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Posted June 4, 2018

wellness vacation

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More and more travelers are ditching trips filled with too much food and drink for trips that allow them to maintain or restart a healthy lifestyle. In fact, Global Health and Wellness Tourism 2018 finds that “wellness tourism is growing at 12% a year.”

In it’s predictions for 2018, Booking.com reports, “The trend for wellness getaways isn’t slowing down for 2018, with almost double the amount of people planning to take health and wellbeing trips in 2018 compared to 2017 (from 1 in 10 in 2017 to nearly 1 in 5 in 2018).”

The Global Wellness Institute estimates health and wellness travel will increase 43% (to $808 billion) from 2015 to 2020, and notes that “travelers took 691 million wellness trips—defined as ‘travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal wellbeing’—in 2015, up from about 104 million in 2013.”

Early this year, a New York Times article on wellness travel noted that Virtuoso Wellness, “a portfolio of 42 hotels and cruise lines” saw sales increase “20 percent last year compared with sales for the company’s other suppliers, which increased nine percent.”

Tourism departments recognize the interest. Writing for Travel Market Report, Anne Dimon notes the City of San Miguel in Guanajuato, Mexico “launched San Miguel Wellness Week focusing on the region’s thermal waters plus celebrating both Global Wellness Day and International Yoga Day.” Others undertaking similar efforts include Costa Rica Tourism Board, Aruba Tourism Authority and Saint Lucia Tourist Board.

De-stressing air travel

Flying isn’t something travelers usually connect to health and wellness, and airlines and airports are working hard to change that.

Meditation and yoga have made their way into the skies. Headspace, a meditation app, is available on United Airlines, JetBlue and Swiss Air flights (not all flights or classes), and British Airways in-flight entertainment includes “The Well Being Show.” Passengers on Cathay Pacific can practice in their seats with the “Travel Well With Yoga” video series, available in multiple languages.

And there are yoga options on the ground for harried air travelers. One airport choice is Yoga on the Fly, offering private rooms and exercises available through an iPad. VANE Airport magazine focuses on “wellness lifestyle at airports” and recently reported the Denver International Airport “turned a former storage room into something very different. It was transformed into a yoga room—with goats!”

XpresSpa, Be Relax Spa and Spa Here are three companies adding more spas to airports around the world. Spa Here’s new spa at Dallas/Forth Worth International Airport is “based on a privacy cocoon mini-spa.” Delta Airlines’ Asanda Spa Lounges give guests in three US airports an opportunity to participate in guided meditation through Deepak Chopra’s “Dream Weaver”.

Another wellness trend in the air and on the ground is helping travelers get much-needed sleep. In an April piece on what airlines are doing to improve wellness, Shivani Vora writes that American Airlines found “travelers wanted to sleep more soundly in the skies and to that end, the airline recently tapped the mattress and bedding brand Casper to design pillows, blankets and other products.”

Cristina Alcivar writes about the “rise of napping suites,” citing a “sleep capsule warren” opened by izZzleep in Mexico City Airport last year, and the acquisition by NapCity Americas of the US rights to Napcabs, a German-based sleep pod company that operates at Munich airport.

What about healthy food, a challenge when traveling? DietDetective.com and Dr. Charles Platkin of Hunter College and New York School of Public Health produce an annual analysis of airline foods. Among 12 airlines, Delta got high marks for reducing calories and including menu keys for vegan, gluten-free and non-GMO foods. Air Canada was recognized for “keeping nutrients high and calorie counts low for meals.”

Hotels & resorts take wellness out of the gym

Today’s hotel and resort wellness offerings are more than a fitness center with a few pieces of equipment.

Along with renting workout gear, Westin Hotels & Resorts guests can RunWESTIN®, three- and five-mile routes that guests run on their own or, at select locations, join a run led by a Run Concierge. Westin also offers foods to enhance sleep, essential oils to calm guests and the advice of Westin Well-being Experts.

DELOS has created Stay Well, which includes Stay Well rooms and a mobile app with a tool to combat jet lag. Rooms are available in at several Las Vegas properties and six US Marriott properties. Features include dawn simulation lighting, shower infusers to reduce chlorine, aromatherapy and air purification systems.

Six Senses Bhutan, a “multi-lodge wellness circuit” opening in August will present experiences at five lodges based on the pillars of Bhutan’s “Gross National Happiness Index.” In a Skift.com article, Six Sense Hotels Resorts Spas’ CEO Neil Jacobs said, “it’s imperative for his company to continue innovating in the luxury wellness space, because the entire travel industry is coming around to what has always been Six Senses’ fundamental mission promoting wellness as a lifestyle.”

Healthy on the high seas

Cruise lines are addressing wellness through healthier menus, expanded spa options and even amenities like salt rooms found on the Scenic river cruise line.

A CNN post, “The Best Cruises for Wellness and Good Health,” profiles numerous options for healthy cruising including Regent’s “Seven Seas Wellness” tours which “pair wellness-themed shore excursions, like a visit to hydrothermal pools in Sorrento, Italy… with one of five complimentary 50-minute spa services back on board.” Oceania cruise line offers “private yoga sessions overlooking the bay in Monte Carlo, or laughter-immersion workshops at a farmhouse set in the heart of Costa Brava, Spain.’

MSC Cruises‘ has a host of wellness-themed cruises and programs. Last year, MSC hosted a Caribbean cruise, “Rejuvenation Vacation at Sea,” in partnership with Weight Watchers, and this year launched “Wellness Experience by Technogym,” which combines fitness classes, special menus, excursions and stateroom amenities.

Diverse tours & activities encourage wellbeing 

Travelers have much to choose from when looking for tours and activities that will support health, wellness and mindfulness.

According to Booking.com, 56% of travelers say they want walking or hiking trips in 2018. They also found that in 2018 travelers are interested in ”visiting a spa or receiving beauty treatments (33%), cycling (24%), water sport activities (22%), taking a full body detox holiday (17%), going on a yoga retreat (16%), running (16%) and undertaking meditation/mindfulness (15%).”

The New York Times reports that Intrepid Travel expects to increase “wellness-focused group trips” from 20 last year to 50 this year. The company’s travel director claims “the number of travelers who booked them increased significantly in 2017 — in the United States alone, the jump was 88 percent from 2016.”

“Hundreds (and hundreds) of journey-based wellness trips…happen every year,” states the 2018 Global Wellness Trends Report, ranging from “Shakti Kumaon’s jaw-dropping, mind-opening walking tours through the Himalayas with everything from stays in ancient village houses to organic meals and yoga set in pine forests to Puakai Healing’s spiritual journeys through Peru’s Sacred Valley with pilgrimages to ancient Incan sites, amazing yoga and fire ceremonies.”

Whether it’s called mindfulness travel or wellness travel, all sectors of travel are incorporating healthier, relaxing and rejuvenating options into their offerings. Increasing interest and sustained growth across the globe is making wellness travel more than a fad and more of a commonplace.


David Craft

David Craft

With WEX since 2016, David looks after our travel and warranty customers. David joined WEX as a Solutions Engineer, having previously held accounting and system development roles at a travel customer of WEX – this experience provides David with a strong technical understanding of our virtual payments solution. David holds a Bachelor of Science degree from The University of Texas at Arlington and currently lives in Austin, TX.


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