By Erin Nicole Davis
As we close out the year and set our sights on the endless possibilities of 2022, wellness travel, naturally, remains top of mind.
We reached out to Wellness Tourism Association supplier members about the trends and new developments they are personally witnessing at their individual properties, and what we can possibly expect for the year ahead as the industry continues to recover.
Here’s what those who responded had to say:
Booking Further in Advance and Staying Longer
Giving themselves something to look forward to, wellness travel-seekers are booking their vacations well in advance, points out Melissa Amerian, director of marketing and public relations at The Ranch Malibu. They’re also staying longer. “People are booking further in advance – we are booked four to five months out – and guests are staying longer. We are also seeing more multi-week stays,” she says. By the start of 2022, The Ranch Malibu will open the doors to a new fitness centre complete with spin bikes, Pilates reformers, and a climbing wall. “We are also exploring opportunities to bring our program to new locations both domestically and internationally,” says Amerian.
Increased Interest in Massage Therapy and Detoxifying Treatments
Some WTA members are seeing an increased interest in massage therapy and detoxifying treatments. “This reflects the natural desire to feel better through the power of touch, evidenced through pre-booking of longer massages, and increased interest in and use of our outdoor bath soaks, which are currently popular here at Half Moon,” says Tanya Vassell, spa director at Jamaica’s Half Moon resort. “We use fresh herbs from the garden in our detoxifying bush baths.”
A Desire for Space and the Outdoors
“Especially since the onset of the pandemic, we are also seeing a collective desire for space and outdoor experiences,” says Vassel. “At Half Moon, we have two overwater bungalows for spa therapies that are popular among our guests,” she says. “The northeast trade winds travel across the Caribbean, bringing with them a constant and cooling breeze that passes through the louvered windows, creating a naturistic and relaxing space for massage therapies, private yoga, and meditation. Sound baths are enhanced with the natural soundtrack of the sea and the wind.”
A Heightened Interest in Breathwork
Breathwork has also been having a major moment as of late – and most likely it is a “trend” that will last. “Practicing breathwork in our outdoor Colorado scenery immersed in nature is more requested than ever,” said Grant Jones, president of wellness at STRATA Integrated Wellness and Spa at Garden of the Gods Resort and Club. STRATA’s location in Colorado Springs has long served as a centuries-old wellness environment that supports better breathing, and in the early 1880s was a prescribed location for tuberculosis treatment.” He says, “the fresh mountain air, radiant sunlight and topographic climate enables deeper, more thoughtful inhales and exhales, which impacts both our physical and mental well-being.”
Giving the Gift of Wellness
According to Jones, beyond the traditional spa gift certificate, people are gifting more meaningful wellness experiences that are layered in both services and are integrated in self-care and healthcare offerings, “For instance, we are seeing gifts beginning to include IV nutritional therapy with a HydraFacial or gifting a couples’ four-day wellness retreat to your special someone for Valentine’s Day,” he says. “There is more intentionality and authenticity in these personalized and thoughtful gifts of wellness. Gifting wellness shares a deeper message of care, compassion, and connection.”
A Desire for More Personalization
As many WTA Members have indicated, today’s wellness travelers are seeking a more personalized approach to wellness. “Everyone has endured a different journey over the past 18 months,” says Rebecca Platt, the corporate director of sales and marketing at SunSwept Resorts, including BodyHoliday in St. Lucia. “People are now looking to experience their own recovery journey that is tailor-made for them.” Often, she says, “the exact details of what may be needed are unknown, travelers just know that a rebalance is needed.” Platt adds that the only way to truly deliver an experience of wellness that is right for every guest is to ensure every experience is personal, and that personalization needs to included both physical and mental experiences. “Coping with the loss of loved ones, changing work situations, or simply just being locked down can takes its toll mentally and being less active impacts physical health – and so much more. Every journey is unique,” says Platt.
At STRATA and other medical wellness facilities, teams have developed experiences and programming that can be enjoyed by multigenerational participants. “For instance, at STRATA, this could mean having a grandmother (75 years old), her daughter (45 years old), and her great granddaughter (15 years old) participate in a wellness day,” says Jones. “The three women might enjoy manicures and pedicures, meet with a precision nutritionist to review food-as-medicine offerings, and a women’s health naturopathic doctor to choose diets that align best with their genetic make-up. The journey will end with journaling and reflection about their intentions, experiences, and memories shared. Families are seeking to connect more and continue to pass down the gift of wellness to each generation.”
An Increase in Solo Travel
Solo travel is once again soaring in popularity. Since the pandemic, there has been a heightened interest in solo travel, as reflected in an increase of requests for single occupancy rooms, points out Platt. “At BodyHoliday St. Lucia, we already have a strong solo traveler program in our September Solos theme month and rooms that carry no single supplement all year round, however, since reopening in May 2021, BodyHoliday has seen a large volume of bookings and enquiries for independent travel,” she says. “Guests want to travel and meet like-minded people while safe in the knowledge they can also have their independence to reflect and take time for themselves.”
An Increase in Wellness Coaches
In everyday life, we turn to trainers, financial advisors and other experts. Now, people are increasingly turning to wellness coaches. “The future of wellness coaching is set to expand and become more common as the world further understands the value of having a trusted confidant alongside your health and wellness journey – who is not your primary care provider,” says Jones. “Our STRATA Wellness Coaches are equal part coach and friend. They understand a patient’s, guest’s or traveler’s preferences and lifestyle. They help craft STRATA Days of Wellness, they email to remind them of upcoming experiences, they text to hold them accountable, and they even call them on their birthdays just to say hello and that they care.”
Wellness travelers are seeking more privacy. “As a result of the pandemic, travelers are more sensitive to shared spaces and desire more privacy,” says Tammy Pahel, VP of Spa & Wellness Operations of Carillon Miami Wellness Resort. “They want to interact with the least amount of people as possible and be able to control the potential germs and shared spaces they encounter.” The trend appears to be the same on the other U.S. coast. “People are opting for The Ranch Private program, which is limited to one to four groups of people traveling together and who wish to have a more customized experience, with activities and meals taking place separate from the larger group,” says Amerian of The Ranch Malibu’s most popular programs.
Wellness in Architecture and Design
Wellness continues to find its way into architecture and design. “From Sacred Geometry to Nudge Architecture, this subsector of wellness is booming,” says Jones. “General contractors are redesigning new-build houses to include in-home meditation spaces. Architects have begun creating bathing rooms for self-care through water wellness, and community real estate developers are seeking land where hiking trails are steps away from backyard porches. More than ever, our physical spaces have become synonymous with our ways of life. People are allowing themselves to indulge in harmonious spaces that can transform their lives.”
A Desire for Touchless Experiences
In the current climate, WTA Members are also pointing out that both spa guests and travelers are seeking more touchless experiences. “There is a perceived sense of safety and comfort with these touchless services. Guests can take advantage of the physical benefits while knowing that there is minimal human interaction,” says Pahel. She points out that Carillon Miami Wellness Resort has gone to great lengths to make guests feel safe and comfortable. “Our touchless wellness treatments feature innovative technology that benefits the body, mind and soul, and they have become quite popular amongst our guests and residents. In fact, between 15-20% of our spa revenue comes from our touchless wellness services.” Pahel points out that Carillon could be the first facility in the U.S.A where these tech-forward touchless treatments are available. “The touchless treatments are designed for various results including to promote healing, provide pain relief, detoxification, relaxation and anti-aging.”
What we’ve collected here are just a dozen of the trends and new developments some WTA Member Suppliers are witnessing and responding to as travel resumes, with “wellness” a top priority for an increasing number of travelers.
Erin Nicole Davis is a Toronto-based writer who contributes to some of Canada’s most respected publications. She covers everything from real estate and urban affairs to travel.