Wellness tourism continues to drive innovation in the luxury travel industry. From psychedelic retreats to resilience training, Mark Smith examines the wellness trends that will define the next 12 months
You can dance
Movement classes are nothing new. For years, urban studios and fitness centres have embraced a high-octane approach to aerobics classes – anyone remember the noughties trend of dancersize? Fast forward to 2023 and spa and wellness resorts will take a more subtle, heart-centred approach. Now it’s all about freedom of expression, so expect to see dance-based wellbeing retreats designed to improve anything from fitness, mood and muscle strength to anxiety, brain function and longevity.
There has been a resurgence in the popularity of 5Rhythms. The movement meditation practice was devised in the 1970s and draws on global traditions by combining elements of shamanism, mystical and eastern philosophy to unleash the power of human potential. Often wild and energetic, it can also be calm and deeply spiritual. Ibiza has long been the spiritual home of club culture, but the club kids have grown up. The White Isle is now home to a new wave of dance-based retreats. It’s not all about conscious-connectedness and deep spirituality, however. Some retreats take a more classic approach, instructing people in the techniques of the Argentine tango, American Smooth, Latin ballroom or even the salsa. It’s a far cry from Strictly Come Dancing, and it’s coming to a spa near you very soon.
Come back stronger
Resilience is the buzzword on everyone’s lips. Many people emerged from the pandemic knowing that they needed to develop their skills, but few knew how. Luxury properties at the top of their game recognised this potential and drew together a range of techniques from mindfulness and coaching to talking therapies and nature immersions. Following the Wim Hof Method, cold-water swimming and ice therapy are often central to resilience retreats and a trend that is likely to grow exponentially next year.
Breathwork in its many forms plays a vital role in building resilience and is a potent method in these transformational retreats. I’ve seen some resorts take clients on 14-mile treks up mountains every day for a week or a restricted diet of around 1,200 calories per day. This pushes guests to the limit and can make or break them. At the other end of the spectrum some brands are introducing resilience massages and facials. 2023 is set to be a strong year for resilience.
The drugs do work
Psychedelics have for some time been seen at the furthest fringes of the wellness industry, a whispered secret by people in the know. But this is changing, fast. There is growing interest in psychedelic retreats as consumers hear about the clinical trials offering hope for people with depression, anxiety and even post-traumatic stress disorder.
Psilocybin, a naturally occurring psychedelic prodrug compound produced by more than 200 species of fungi, is the main ingredient to offer benefits. It is illegal in many countries, and only available in limited medical circumstances. However, the list of countries where you can join a healing retreat offering psilocybin is growing and includes the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, USA, Jamaica and Mexico.
Retreats generally deliver the drug via tea or tinctures and require (sometimes rigorous) pre- and post-visit preparation. These take a psychological approach to healing the mind and are supported by counsellors and, in some cases, psychologists and psychiatrists. There is also growing interest in the use of ketamine and MDMA. We are only at the beginning of what has the potential to be game-changing for wellness tourism.
Communal bathing is coming
This year we saw the return of the bathing ritual and in, 2023, we are all going bathing together. Communal bathing in urban bathhouses is set to grow next year with new projects opening across the globe. This is not only positive for public health and wellbeing, it’s also leading to the regeneration of decaying and abandoned public bathhouses.
From Norway to Newcastle and everywhere in between, communities and big business alike are shining the spotlight on these former community spaces and investing millions to bring them back to life.
Many will combine traditional bathing rituals with the added option of spa treatments to make each visit a 360° wellness experience. The Global Wellness Summit predicts double-digit growth for this sector in the coming years.
Take a deep breath
Long the preserve of deep-sea divers, there is a growing trend for people seeking hyperbaric oxygen therapy to relieve pain from arthritis, headaches, sports injuries and more recently long Covid. According to Transparency Market Research, the market for hyperbaric oxygen therapy devices is expected to grow at almost 9% every year until 2028.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is a method of delivering pure oxygen into the body in a pressurised chamber. Typically, the chambers are designed for one or two people and sessions can last 20 minutes to one hour. Depending on the condition, treatments should be repeated two to three times a week for around 20 sessions.
There has been a marked increase in spa and wellness resorts buying these expensive pieces of kit, from family-holiday resorts with medical-led spas to city-centre wellness clinics. It is a hot topic and was the subject of a keynote presentation by Dr Shai Efrati at the Global Wellness Summit 2022 in Tel Aviv, Israel. Is the trend a breath of fresh air or just a lot of hot air? Only the next year will tell.
Mark Smith is founder of The Spa Man blog and deputy editor of European Spa Magazine
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