5 Trends in Wellness Tourism

Wellness, hospitality, and travel businesses are converging.

Since wellness tourism burst into mainstream consumer consciousness a few years ago, the industry has evolved rapidly. Businesses and governments are investing in developing new strategies, products, experiences, and destinations. Wellness, hospitality, and travel are converging in diverse and unprecedented ways, as businesses experiment with new partnerships and business models to offer expanded services and programming that will help travelers incorporate wellness into every aspect of their trips.

1) Fly healthy and fly well.

Recognizing that air travel can be an unhealthy and stressful experience, airports and airlines are promoting health and wellness programs for customers combating long travel times, disrupted sleep, cramped spaces, and stress. Collaborations among airports, airlines, and wellness businesses are taking many forms:

  • At airport terminals and airline lounges around the world, travelers can now find yoga classes, spas, quiet relaxation areas, nap pods, healthier foods, VR technology, and even therapy dogs. In Singapore, travelers at Changi Airport can relax in fitness lounges, high-end spas, and a rooftop pool and jacuzzi; visit outdoor flower gardens; or even try the meditative art of wood-carving. In Switzerland, Zurich provides rentals of inline skates, bicycles, and Nordic walking poles to encourage travelers to exercise in the conservation area just outside the airport. Qatar’s Hamad Airport has a Vitality, Wellbeing, and Fitness Centre with a pool, hydrotherapy services, and showers. The American Heart Association is partnering with airports across the United States to map out guided walking circuits throughout airport terminals. Many airports are also experimenting with biophilic and healthy design approaches, such as adding natural daylight, plant walls, outdoor and indoor green spaces, and natural and locally-sourced materials.
  • In-flight services on many airlines now include health-conscious cuisine, wellness programming, and sleep and relaxation products. Lufthansa provides its passengers with specially-designed sleep masks, while Qantas, Hawaiian Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and other airlines offer in-flight meditation and wellness programming as part of their in-flight entertainment packages.
  • Partnerships between the airline industry and wellness industries have led to expanded health and wellness offerings. American Express is partnering with Exhale to open airport spas. Singapore Airlines is working with Canyon Ranch to ease the stress of its long-haul flights with offerings focusing on sleep, cuisine, and guided stretching. Qantas has partnered with Bodhi Wellness Spa to provided guided stretching and meditation at its new lounge in Perth. Delta Airlines recently offered a promotion with Equinox, allowing customers to visit Equinox gyms or access online classes via their smart device if they had recently flown on the airline.
  • Established wellness enterprises are expanding their markets and services to travel venues. Be Relax Spa has expanded its operations and offerings (new juice bars) to nearly two dozen airports on three continents. Sleep pod companies such as Izzzleep in Mexico and NapCity in the Americas and Germany offer specialized sleep services. New airport facilities and programs by fitness newcomers such as Roam Gym and FlyFit have expanded the choices for fitness enthusiasts with time to spare during transit.
  • Social media and a variety of apps are enabling savvy air travelers to find the health and wellness services they need. The Sanctifly App provides an efficient way to search airports for healthy choices, including gyms, spas, and pools. LoungeBuddy helps users find the airport lounge with their desired services and allows them to use their phone to book a space. For those seeking tips from seasoned travelers, blogs such as Your Fit Trip (food) and Fittest Travel (fitness) provide travelers with wellness tips and information.

2) Healthy hotels go mainstream.

As wellness travel becomes more mainstream, many hotels are incorporating wellness into their design, amenities, services, and programming. Wellness features may include bedding and lighting that promote better sleep; windows and shades that block out light and noise; in-room fitness equipment and videos; healthy snacks, minibars, and menus at restaurants; or on-site spas and gyms.

  • In conjunction with industry experts such as the Joffrey Ballet and Nora Tobin, Marriott has created a variety of new health and wellness offerings, including in-room fitness programming, immersive wellness retreats, healthy food, and outdoor fitness options. Since pioneering its iconic Heavenly® Bed concept in 1999, Westin has expanded to a fully integrated health and wellness strategy that addresses six pillars of wellbeing for guests (eat, sleep, move, feel, work, and play well), supported by a new $30 million “Let’s Rise” global brand campaign that communicates Westin’s commitment to guests’ wellbeing. Hilton has introduced its “Five Feet to Fitness” program, which provides over 11 different pieces of fitness equipment in guest rooms. Six Senses is highlighting “Eat and Sleep with Six Senses” to allow guests to focus on sleep quality and healthy eating. Accor has launched specialized wellness programs across its luxury brands; for example, the Pullman brand offers a “Sleep, Food, Sport, + Spa” program across its hotels and is piloting “Dreem,” a neuroscience-based active sleep technology.
  • Partnerships and acquisitions have allowed some larger hotel brands to quickly enhance their health and wellness offerings. Major hotel brands are partnering with a diverse array of fitness companies such as Technogym, Reebok, and Peloton to reach more wellness-minded consumers. Marriott, Four Seasons, Wyndham, and MGM have benefitted from the expertise of companies such as Delos (Stay Well™), to design guest rooms that provide extensive wellness amenities and services for travelers. Hyatt acquired both Miraval and Exhale to create strategic partnerships with existing wellness and fitness leaders. AccorHotels is also partnering with Banyan Tree to increase its wellness offerings.
  • An emerging trend in hotels is the adoption of design principles such as wellness architecture, biophilic design, and sustainability elements into entire design of the property. For example, 1 Hotels has been a leader in implementing biophilic, healthy, and sustainable design features throughout its properties, aiming to stimulate guests’ five senses and activate public spaces.

3) Engineering new wellness travel experiences.

Consumers are increasingly viewing vacations as an opportunity to experience wellness in new ways, and tourism-related businesses from cruise lines to tour operators and event organizers are engineering diverse new wellness travel experiences.

  • Cruise lines have not only brought sumptuous spas and workout spaces on board, but many are now showcasing other aspects of health and wellness including healthy food, relaxation, meditation, and wellness-themed excursions. In Asia, Chinese travelers have driven the rise of health and wellness offerings on several cruise lines. The Genting Dream, part of the Dream Cruises line in Asia, has a 4,000 square-meter spa with all of the latest Western and Asian spa treatments, in addition to a first-rate gym, fitness studio, and yoga and Pilates classes. Star Clippers has introduced complimentary yoga, meditation, and fitness classes on some of its cruises. In addition to high-tech gym equipment, Silver Sea cruises provides complimentary massages and wellness-themed classes including cooking and fitness. Many cruise ships are adding new therapies onboard, such as acupuncture and minimally-invasive beauty treatments that are typically offered at medical spas (e.g., botox and fillers).
  • A number of cruise lines are partnering with wellness industry experts and service providers to raise the quality and sophistication of their wellness offerings, or to create wellness-themed voyages. Lindblad Expeditions has formed a partnership with Exhale, while Seabourn is collaborating with Dr. Andrew Weil, an expert in integrative medicine, to launch wellness cruises. Holland America is working with O (the Oprah Magazine) to offer mediation and healthy lifestyle programming on some of its cruises, and Windstar cruises now has James Beard Award nominee chefs creating its menus. MSC cruises, which highlights its partnerships with Technogym, has developed a comprehensive wellness program that includes a pre-cruise wellness assessment. In 2017, MSC also partnered with Weight Watchers to launch the first “Weight Watchers Rejuvenation Vacation at Sea” cruise. The first entirely health and wellness-themed cruise line, Blue World Voyages, is slated to launch in 2019.
  • Meanwhile, tour operators and event organizers are helping travelers to find their desired wellness travel experiences. Virtuoso (a high-end network of travel companies) has a wellness travel community that provides wellness travelers everything they need to create a tailored wellness vacation. In Africa, longstanding safari operators like Micato Safaris, as well as newer tour operators like Satori Africa (the first Africa-based wellness travel company), are combining wellness offerings such as yoga, meditation, massage, trail running, and healthy/local cuisine with traditional safari activities. In North America, Wanderlust festivals with yoga and meditation instructors, musicians, and chefs, have drawn over 100,000 wellness enthusiasts to take part in wellness related activities in popular travel destinations.

4) Wellness products and brands travel with their customers.

As wellness routines become a daily lifestyle for many consumers, products and brands are following their customers on their travels to help them continue these routines wherever they go.

  • To allow its loyal cycling customers to continue to train when traveling, Peloton has partnered with Westin and some other Marriott brands to offer its bikes in hotel guest rooms and gyms. Equinox, known for its luxury gyms in major U.S. metropolitan areas, has created its own hospitality brand and will open its first hotel in New York City’s Hudson Yards development in 2019. It has announced plans to build as many as 75 fitness-centric hotels in the world.
  • Some retail and product companies are projecting their customer values and expanding their product brands into wellness travel experiences. Lululemon and Free People, both athleisure retailers, have created wellness retreats for their customers. ClassPass, which offers fitness subscription packages that permit customers to take a variety of studio classes, has just announced its first Getaways break in the Hamptons, New York, and it plans to roll out more short trips to other vacation destinations soon.

5) A new nexus of travel, work, and wellness.

For those who want longer time to experience a country than the standard vacation, several innovative companies have combined coworking and travel with wellness:

  • Roam, Outsite, The Remote Experience, WY_CO, CoWoLi, Nomad House, and Unsettled are coliving and coworking enterprises that allow people to experience other countries and cultures while working and living with like-minded individuals. These companies typically offer private accommodations with shared living spaces, working spaces, and other community amenities, in addition to the opportunity to experience a city or region for a week, a month, or more. Many also provide on-site wellness/fitness amenities, yoga classes, meditation, and other community events. WeWork, which started with coworking and coliving properties and recently branched into fitness with Rise by We, has quietly entered the hospitality space with short term rental rooms/studios in New York City.
  • Some coworking travel groups, such as Behere and Hera Hub, cater exclusively to women, helping them to maintain their health and wellness routines while safely exploring new cities and settings across the globe. Behere gives clients access to local gym and fitness studios, while Hera Hub has created spa-inspired environments within its shared spaces.

Clearly, the rise of wellness tourism is enticing new entrants into the market, as well as new forms of competition and partnerships. The integration of business areas along a continuum from hospitality to wellness and healthy lifestyles will continue to gather momentum. We expect more experimentation in different types of integration within this continuum in the future, as different players in the travel, hospitality, spa, fitness, and retail worlds identify what drives their core customers and seek out new ways to distinguish themselves from competitors in this evolving landscape.

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