the electrical impulses from plants to a Subpac vest which is strapped around a client’s torso. Users can feel the plants’ electrical impulses as vibrations, offering a truly immersive and totally unique connection with nature. Expect to see this enter the spa treatment room very soon. 

Velaa Private Island’s new wellbeing village uses sound healing within many of the yoga, mediation and fitness classes in the Yoga Pavilion, led by Velaa’s experiences in-house instructors and renowned visiting practitioners (Source: Velaa Private Island)

Menopause matters 

The conversation around menopause has been changing over recent years with celebrities revealing their personal journeys and many women opening up about their own experiences. 

Global sales of menopause products hit £12.21 billion in 2021, according to market analyst Grand View Research, and this is predicted to be a £494 billion market by 2025.

While skincare and supplement brands have been quick to pivot to this shift in dynamics, spas have taken a more considered approach. Working closely with medical practitioners and brands, they have developed a series of methodologies that are authentic and deliver real results for clients.  

The menopause offering at Fairmont Windsor Park includes a set of spa treatments, a specially designed menu, a carefully curated sleep kit and a two-night stay (Source: Fairmont Windsor Park)

As a result, women’s health programming for menopause is possibly the single biggest growth area in spas right now. This key demographic is being offered choice for the first time with menopause-focused treatments and retreats and this looks set to grown exponentially over the next few years. Working to address the emotional and physical challenges, spas are drawing on ancient ingredients, therapeutic massage, sound healing and CBD to help redress the multi-faceted issues relating to menopause. Boosting mood and relieving stress and anxiety are all key objectives for treatment programmes. 

Enlightened locations are introducing medical consultations, naturopaths, nutritionists, fitness and movement, traditional Chinese medicine and even gut-health retreats for guests. Expect to see further innovation in this space in the coming years.  

Mindful Movement 2.0

Mindful movement in the traditional sense has been an underutilised modality. It is a gentle practice akin to mindfulness itself, that can bring awareness, stillness and peace of mind through gentle guided movement practices. The term has often been used as a broad catch-all phrase to include practices like yoga and Pilates. 

Turning up the dial on mindful movement is a new wellness disruptor, Sanctum, which took to the stage at the Global Wellness Summit in Miami. This Dutch company has transformed the wellness space, appealing to a younger audience with a mix of sound and movement — both energetic and spiritual — in unusual locations. 

Sanctum often runs sessions in old, abandoned churches, but is equally at home in a spa or in nature. It’s a cross between silent disco (with glowing headphones) and a spiritual pow-wow. The unique series of movements shift from calm and gentle to energetic and back again. Many devotees talk of experiencing an epiphany post-event. It really has gained a cult-like following and is coming to a spa near you soon. 

The team has curated sessions for spas, and this is set to be one of the trends to watch in 2024 and beyond as it combines mindful practices, community connection and movement.

Men-only retreats

Retreats have long been seen as the preserve of women and this largely remains the case today. But this is beginning to change. A retreat-booking agency recently saw a 200 per cent increase in searches for men’s detox retreats. This is a major shift for male consumers and the industry is responding. 

There is a huge need for emotional support and connection with nature. Many men feel a disconnect with their own bodies and from society. They face a range of specific health issues and are often overlooked in terms of mental wellbeing. Isolation, loneliness, depression and suicide are common.

In the past year there has been a significant increase in the number of retreats for men launching across Europe from breathwork to nature immersions and cold-water therapy to spiritual escapes. There is huge opportunity here as men seek new ways to connect with nature and reconnect with themselves. As 2024 unfolds, expect to see the launch of new retreats for men that deep dive into the emotions, incorporating energy healing with higher spiritual practices as well as the core elements of yoga, mindfulness, fitness and movement combined with the extremes of cold and heat exposure.

As this trend develops, spas and wellness retreats will need to recalibrate their offering to ensure that the retreats they offer have a wider appeal. If they wish to target the male retreat market, then deep thought is required to ensure that the right facilitators are available to hold the space and that the right mix of programming appeals to this demographic.

Mark Smith is The Spa Man and deputy editor of European Spa magazine. Follow Mark on Instagram @markthespaman.

Fox Communications

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