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Happiness retreats and long-stay wellcations: wellbeing trends you need to know

From the powerful effects of Vitamin D to wellness programmes devoted to “family happiness” breaks, we continue our wellbeing series with a look at some of the key trends to keep an eye on, with Mason Rose

Lefay Resort & Spa Lago di Garda in Italy
Lefay Resort & Spa Lago di Garda in Italy

Up until a few years back, hotels could be content with offering a couple of spa treatment rooms, a pool and parklands and some healthy options on the menu. But fast forward to a post-pandemic era where many have paused to take a look at their health and approach to life, and a whole new world of wellbeing is emerging.


Hotels had already been upping their game when it came to what was on offer, but the Covid-19 veil drawn over everyone has sparked them into offering a whole new wave of treatments and dedicated programmes. Alongside this of course is the growth in dedicated wellness resorts, where their whole existence is around assessing, re-setting and nurturing clients onto life-affirming, or life-changing pathways.


But how can agents be a part of it? What do you need to know? We asked Mason Rose, an international sales and communications agency specialising in the luxury hotel, wellness and lifestyle sector, to spotlight some of the trends and opportunities at hotels at wellness resorts worldwide.

A century of research informs practices at Buchinger Wilhelmi
A century of research informs practices at Buchinger Wilhelmi

What’s the trend? Preventative wellness

Arguably anywhere that offers guests the chance to boost your health and wellbeing contributes to preventative wellness, but some resorts go much deeper than this, offering fully comprehensive science-based programmes aimed at preventive wellness. These include the SHA Wellness Clinic in Spain, which among many programmes now has a 21-day Rebalance and Immune System programme; Clinique La Prairie in Switzerland which specialises in ‘longevity’; and Buchinger Wilhelmi on Lake Constance, which benefits from 100 years of research into the benefits of therapeutic fasting and integrative medicine.


Meanwhile in a post-pandemic world, Lefay Resorts’ property on Lake Garda has been extolling the virtues of Vitamin D as part of its Nourishing Life philosophy, which highlights the powerful effects of reconnecting with nature.

What’s the trend? Green getaways

Think wellness escapes that also capitalise on natural resources. Evian Resort located between the French side of Lake Geneva and scenic mountains is an amazing location to embrace a true sense of nature, especially with Evian being home to the natural source of the famed water. The wellness programming – including seasonal yoga (sno-ga in Winter anyone?), forest bathing and mindful mountain hikes – are teamed with muscle-soothing treatments in either one of two on-resort spas, including the Spa Quatre Terre, inspired by the process of making mineral water, and the luxurious Evian Spa at Hotel Royal.


Another good example is Atmantan Wellness Resort, which is built on a natural crystal bed that emits positive energies in the Sahyadri hills of Pune, India, overlooking the striking Mulshi Lake.

What’s the trend? Personalisation

From the pre-arrival briefing to the after-care, everything should be laser-focused on the guest’s wellbeing needs and goals. Personalisation is almost always expected when guests are going for a specific wellness programme or wellbeing retreat. Those seeking a truly transformative experience will want to ensure they have the tools and means to continue the good work on their return back to ‘real life’.


Emphasising this trend further are the dedicated wellness tour operators and personal travel advisors who support hotels with this process by ensuring they are fully briefed on clients’ needs prior to arrival. Many wellbeing-focused hotels and resorts do this really well, including pioneering Chiva Som in Thailand.

Childlike fun is an important part of the wellbeing landscape (image: Jamie Brown / Unsplash)
Childlike fun is an important part of the wellbeing landscape (image: Jamie Brown / Unsplash)

What’s the trend? Fun and experiential wellness

This trend highlights how emotional release can be an important part of wellbeing. Wellness is as much about enhancing and adding joy to your life as it is to detox and inner reflection, with wellness retreats offering the chance to embrace your inner child, be free and have fun, whether water sports or laughter yoga; some fitness retreats even offer dedicated strength training rituals inspired by animal moves. This can allow people the chance to break out of their comfort zones and rediscover their inner joy.


Another trend we’re seeing is wellness programming complemented by creative classes and workshops – Schloss Elmau is well known for its classical concerts and talks, whilst Buchinger Wilhelmi hosts dedicated “happiness weeks”, hosted by a specialist on positive psychology and the science of happiness. Vair Spa at Borgo Egnazia in Puglia, Italy also offers happiness breaks, including laughter workshops, meditations and treatments.

What’s the trend? Family wellness

We’ve seen the rise of sophisticated kid’s clubs; now it’s time for kid’s wellbeing clubs, designed to keep young minds active and inspired with an inclusive wellness experience.


Schloss Elmau has long been acknowledged for its family inclusive nature with family spas within its grounds and programming including yoga and soccer camps hosted by football coaches from the German Bundesliga. Evian Resort offers special wellness programmes for new parents and their young babies, such as aqua baby classes, baby massage and baby sign language.


Those with teens can head to the Algarve where VilaVita Parc now runs Teen Wellness, a programme created in partnership with London fitness guru Harry Jameson. It is designed to educate those aged 13-18 years old in a light-hearted and inspiring way via daily sessions or a weekly programme of diverse activities and workshops that support their mental, physical and emotional wellbeing.


Italy’s Borgo Egnazia now has a Family Happiness Break, including tailor-made experiences and treatments to strengthen relationships and work on the wellbeing of the whole family: after a tense time for many families with home-schooling and missing out on important milestones, the breaks aim to offer an antidote to a tough year. Bonding experiences include juggling, ‘walk of trust’ and cookery classes


Opening later this year in Qatar, Chiva Som’s sister resort Zulal will boast the impressive Family Wellness Centre, Knooz Al Sahraa, which is dedicated to the holistic development of children and the importance of family connection, something relatively new in the wellbeing space.

Vitality pool at the new Joali Being island in the Maldives
Vitality pool at the new Joali Being island in the Maldives

What’s the trend? Wellness architecture

An increasing number of new properties are being designed with consideration of the impact they have on the wellbeing of the people that live, work or frequent them.


The new nature-immersive wellbeing retreat Joali Being – which opens in the Maldives later this year – also has wellness architecture at the heart of its design. Completely focused on wellbeing, the island resort has been built using biophilic design principles, a scientific system of architecture and design which integrates nature, aiming to achieve harmony by eliminating negative vibrations and enhancing the energy flow of the island.


This is something Lefay Resorts has always embraced, even coining the term bio-architecture. From the outset they wanted to ensure that the essence of their spa method was reflected throughout the build, and it was imperative for them to use materials from the local area – not only because it’s better for the environment and local supply chain but to specifically try to create a connection between the interior of the properties and the nature outside.


Perhaps also part of the same trend is the implementation of a 360-degree sensory experience whereby every single touch point experienced by a guest sensually is deeply considered. Not just the treatment or programme, but asking how the choice of linen, the ambient perfumes or background music can affect their experience consciously as well as subconsciously.


What’s the trend? Long-stay programmes

While the way we work has been gradually evolving for some time, the advent of the pandemic – which forced people to work from home for lengthy periods – means some people have not returned to an office environment since March 2020.


The flex-hybrid approach to working remotely is not going away any time soon. With this in mind, we have started seeing the ‘work from anywhere’ trend, which has been embraced by hotels and other establishments by offering long stay packages packed with incentives for these longer duration guests.


Most recently, this longer-stay philosophy has also started being applied to wellness too, with lengthy immersive programmes guests can participate in, whilst perhaps still working from their hotel base.


Health and Fitness Travel founder Paul Joseph says there has been a definite rise in the number of enquiries and bookings for long-stay wellness trips ranging from 30 to 60 days at a time as people plot a long escape that will relocate them for a “wellness workcation”. He highlights the 21-day programme at Lily of the Valley in the French Riviera, which offers to reset your diet, mind and overall wellbeing with a focus on alternative therapies to combat the toxifying elements of modern living.


Properties that are open to offering long-term stays/ programmes and ‘allowing’ access to WiFi will benefit by this trend; not so long ago, the trend was digital detox – maybe this is a digital retox, acknowledging people will still need to be connected. Vana in India acknowledges this with a shared working space and in-room WiFi, whilst Kamalaya in Koh Samui has a Wellness Sabbatical for 21 days, which it recommends for those looking to “stay connected with professional commitments”.

Cryotherapy chamber at Grantley Hall, part of the Elite fitness area
Cryotherapy chamber at Grantley Hall, part of the Elite fitness area

What’s the trend? Technology and innovation

As the wellness world continues to go from strength to strength, consumers are more and more interested in how apps can help them or how they can embrace wearable tech to help in their wellbeing universe, as well as ensuring they can keep up any good work started while on a wellness break.

Hotels are also ensuring there is plenty of in-room content available, such as at The Saxon in Johannesburg which offers wellness programming from Earth+Sky. A dedicated ‘channel’ on the in-room tablet or TV offers a myriad of on-demand fitness and wellness sessions, presented by global specialists in inspiring locations around the world, from desert yoga and countryside Pilates, to creative “animal flow” classes. At just-opened Patina Maldives, guests can access a series of breathing technique tutorials put together by the resort’s yoga instructor on the resort’s app.

Closer to home, and at the very top of the technology game, Grantley Hall offers next-level wellness in the Yorkshire Dales with some of the most advanced equipment and treatment approaches you’ll see in a UK hotel setting. This includes altitude-controlled bedrooms available for those in specialist training, and at the Elite gym facility, features include a cryotherapy chamber, underwater treadmills and high-level performance testing and analytics.

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