Healthy outlook for wellness tourism

A new report by the Global Wellness Institute sheds light on the spa trends of the future. Charlotte Cullinan asks the experts how these will change the industry.

Tropical beach under palm trees

"In the 21st century, inventions will optimise people – from smart assistants and illness prevention to improved human biology and the enhancement of our very beings, which will prolong our lives even further."

The wellness and spa industry must prepare for a surge in extreme treatments as the sector becomes more data-driven and consumers look to re-wire themselves from within.

These were some of the radical trends forecast in the Wellness 2030 – The New Technologies of Happiness report. Created by the Global Wellness Institute and Swiss think-tank the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute, the report explains how the wellness industry will develop in the next 12 years…


Smart assistants The report says: “In the 21st century, inventions will optimise people – from smart assistants and illness prevention to improved human biology and the enhancement of our very beings, which will prolong our lives even further. In the future, smart assistants will decide which relaxation exercises are best for us, as well as which nootropics (cognitive enhancers) should be delivered to help us take the next intellectual challenge in our stride.”

Digital doubles Be prepared for the “digital selfie”. Consumers are already creating digital doppelgangers as they search, purchase and socialise online. Next, data on moods, emotions and vital functions will be fed in by apps and wearables, alongside trackers that infiltrate the body, and work on genes, brain cells or stem cells.

The report explains: “This data offers insights into our well-being and is of particular interest to the wellness industry. The more data is collected from various sources, the more precise and multifaceted our digital doubles become. Our behaviour can be analysed and predicted.”




One of the next big wellness trends will come from the biohacking subculture. These are scientists, researchers and tech experts experimenting on themselves.

The report explains: “From the perspective of a biohacker, immortality is an engineering problem. Technologies will be used to change the genetic material of organisms and equip them with new characteristics. A new way of thinking is taking hold – a new understanding of do-it-yourself combined with the recognition of how everyone is capable of tapping into and developing their own self-healing powers.”

Beyond traditional The report stresses that it is “of crucial importance” that the industry understands where new players are coming from, identifies the right collaborators, and thinks beyond traditional views of wellness. It adds: “The industry will need the courage to experiment and must also take on the mindset of a hacker.”

New entrants The future is data-driven, and the wellness industry must be prepared for new tech-giant entrants. “Entirely new players will create entirely new wellness categories and offers. Your fiercest competitor will not be the other spa next door.”

Perfect match As companies gather more consumer and behavioural data, expect to see personalised price-setting for treatments, determined by a consumer’s lifestyle. “Software will create the ‘perfect match’ between the consumer and what’s on offer. Users will be able to choose from personalised menus, as they do with Netflix.”

Blurring the boundaries The boundaries between wellness and healthcare will become increasingly blurred, which will bring the wellness industry closer to a regulated market.

Futuristic treatments

Futuristic treatments

The study and improvement of the intricate workings inside the body is a major theme for the report. Today, biomarker and genetic analysis is already in use, including at Bodhimaya’s retreats and London clinic, where experts produce a comprehensive analysis of guests’ biological data through saliva, blood and urine samples.

The company’s founder, Cornelius O’Shaughnessy, also runs wellness and spa consultancy Inception Wellness and is a huge advocate for biomarker testing, which he says has received a “fantastic” response from clients. He predicts it will become an essential component of wellness programmes in the future.

For hotels and spas worried about overstepping the line between wellness and medicine by introducing it, he says: “Biodata helps us see beneath the surface, beyond someone’s symptoms and what they consciously know about their health. It allows us to listen to the body in a way we haven’t be able to previously, and create highly personalised programmes that can have a significant impact on someone’s emotional and physical wellbeing.”

In the future, O’Shaughnessy expects to see more urban wellness centres integrated with gyms, which will enable customers to receive everything under one roof – from biomarker testing to vitamin infusions, meditation, personalised nutrition and workshops. “These centres will offer a robust mind and body solution that goes right to the line of wellness and medicine and then refer clients to doctors from there.”

At BodyHoliday in St Lucia, scientific lab tests and DNA research are on offer alongside its all-inclusive luxury holidays. In 2015 the resort launched its BodyScience clinic, which conducts analysis of guests’ biochemistry and physiology through medical and DNA tests. Experts then explain how they can exercise to their full potential, avoid injuries and advise on nutrition plans, aiming for more efficient and improved cellular and metabolic function.

Technology is even integrating into facials. Last May, the Hotel Arts Barcelona introduced the Mindful Touch by Natura Bissé facial at its 43 The Spa, where customers wear a virtual reality headset for a mindfulness session, while receiving an arm and leg massage. The headset is removed for their facial, and a mindfulness audio voice-over plays throughout the treatment.

Spa manager Marta Casas explains: “Technology will be involved massively in the spa and wellness industry in the future. Could you imagine that, in a near future, technology will be able control our brains in order to make us forget the stress we suffer and even to feel a massage or a treatment without the therapist applying it?”

Tech backlash

Tech backlash

Anne Biging, founder and chief executive of hotel and resort network Healing Hotels of the World, believes that “most or even all” of the digital innovation outlined in the Wellness 2030 report will happen, and be effective.

However, she adds a word of caution: “A human being can never be reduced to digital facts. The more the world becomes digitalised, the more human values will become important. Even though digitalisation is a great help, the true value of the healing industry is that it celebrates, lives, promotes and offers everything that is in contrast to the digital world, such as nature, touch, human relationships, slowing down and relaxing. The healing industry should not be misled into over-emphasising digitalisation, because its true value is everything beyond it.”

In the Global Wellness Summit’s (GWS) 2018 wellness trends forecast, it predicts this year “will be the watershed backlash year against big tech”. Expect to see medical evidence about the ill-effects of constant digital and social media connection, and the release of “tech-fighting tech” that helps users switch off. For the wellness industry, this means off-the-grid and Wi-Fi-free destinations will be especially sought-after.

In January, the Costa Rica Tourism Board launched its Wellness Pura Vida strategy, with the aim of positioning the country as a leading wellness destination. One of the key tenets is inviting visitors to “drop off the radar” and disconnect, with nature-focused experiences such as yoga sessions in the rainforest. Tourism executive Melissa Tencio explains: “We focus on going back to basics, not making wellness more complicated than our lives are already. Our vision is to focus on wellness surrounded by nature.”

Transformative travel

The GWS forecast also heralds the dawn of “a new era of transformative travel”, where classes, treatments and experiences are no longer disjointed. It predicts more destinations will introduce linked wellness circuit experiences, such as those offered at Six Senses Bhutan, which is due to open this year. It will invite customers to travel across five individual lodges across the Kingdom, each with a different uplifting theme.

The report believes wellness experiences will also be created with “epic storylines”, with integrated performances, music and art.

Read the full report at globalwellnessinstitute.org/wellness-2030

New industry body

New industry body

A new body hopes to help create an industry-approved set of definitions for the wellness tourism sector.

The Wellness Tourism Association launched in January, and co-founder and president Anne Dimon explains: “It makes perfect sense to have our own association, especially since there is some confusion with consumers and travel agents as to what constitutes legitimate wellness travel.”

The association’s remit will include agreeing on definitions of what constitutes wellness tourism and travel, alongside networking, education, communication and marketing.

The not-for-profit organisation is based in Colorado and currently has 20 members; it hopes to reach 50-75 across the world by the end of the year. Members must meet set entry criteria each year and pay a membership fee.


What customers are booking

What customers are booking

Stella Photi, founder and managing director of Wellbeing Escapes, says: “We’ve seen an increase in tailor-made wellness over the past few years as people seek a more personalised and sustainable approach. Especially with fitness, where individuals want expert advice on the best type of exercise for them, taking into consideration their DNA, lifestyle and preferences. Tests can include VO2 assessment, such as on the Fitness Challenge programme at Atmantan Wellness Centre in India.

“Personalised advice on how to age well is also high on the agenda, as people understand that we are living longer and want to know how to stay healthy. Expert, professional guidance whilst on a wellbeing programme can identify specific therapies and diet to follow not just during your stay but, importantly, once you return home. L’Albereta Resort in Italy has an Anti-Age and Regenerating programme with treatments by the renowned Henri Chenot, which includes diagnostic screening with lifestyle biomarkers and a cardio-respiratory assessment.

“We’ve also noticed a rise in women seeking wellness programmes that help during the peri-menopause and menopause. SHA Wellness Clinic in Spain has a comprehensive medical programme called Healthy Menopause, with tests that include bone-densitometry and electrocardiogram combined with wellness treatments and exercise.”

The future is here

A range of wellness-related products are already on the market that allow consumers to monitor their physiological functions (known as biofeedback), and manage their behaviour. Dr David Bosshart, chief executive of the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute, has praise for three game-changing products.

  • Yoga wear from Wearable X has sensors that work with an app to guide wearers through their yoga poses with gentle vibrations. “With smart fashion and wearables, biofeedback is the new black,” Bosshart explains.
  • Then there’s the screen-free Shapa scale, which captures everything from bone density to muscle mass and works with health data apps and tools to help with weight management.
  • Bosshart is also tipping the HiMirror Plus+, which provides users with personalised skin health analysis, beauty advice and uses augmented reality to let them try make-up looks virtually. “Smart mirrors will become the key interface for all kinds of care and health services,” he predicts.

This article is taken from the Spring 2018 edition of WTM Insights – a new magazine connecting the WTM community year-round

Add New Comment
Please sign in to comment.
Show me more

Follow Us

TTG Media Limited.
Place of registration: England and Wales.
Company number 08723341.
Registered address: New Bridge Street House, 30-34 New Bridge Street, London EC4V 6BJ
Scroll To Top