5 Wellness Travel Trends for 2019

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The Wellness Tourism Association (WTA) is celebrating its first anniversary with the release of its first survey on Wellness Vacations. Members of WTA were polled to find out what the top wellness travel trends are for 2019.

Wellness travel has gained popularity globally, and the Global Wellness Institute is predicting that the wellness tourism sector will reach close to $1 trillion U.S. on a global level by 2020. So, if you’re not selling your clients on wellness vacations, now is the time to  do so.

Here are the five trends the WTA is predicting growth for:

1. Going Solo

Seventy-five percent of women take part in solo traveler retreats.

The Going Solo trend that many of the WTA members are witnessing supports the results of the WTA’s recent Wellness Vacation survey in which close to 25 percent of respondents reported a preference for solo travel. At Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Alberta, Davina Bernard, director of wellness, tells WTA that 50 percent of their wellness package guests are women traveling solo, a figure that increases to 75 percent for three- and four-night retreats.

At Canyon Ranch Resorts in Lenox, Massachusetts and Tucson, Arizona, president and COO Thomas Klein tells WTA that “half of our guests are solo travelers, and many of them are seeking an immersive, self-reflective experience.” While the wellness brand historically skews higher with female guests, in general, Klein points out an increase in solo male travelers desiring to regain a sense of purpose and focus on self-care as well.

Tammy Petersen of Chicago-based Retreats Unlimited tells WTA, “Our retreats are mostly luxury, so while we thought that people would travel together to save money, we are seeing so many solo travelers—especially women.”

2. Rise in Newcomers

Many travelers are taking a wellness-focused vacation for the first time.

At Canyon Ranch resorts, “new guests make up nearly 50 percent of our business,” says Klein. “We’ve observed this growing trend over the last few years, and it appears to be continuing strong.”

Bernard reports that “95 percent of the people who attend all-inclusive retreats at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise have never attended a wellness retreat before.” Supporting this trend, over 60 percent of WTA Survey respondents indicated that they had never taken a Wellness Vacation as they themselves described, but hoped to do so in the near future and wanted more information.

3. Greater Flexibility with Length of Stays

The flexibility between longer vacation options and short vacation options is increasing.

Members are seeing demand for a wider range of durations for retreats and programs. Kathleen LeSage, co-owner of the New Life Hiking Spa in Killington, Vermont, tells WTA that over the past three years, the number of guests that have stayed longer than two weeks has increased by 90 percent. She says, “the trend to longer stays prompted us to add the 21-night wellness retreat launched in 2017.” Simultaneously, Canyon Ranch has seen a decrease in guests’ average length of stay, as customers, “are seeking shorter and more frequent trips,” says Klein.

Hilton Head Health’s senior v.p. of sales and marketing Jessica Brantley tells WTA that while “annual visits” have been popular for years, guests are now planning out shorter, more frequent trips (two to four times per year) to stay on track, while others are dedicating resources to commit to an 8- to 12-week stay to make a significant and efficient impact on their health. She has also observed that while such bookings might have once been considered impulsive trips to drop a few pounds, H3 has found guests to be more structured and intentional with their wellness travel plans of late. Twenty percent of guests at Hilton Head Health plan their next visits before they leave, she adds.

4. Mental Health Matters

Guests are not only seeking yoga retreats, but mindful wellness vacations.

Petersen of Retreats Unlimited says she is seeing more of her retreat participants totally shut down for a few days, and when this happens, “there are often tears, deep conversations, and expressed feelings that they are not the only ones going through something.” She says they come for the yoga and fitness, but leave with a better sense of their own mental health. Adding that this might be the most “exciting trend for us.”

Wellness guests “might have been searching for ‘yoga retreats’ online, but it is the content around ‘mindfulness’ and how to live your best life that they tell us is the best part of our retreats,” says Bernard.

In response to demand from guests for more mindfulness education, Pritikin has added a licensed psychologist to its roster of medical experts which, according to Weinberg, “will not only increase the availability of one-on-one mental health consultations, but add new lectures, including Mindset Maintenance covering strategies to stay on track and prevent reversion to unhealthy habits.” And, at Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary in Koh Samui, Thailand, co-founder Karina Stewart is also seeing an increasing number of guests who desire to address their mental health and wellbeing, along with their physical health.

5. Demand for Specific Solutions & Increasing Awareness of Value Proposition

Travelers are appreciating true wellness-focused vacations that are the right fit for their specific needs.

Consumers are becoming more aware of the value associated with a true wellness vacation that is planned with a specific goal and carefully researched to ensure the right fit prior to booking.

At Kamalaya, Stewart has witnessed “more guests coming from all over the world because they are dealing with stress and stress-related symptoms due to their fast-paced lifestyles.” She is seeing an increasing number of travelers looking for health solutions and a results-focused approach to such health concerns as stress management, insomnia, and achieving a healthy weight. “The vast majority of guests come to Kamalaya with a goal in mind, whether it’s clearly defined (e.g. stress, detox or fitness) or less defined such as a need to reset internally (e.g. to address difficult life changes back home, relationship breakup, change of job, or emotional imbalance due to the loss of a loved one, perhaps). Some want to re-establish better lifestyle habits, eliminate some unhealthy habits, and fulfill the need to reset themselves,” she adds. Over the years, Stewart says they’ve seen a growing number of guests experiencing pain, discomfort and other symptoms related to physical misalignment. Just this past November, she adds, Kamalaya introduced a new Structural Revival wellness program to help guests find solutions.

At Eupepsia Wellness Center in Bland, Virginia, co-founder Shivani Schneider says solution-based programs are most in demand, in particular the 4- to 7-day (and longer) De-stress & Relax retreats, closely followed by Customized Weight Management retreats. She adds that “through personal assessments of each guest, we also became aware that many of them suffer from some type of sleep disorder, which is the direct result of imbalances in the body—and our programs are specifically tailored to help find solutions by addressing imbalances at their root cause.”

Klein reports that Canyon Ranch is “experiencing a phenomenon where people spanning various demographics and psychographics are increasingly seeking a healthy, vibrant and balanced lifestyle.” He says that when Canyon Ranch opened 40 years ago, no one knew what wellness meant. Now, he says, “consumers understand it, value it and, increasingly, expect and demand it at home, in the workplace and on vacation.”

For more information, visit wellnesstourismassociation.org. Don’t miss, “What Are Consumers Seeking in Wellness Travel?”