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Why wellbeing is the next big thing in luxury travel

With the world likely to need a huge dose of wellbeing as we unravel from the awful web of Covid-19, hotels and resorts are lining up the treatments and therapies ready to welcome and reset guests again. We look at the new wellbeing landscape and why agents need to be a part of it 

Four Seasons Laanda Giraavu Maldives Spa
Four Seasons Laanda Giraavu Maldives Spa

In these most difficult of times, a key priority for when people can travel again is likely be a trip with a wellbeing focus, maybe seeking to strengthen their immune system, or searching to find meaning around the earth-shattering impact of the pandemic.


And clients will not be short of options, especially around a trend towards new Covid-19 specific programmes that help build defences to help avoid catching it, or detailed therapies to help those recover further who’ve had the virus.


Such is the potential in the segment, specialist luxury travel advisor Bluebird Travel has branched out with a new division, Health Travel, which will focus purely on suiting the needs of clients seeking solutions-driven trips. Their idea had been five years in the thinking, as Bluebird’s wider client base started looking for more wellness on trips, but the pandemic provided the impetus “to finally put the plans into motion” for a separate offshoot, according to director Toby Watfa.


“With more time on our hands, we hired new talent, invested resources into creating the new brand and service, then further developed our partnerships with leading wellness hotels and experience providers,” Watfa says.


As he points out, wellness travel is in demand now more than ever, particularly for those who have been confined in cities with little access to natural green space.


“With mental and physical health an ongoing topic throughout the pandemic, we anticipate wellness and reconnection to be the key focus of many upcoming trips in 2021 and beyond,” he says. “The pandemic has reshaped our relationship with how we live and how we travel too. We are really suggesting a more proactive approach towards health too, identifying problems before they arise and helping clients adapt behaviours to lead a healthier lifestyle.”


Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne (EHL), which nurtures the next leaders in hospitality and offers an 18-week major in wellness and spa management, predicts a natural boom in wellness.


“Post-pandemic, we’ll expect to see the rise of complementary and alternative medicine treatments and cures in specialist areas such as chiropractic, acupuncture and nutrition, as well as chanting and meditation being adopted within the wellness space as spas become spaces for mental and physical recovery,” says Demian Hodari, hospitality strategy professor at EHL.

Zulal Wellness Resort in Qatar is a sister resort to Chiva Som
Zulal Wellness Resort in Qatar is a sister resort to Chiva Som


New wellbeing resorts that had been planned before the pandemic are now coming to fruition with renewed relevance.


A sister development to the renowned Chiva Som in Thailand, Zulal Wellness Resort will be opening towards the end of the year in Qatar, and will take a more detailed look at family wellness, as well as lifestyle ideas and pioneering new practices based on traditional Arabic and Islamic medicine.


Zulal Wellness Resort will feature more than 400 treatments, with the focus on improving diet and nutrition; promoting daily physical activity and stress resistance; enhancing sleep quality; and engaging in joyful activities – no doubt elements everyone will be craving.


The resort’s impressive Family Wellness Centre, Knooz Al Sahraa, is dedicated to the holistic development of children and the importance of family connection, also something relatively new in the wellbeing space.


Family wellness is creeping through as a concept elsewhere, with Borgo Egnazia in Puglia adding a family-focused programme to its Happiness Break concept. The Family Happiness Break includes tailor-made experiences and treatments to strengthen relationships for the wellbeing of the whole family – after a tense time for many families with home-schooling and missing important milestones, the breaks aim to offer an antidote to a tough year.


One of Europe’s most advanced medi-spas, Chenot Palace Weggis, barely had the chance to get the welcome mat out at Lake Lucerne in Switzerland before the pandemic hit, but it is now expecting a strong 2021.


New features include the Recover and Energise retreat for anyone fatigued by many months in lockdown and worried about a “burnout” as we pick up pace towards returning to a new normal. The programme starts with a medical screening and state-of-the-art diagnostics using Chenot’s Lifestyle Biomarkers, and a tailored schedule is developed to strengthen the immune system, defence and repair mechanisms, and to help re-energise to improve overall body function.


“The perspective for healthy living is changing and the focus is shifting from quantity, to quality of life,” says Dr George Gaitanos, chief operating officer and scientific director for the Chenot Group. “However, while everyone agrees that the absence of illness is one part of being healthy, that doesn’t indicate if someone is in a state of wellness; healthy living requires interventions that aren’t motivated by a desire to avoid disease, but by a desire to enhance successful existence.”

Chef Heinz Beck and Dr David Della Morte at Palazzi Fiuggi (Image: Tyson Sadlo, Herd Represented)
Chef Heinz Beck and Dr David Della Morte at Palazzi Fiuggi (Image: Tyson Sadlo, Herd Represented)

Holistic holidays

Completely new in Italy is Palazzi Fiuggi Wellness Medical Retreat, a transformation of a historical hotel just outside Rome developed by the titans behind Forte Village in Sardinia.


Fusing holistic traditions with advanced traditional Western medicine, Palazzi Fiuggi’s integrative approach is based on diagnostic assessments and consultations and will use a range of technologies such as MRIs, infrared and retinal scanning; hydrotherapy using natural water from Fiuggi, which runs directly into the resort; contact-free treatment experiences; and Icaros virtual reality fitness machines. Three-star Michelin chef Heinz Beck, who also has a degree in natural bioenergies, is onboard for food programming too.


Further down the track, the renowned SHA Wellness Clinic in Spain is planning to open a sister hotel in Mexico, tipped as “the first serious wellness brand to open in Latin America”. SHA Mexico will open in 2022 just north of Riviera Maya, in front of Isla Mujeres and continuing the pioneering approach to health and wellbeing; SHA Emirates won’t be far behind, opening in 2023 in a seaside nature reserve between Dubai and Abu Dhabi.


In the meantime, to help people rebuild from the crisis, the original clinic in Spain has launched the SHA Rebalance and Immune System 21-day programme, which costs around £13,270pp with Health and Fitness Travel.


The specialist operator’s founder, Paul Joseph, notes there has been a rise generally in the number of enquiries and bookings in the last six months for longer-stay wellness trips, ranging from around 30 to 60 days at a time.


Cooped up indoors for months, Joseph says people have been plotting a long escape that will relocate them for a “wellness workcation”, allowing them to work effectively away from home but also focus on physical and mental wellbeing at the same time.


“As a result of the pandemic, travellers will take fewer trips, but will extend the duration of these trips for maximum benefit to combine business with wellness – this is a trend that is here for the foreseeable future as the travel industry seeks to recover following the second year of restrictions,” Joseph says.


Based on the fact that the average length of stay at its properties has now topped 33 days – and with an ongoing “steep increase” – Ultima Collection has launched The Ultima Escape, a holistic wellness retreat which requires a minimum month-long stay on a programme that works across three main pillars: immunity protection, lifestyle and environment, and future healing.


“We know that 80% of ultra high-net-worth individuals are dedicating more of their time and money to wellbeing, so we have created an experience that perfectly caters to this demand,” says Michala Chatel, managing partner at Ultima Collection.

Patina Maldives says it will have wellbeing threaded throughout
Patina Maldives says it will have wellbeing threaded throughout

More for the Maldives

While it’s not quite 30 days, guests at newcomer Joali Being in the Maldives will be required to stay for a minimum of five nights.


Launching in November as a sister island to Joali Maldives, this second property has a mission of becoming the “first and only nature immersive wellbeing island in the Maldives”, claiming that in a post-pandemic world, people are looking for “a total wellbeing overhaul of their life”.


In-house wellbeing experts will include naturopaths, therapists, herbalists, nutritionists and “movement experts”, with Joali Being saying it will fly in the face of traditional remote wellness resorts as there will be no “visiting practitioners”, only “top-notch reliable experts” on the island permanently.


Everything will be scientifically evidence-based, with the retreat partnering with expert Professor Gerard Bodeker, an Oxford and Harvard researcher and advisor of policy on traditional and complementary medicine and wellness. Guests will be able to discuss brain, gut, skin and energy health issues with the resident herbalist doctor, who can then prepare specialist teas, create natural body creams, tonics, shampoos and massage oils, and offer workshops on natural remedies. And in response to Covid-19, Joali Being is creating specific “immunity and tranquillity wellbeing” programming.


Due to open on 18 May, Patina Maldives – the flagship of Capella Hotel Group’s new lifestyle brand – launches with not only its well thought-out Flow spa, but wellness philosophy threaded throughout the resort.


This even includes guests receiving specially created blends of vitamins by Nourished, which are designed to combat some of the effects of travel, sun exposure and environmental changes – and delivered in the form of a gummy sweet at turndown instead of chocolates.


All guests will find meditation packs in-room consisting of a yoga mat and aromatherapy blends from the resort’s unique Indian Ocean range made by UK brand Haeckels. Guests can also access a series of breathing technique tutorials on the resort’s app, while included in the room rate will be a range of low and high impact group exercise classes and nature/cultural activities.


One of the best existing wellness offerings in the Maldives is at Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru, which has just launched a new spa concept, AyurMa, with a fresh approach of looking at ways of encouraging guests to care not only for themselves, but also the planet, as well as specialist programming for those with various stages of cancer.


Four Seasons’ regional spa director Luisa Anderson, who was formerly a paediatric cancer nurse, says there is a huge opportunity now to help travellers cope with the many struggles with mental health people have been going through.


“Much of our lives has been under the microscope – relationships, separation from loved ones, deaths, ‘zoomerals’, financial stress, job loss, isolation and so on – whilst this has facilitated many positive changes particularly in life choices and knowing deep down what matters to us, it has also delivered a barrage of instability and uncertainty which has taken its toll and taken many to the edge,” says Anderson. “I think live-in retreats/holidays with mental health experts and an experience that is supported by spa treatments, yoga and meditation will be the trend.”

Brand bonding

Brand bonding

Another brand with an intrinsic wellness approach that filters down from the passion of founder Christina Ong, is COMO Hotels and Resorts, which is launching its signature spa concept COMO Shambhala Retreat (pictured) at COMO Castello Del Nero, which reopens in June in Tuscany.


“The last year has taught us that holistic wellbeing, as well as privacy and intimacy, will be more prevalent than ever before – and this remains at the core of COMO worldwide,” says Chris Orlikowski, the group’s director of communications. “As a result of the pandemic, people have reconsidered what it means to be ‘well’ and are now actively seeking ways to improve their wellbeing while travelling.”


Also long known for its commitment to sustainability and wellness, Six Senses Hotels Resorts and Spas will be well placed for travel’s bounce back.


“I’m really optimistic about the future because the demand [for wellbeing] is huge: people want to travel, they remain curious and will be more open to learn, play and challenge themselves,” says Mark Sands, vice-president of wellness for Six Senses.


“We think the future is going to focus on self-responsibility, as people are realising the importance of taking care of their own health. There has been a very evident shift in how responsible we have all become over our own health and wellbeing. Look after your body and mind the right way and you perform better, enjoy life to a fuller extent and for longer. Longevity on its own without genuine wellness is a journey many fear. We have a say in how that story plays out.”

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