There’s more to wellness travel than fitness apps and fancy spas. It should also help people feel a sense of purpose, community, and personal growth.
Wellness Tourism is Trending
The Global Wellness Institute (GWI) defines wellness tourism as “travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal well-being.”
The GWI predicts that the wellness tourism market will grow to $919 billion in 2022. This number is almost double what the market was valued at in 2015 and represents about 18% of all global tourism. These numbers are astounding and can be at least partly attributed to the stress of the ongoing pandemic. According to a poll done by Booking.com, 79% of travelers reported that travel helps their mental and emotional wellbeing more than other types of self-care. As we start to tiptoe back out into the world after two-plus years of the pandemic, it is clear that people are looking for ways to feel better.
Physical and mental well-being is becoming a top priority when booking travel. Travelers are seeking opportunities to participate in rejuvenating experiences as they take their wellness on the road. As a result, many hotels and resorts have responded by adding Peloton bikes as well as access to various fitness and meditation apps. While these are certainly nice perks for some guests, there is a lot more to wellness and wellbeing than expensive amenities.
The National Wellness Institute defines wellness as “an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.” This definition is broad and allows us to understand wellness beyond simply fitness and self-care. Wellness also encompasses our sense of purpose, belonging, and resilience, as well as our values and vision. It is the integration of mind, body, and spirit. While a fitness app can tend to some of those needs, what we really need are more inclusive and holistic wellness travel offerings.
Wellness is so much more than elite, consumerist-driven fads. The average person cannot relate to or afford this version of wellness. Positioning wellness in this way creates exclusion, which in fact, is the opposite of wellness. Wellness should be for everyone. This is especially true as we emerge from the pandemic and seek ways to heal from the trauma and stress of the last two-plus years.
Helping people maintain their health and wellness routines while on the road is great, but let’s also expand our understanding of wellness. In addition to stationary bikes, also help people feel a sense of purpose, belonging, community, and true care. Integrate people’s values into their travel experiences to create more meaningful wellness offerings.
Infusing the Purpose
Another post-pandemic global travel trend is mindful travel, which refers to travel experiences that are purposeful, intentional, and restorative. The pandemic has given travelers a chance to reflect on how they travel and the impact they have on the places they visit. As a result, travelers are increasingly seeking meaningful travel opportunities that have a positive impact on local communities.
The rise of mindful travel not only empowers local communities and people but also emphasizes connection and meaningful cultural exchange. Now, more than ever, travelers are seeking soulful experiences that expand their horizons and prioritize self-reflection and wellbeing. These experiential activities offer a deeply personal connection and lasting inspiration. Holly Tuppen reflects on the transformative power of travel in a recent article for 5 Media, “One of the less tangible benefits of community-based tourism: transformation. This level of intimacy has a chance to bring about the personal transformations that can make the world a fairer, greener place. It’s not a showcase but a two-way exchange, demonstrating and discussing pride and challenges equally. It’s underpinned by the honesty and trust required for any productive and meaningful human interaction and relationship – the ones that create a long-lasting connection and therefore alter hearts and minds.”
The feelings of transformation, purpose, inspiration, community, belonging, and meaning offered through mindful travel are essential to true wellness. A Goop contraption is great, but a lasting feeling of purpose is much more significant to our sense of wellbeing.
While wellness travel often entails luxurious spa treatments and exclusive retreats, in reality, wellness is less about consuming and more about engaging. Offering travelers a sense of community and common humanity is key to amplifying a sense of connection. Peter Rubenstein explains this phenomenon in an article for the BBC, “The concept, first coined by French sociologist Émile Durkheim in 1912, is called “collective effervescence”, and refers to the way communal gatherings can intensify the experience of the group. The intoxication of shared activities, such as a yoga class or group hike, can enhance the emotional quality and create deep bonds between the actors, Durkheim surmised.”
Not only do communal gatherings contribute to a feeling of collective effervescence, but they also offer a container to process the overall travel experience. Coming together as a group to intentionally slow down and turn inward allows for deeper integration of all that one has experienced. Building in space for digestion and reflection also allows travelers to cultivate resilience skills so they have resources to manage stress and overwhelm.
Mindful travel inspires and connects people while holding space for their learning and transformation. It makes journeys purposeful by including opportunities for cultural exchange and social impact. All of this expands horizons and contributes to a version of wellness that is inclusive, purposeful, and values-based.
Wellness Travel Redefined
Our collective sense of wellbeing has taken a beating over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic. As we begin to re-emerge, seeking ways to feel better and to do better, we need to broaden our understanding of what contributes to wellness.
After two-plus years of relative isolation, we need community gatherings and healing spaces that are holistic and inclusive. Wellness is more than navel-gazing and spendy self-indulgences. Positioning wellness and wellbeing as if they were exclusive luxury amenities is missing the point. Wellness is for everyone and is not a commodity. To offer more meaningful experiences of wellness, consider facilitating opportunities that allow people to tap into their values, connect with like-hearted people, learn about other cultures, have a social impact, and reflect on their own journeys.
Right now, people need to feel inspired, connected, and supported. We need inclusive and intentional spaces to heal, cultivate resilience, and process all that we have experienced.
As Booking.com reports, 79% of travelers say that travel helps their mental and emotional wellbeing more than other types of self-care. Travel has an enormous potential to be healing and to improve wellness. Furthermore, caring for our minds, bodies, and spirits while we travel enables us to travel better. There is great synergy between travel and wellness. We just need to remember that this synergy has nothing to do with gadgets and everything to do with intentional human connection.