From yoga-themed cruises to digital-detox retreats, wellness breaks have spawned a multi-billion-pound global industry, reports Karl Cushing.
Once the preserve of specialists such as BodyHoliday St Lucia (thebodyholiday.com) and Como (comohotels.com), wellness tourism has smashed into the mainstream to create a global industry that was worth $639 billion in 2017 and is set to hit $919 billion by 2022, according to the non-profit Global Wellness Institute.
From simple spa and yoga breaks to retreats focused on mindfulness, health diagnostics or nutrition, the options continue to evolve. Meanwhile, demand for detoxing has grown to incorporate digital detox escapes as consumers look to unplug from their increasingly tech- and social media-driven lives. Indeed, as analyst Euromonitor notes in its Megatrends Shaping the Future of Travel report, released in November, frazzled travellers are increasingly moving from a fear of missing out (FOMO) to the joy of missing out (JOMO).
It’s not all about kicking back and finding inner calm though. Euromonitor also points to the rise of more demanding programmes such as Black Tomato’s Get Lost (blacktomato.com/get-lost). With the tagline “you need to get lost to find yourself”, the programme promises journeys into the unknown, backed by a watchful but distant support team.
The wellness trend mirrors the recent surge in demand for active and adventure breaks. It is fitting then that October saw G Adventures (gadventures.co.uk) launch a new Wellness collection of more than 80 tours in ten destinations, ranging from seven to 13 days. Meanwhile, Intrepid Travel’s (intrepidtravel.com) focuses include India, where the nine-day Mind, Body, Spirit Journey from Bangalore to Kochi, priced from £1,020pp, is brimming with Ayurveda (a holistic science of health), yoga and meditation experiences.
Of course you don’t need to venture so far afield. This year’s hot openings include the adult-only, five-star Longevity Health & Wellness Hotel (longevitywellnessworldwide.com), set to open on Portugal’s Western Algarve
Many of Thailand’s world-class wellness retreats can be found on its idyllic islands. Top picks include The Sanctuary (thesanctuarythailand.com), set on Koh Phangan’s secluded Haad Tien beach, and Soneva Kiri (soneva.com) on Koh Kood, with its “slow life” philosophy.
On Phuket, Akyra Beach Club (theakyra.com/phuket) has launched a new Unlimited Wellness programme, offering clients a guaranteed complimentary spa, fitness or wellness experience per stay lasting at least an hour, with additional hours subject to availability. Options range from SUP (stand-up paddleboard) yoga and tai chi to beach meditation backed by its Ayurah Spa. Also new for 2019 are its Train and Sustain Bootcamps featuring voluntourism aspects such as beach clean-ups. From £150pppn in a Sea View Villa.
Mainland stalwarts include celeb favourite Chiva-Som (chivasom.com) in Hua Hin, where Elegant Resorts (elegantresorts.co.uk) has a seven-night, full-board break in an Ocean Deluxe Double Room from £3,650pp, including flights from Heathrow with Thai Airways departing November 4, 2019 and a variety of treatments.
Heading up north it’s hard to beat Dhara Dhevi (dharadhevi.com) with its picture-perfect setting near Chiang Mai and offerings including Ayurvedic and Shirodhara warm-oil treatments.
Mauritius and The Maldives
The big news in Mauritius – home to a personal wellness favourite, the Shanti Maurice (shantimaurice.com) – is November’s launch of the 59-room SALT of Palmar (saltresorts.com). Stand-outs at this east-coast gem include the SALT equilibrium spa with its five treatment rooms and salt room – a first for Mauritius – backed by a range of holistic activities such as The Sunrise Run Club and meditation. It will offer yoga at the SALT Farm opening in May 2019, which is run in conjunction with a local NGO.
Angsana Balaclava Mauritius (angsana.com), a Banyan Tree property set on Turtle Bay, boasts a stunning Angsana Spa and 55 suites, including three luxuriously secluded Spa Sanctuary Suites. Last year saw the property appoint an Ayurvedic Doctor who guides guests through its spa’s five dedicated wellness programmes – detox; de-stress and rejuvenation; weight management; pampering; and fitness and discovery – following a private wellness consultation. Retreats run for five, seven and 14 nights.
Wellness is also central to the latest resort offerings of the Maldives such as Westin Maldives Miriandhoo (opened October; marriott.com); MÖvenpick Resort Kuredhivaru (opened November; movenpick.com); and Residence Maldives, Dhigurah (opened January; cenizaro.com).
Eco-luxe JOALI Maldives (joali.com), which opened in December, encourages guests to support its local corporate social responsibility projects while a walking track and fitness centre are among the offerings at 200-guestroom Saii Lagoon Maldives (saiiresorts.com/maldives/lagoon), opening in August.
Sri Lanka and Seychelles
Alongside top-notch Ayurveda resorts such as Siddhalepa (siddhaleparesort.com) and yoga retreats such as Ulpotha (ulpotha.com) sit welcoming wellness havens such as Cape Weligama (resplendentceylon.com/capeweligama). Options at the latter’s newly refurbished spa range from Hatha yoga and wellness clinics to hot lava shell massages and treatments featuring Thémaé products including its detoxifying “four teas elixir”. The property also partners with neighbouring Barberyn Ayurveda Resort on its wellness programme, offering everything from Ayurvedic immersions to dedicated fitness, surfing and yoga-based packages.
Over in the Seychelles, solid wellness-backed options include Maia Luxury Resort & Spa, as featured by the Inspiring Travel Co (inspiringtravelcompany.co.uk), and the Four Seasons Resort (fourseasons.com/seychelles/spa). For those truly looking to get away from it all, November saw the opening of Blue Safari Seychelles’ Cosmoledo Eco Camp (bluesafari.com) on remote Wizard Island in the pristine Cosmoledo Atoll. Based around a cluster of eight “eco pod” rooms, made from repurposed shipping containers, it’s an energising slice of eco-luxe heaven.
Wellness is a byword for properties such as Karkloof Safari Spa in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal (karkloofsafarispa.com) and it’s an increasing focus at lodges such as Ntchisi Forest Lodge (ntchisiforestlodge.com) in Malawi, where regular features include mindfulness weekends.
Regional rising stars include Madagascar, where stand-out properties include Miavana Private Island, featured by the likes of Rainbow Tours (rainbowtours.co.uk).
Properties specialising in yoga-and wellness-backed safari packages include Kenya’s Campi Ya Kanzi (maasai.com), whose holistic wellness offering incorporates traditional Maasai approaches.
Coastal options include the romanceful Indian Ocean enclave of Zanzibar. Here, tantalising options include Fruit & Spice Wellness Resort, with its restful Jungle Spa (fruitandspiceresort.travel), and andBeyond’s (andbeyond.com) Mnemba Island – sister property to the equally rejuvenating Benguerra Island and Vamizi Island down the coast of Mozambique.
Morocco’s excellent range of wellness offerings includes five-star Es Saadi Marrakech (essaadi.com/en). Set in 20 acres of tropical gardens, its healthful 360-degree approach rests upon on five pillars of wellness – well-being, beauty, fitness, nourishment and culture – aided by a slow food philosophy, three pools, three spas and a beautifying Dior Institut. New for 2019 is a 60-minute Kobido anti-ageing facial treatment (£90). Junior Suites start from £270pn, with Villas leading in at £800pn.
From meditation and mindfulness to nutrition and surfing, wellness is hardwired into the DNA of Costa Rica, known for its pura vida approach to tourism. Key wellness centres in the country, which aims to become the world’s first carbon-neutral country by 2021, include the area around Arenal Volcano, with its thermal hot springs and spa resorts such as Nayara Springs (nayarasprings.com) and Tabacón Thermal Resort & Spa, featured by the likes of A&K (abercrombiekent.co.uk).
The region also features on G Adventures’ (gadventures.com) eight-day Wellness Costa Rica, a round trip from the capital San Jose, priced from £1,249 departing October 26, 2019. The itinerary also includes time in Rincón de la Vieja for yoga and therapeutic mud baths; beach time at Playa Carrillo; and a visit to Mi Cafecito Community Coffee Plantation, one of the operator’s G for Good projects.
Set amid its own nature reserve on Nicoya Peninsular, and featured by operators such as Sunvil (sunvil.co.uk), Lagarta Lodge offers everything from yoga and spa treatments to hot tubs and massage, alongside invigorating views overlooking the Pacific, while wellness-backed all-inclusive options include Westin Golf Resort & Spa on Playa Conchal (westinplayaconchal.com).
Wellness is an increasing focus in cruise with a new US wellness-focused line, Blue World Voyages (blueworldvoyages.co.uk), set to launch in May.
For 2019, Star Clippers (starclipperscruises.co.uk) has more than 10 yoga-themed sailings including an eight-night package from Thailand. Priced from £2,499, it includes a seven-night full-board round-trip cruise from Phuket aboard Star Clipper; a one-night pre-cruise stay at The SALA Phuket Resort; and flights from Heathrow departing October 31, 2019.
Celebrity Cruises and Regent Seven Seas (rssc.com) partner with wellness specialist Canyon Ranch for their on-board offerings while MSC Cruises (msccruises.co.uk) joined forces with Weight Watchers to create its Voyage to Wellbeing programme. Options include a week-long Med cruise aboard MSC Seaview sailing from Barcelona (July 20-27, 2019).
Crystal Cruises (crystalcruises.co.uk) offers healthy on-board dining, wellness seminars and complimentary classes such as yoga stretching, while select cruises feature experts from bodies such as the Tai Chi Cultural Center. A 14-night Mind, Body & Spirit Caribbean cruise sailing from New Orleans to Fort Lauderdale aboard Crystal Symphony costs from £3,270pp for cruise-only.
Hapag Lloyd’s (hl-cruises.com) Europa 2 offers programmes such as In2Balance and the more physical Be.You while its next-generation vessels such as Hanseatic Inspiration, launching in October, will feature wellness decks.