Wellness travel 2018: trends and insights

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With one in five travellers set to book a wellness trip in 2018, wellbeing has become business. Click. talks to the experts to explore the opportunities for hotels, and why just having a gym doesn't cut it anymore

Wellness is a buzzword which has been around since the Fifties, when doctors brought to light the connection between mind, body and spirit being key to a person's wellbeing. It's only in the past decade or so that it's become a familiar term on everyone's lips, especially hoteliers.

These days hotels and wellness go hand-in-hand, from spa days at country manors, in-room massages at airport hotels, to all-inclusive spa resorts. In certain destinations, such as the Caribbean and the Indian Ocean islands, having a firm focus on wellness is key to staying relevant in a competitive market. “The wellness industry has been growing at an incredibly fast rate over the last 10 years, and is now three times larger than the global pharmaceutical industry,” says Nigel Franklyn, Founder of the Spa Whisperer, Spa Development and Design Consultancy.

[The wellness industry] is now three times larger than the global pharmaceutical industry 

“I think people first become exposed to the various components that make up holistic wellness at a local level - spa days, hen weekends etc. and then look more deeply at sustainable experiences and the benefits,” explains Franklyn. “Even international airports are opening spas, because wellness has become such a crucial component of travel. This was simply not something we saw years ago when I developed some of the world’s first airport spas in Dubai.”

Woman on a wellness trip
These days hotels and wellness go hand-in-hand. Photo: Kristopher Allison


As a result of this spike, hotels are getting serious about their wellness package, a small gym and a sauna is just not going to cut it. In the last year, Hilton has introduced in-room gyms with state-of-the-art training stations and Wattbikes. While the MGM Grand in Las Vegas offers a wellness upgrade with the latest technologies by the Cleveland Clinic and Dr. Deepak Chopra, such as Vitamin C infused showers, and energising light to help reset your sleep cycle. Even Equinox, the premier US fitness company is set to open its first hotel with a fitness focus in New York City in 2019.

“Increased workloads and busy lives means everyone from health conscious millennials to burnt out business executives are looking to improve their physical and mental health during their holidays,” says Lisa Brown, Founder of TheLuxurySpaEdit.com, an elite spa and wellness website. “Savvy wellness consumers are looking for tailored retreats like holistic healing, Ayurvedic and mind health programmes, paired with visiting masters such as yoga, fitness, and nutrition experts. While preventative, better ageing and osteo health programmes are also becoming increasingly popular.”

Rise in demand

Last year, one in 10 travellers booked a wellness trip, and in 2018 that number is set to increase to one in five, an unprecedented rise in demand. “Our customers want to incorporate health and wellness into their holidays and learn new skills, which they can include in everyday life,” says Abi Wright, Founder and Managing Director of online spa travel agency, Spabreaks.com. “We’ve responded by adding more and more dedicated packages, which include specialised wellness aspects, such as meditation, mindfulness, yoga and anti-stress techniques.”

Hotels are getting serious about their wellness package, a small gym and a sauna is just not going to cut it

Living in an ever-connected world, it's important to switch off now and again to regain some kind of balance. However, our love of technology does have its benefits. Consumers can now monitor their health and wellbeing with gadgets such as Fitbit and other activity trackers, and bring balance into everyday life with meditation apps like Headspace and Happier.

“The human body requires just as much attention as a car does,” says Gareth Stubbs, Co-Founder of D-Toxd retreats in Spain. “It requires a regular check or sooner or later burnout will happen. On our seven-day programmes we see people walk through our doors exhausted and drained, and leave with more energy, more focus and less weight. And more than 70% of our clients return at least twice, and 25% come three to four times a year.”

As fitness and wellbeing continues to be a major priority for travel consumers, it's important the hotel industry embraces and grows with the sector. “The great news for wellness travellers and the industry is that an increase in demands and expectations means an increase in the development of the entire wellness concept, and this game changer can only serve to benefit everybody!” concludes Franklyn.

Hero image: credit to Haley Phelps

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Nearly one in five travellers will book a health and wellbeing trip in 2018, an increase from one in 10 last year
The global wellness tourism industry was worth $563bn in 2017, with global travellers making almost 700 million wellness trips a year
Consumers want to incorporate health and wellness into their vacations and learn new skills which they can include in their everyday lives
The global wellness industry is now three times larger than the pharmaceutical industry
Hotels are getting serious about wellness in 2018, a small gym and sauna is not going to cut it in this fierce market