By LISA KLEIN
Most would tell you that they feel a lot better after returning from a relaxing vacation away from it all but may not take a trip specifically to focus on their own wellness.
However, wellness travel – taking a holiday that enhances one’s physical and mental health – has been gaining in popularity over the past few years.
“Traveling for leisure, away from the stresses associated with work and the overall stress of daily life, people generally have time to really think about themselves, their lives, their physical and mental health and their state of well-being,” said Anne Dimon, president/CEO of the Wellness Tourism Association (WTA).
“For some people, taking a trip may, in fact, be the only time they truly have to devote to self-care,” she said.
According to the WTA, wellness tourism is a growing sector, and has continued to grow throughout the pandemic.
WTA members all over the world specializing in this kind of travel have seen a post-pandemic bump.
“Hotels in the Maldives have been almost 100 percent full since the country reopened in July 2020 after being closed for three months,” said Josy Karabolad, director of sales for the Americas at Joali resort in the Maldives.
“Joali is running above 80 percent, which is better than pre-pandemic times,” she said. “With many countries closed to travelers, the Maldives became a sanctuary for all nationalities.”
Across the globe in North Carolina, bookings have increased as well.
“From reopening April 15th, it has been a steady stream,” said Kimberly Rossi, director of wellness and business development at the Art of Living Retreat Center. “People are ready more than ever to explore, be in community, and practice radical self- care.”
The pandemic certainly made consumers think about their health more than usual, and they have been looking for places to take care of themselves and recuperate from the past two years while staying safe.
“As a result of the pandemic, many travelers are vacationing to destinations where they’re easily able to stay socially-distanced from other travelers,” said Karolin Troubetzkoy, executive director of marketing and operations for Anse Chastanet at Jade Mountain resorts in St. Lucia.
“The resorts’ spa services, regenerative farm tours, Ayurvedic healing and wellness consultations help guests re-channel their energy and focus on their health and wellness after going through such a challenging time,” she said.
According to Ms. Dimon, the increase in wellness travel began with an aging baby boomer population looking to live longer and healthier lives, millennials who understand that health should be a priority and consumers from all ages learning more about the importance of wellness to combat their stressed-out lifestyles.
“And, most recently, a pandemic that has made more people realize that there is truth in the old adage ‘health is the greatest wealth,’” Ms. Dimon said. “There is now a new prioritization on self-care.”
However travelers define self-care, proximity to nature usually factors in to a wellness trip.
“In Antigua and Barbuda, we’ve noticed that our travelers really want to experience the outdoors and the natural beauty of the country,” said Maria Blackman, marketing and communications manager for the tourism authority of the Caribbean country.
“Travelers are visiting the Wallings Nature Reserve in Antigua or joining one of our many hiking groups for a guided tour on new hiking trails and traditional favorites that offer breathtaking views,” she said.
In both the Maldives and St. Lucia, snorkeling and scuba diving give guests a taste of nature underwater.
At Anse Chastanet and Jade Mountain, wellness travelers literally get to taste nature with the resorts’ farm-to-table vegan cuisine and native herbal medicine garden.
“The sister properties are home to the Emerald Estate Regenerative Farm, where guests have the opportunity to hand-pick an assortment of ingredients and learn how to make vegan cuisine as part of an interactive Rastafarian Creole cooking lesson led by the resort’s vegan Chef de Cuisine,” Ms. Troubetzkoy said.
East meets West
Spa treatments and yoga are par for the course, but many WTA members take it a step further, often incorporating Ayurvedic principles.
“Ayurveda is the oldest natural healthcare system on the planet,” Ms. Rossi said. “And its purpose is to heal and maintain the quality and longevity of life primarily through diet, lifestyle and stress management.”
At Garden of the Gods Resort and Club in Colorado Springs, Colorado, guests participate everything from old-school energy healing, breathwork and acupuncture to cutting edge IV therapy and DNA analysis.
“One of the most impressive treatments offered is Dry Flotation Therapy,” said Denise Perkins, vice president of marketing for the resort.
“During this treatment guests will float weightlessly shrouded in body temperature warmth while feeling the vibrations of surrounding healing music,” Ms. Perkins said.
Sunswept Resorts’ BodyHoliday in St. Lucia also mixes Eastern and Western medicine in its retreats for a balanced approach.
“The Eastern process diagnoses one’s state of physical, spiritual and emotional health and then helps one in making changes for the avoidance of preventable illness in later life and without the use of pharmaceutical medicine,” said Rebecca Platt, the company’s corporate director of sales and marketing.
“BodyScience’s more Western-leaning aspects are highly tailored based upon one’s metabolism and blood results, focused on personalized fitness and supported by more detailed analysis, adding a sense of balance to the benefits of the Eastern side of the approach,” she said.