The Rise of Wellness Tourism

Wellness tourism, tourists in infinity pool
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Wellness tourism puts your health and well-being at the very center of your travel experience. Trips organized around the principle of wellness tourism should include healthy food, exercise, spa treatments, and opportunities to experience or expand your spirituality and creativity. You learn how to better care for yourself, physically, psychologically and spiritually. The most accessible form of wellness tourism in America is a trip to a destination spa, such as Canyon Ranch or Rancho la Puerta.

Today many U.S. destination spas call themselves spa resorts or luxury wellness resorts because of the way people search the internet. But the total atmosphere is geared toward supporting your wellness so that you won't be tempted to overeat or overdrink after a day of fun activities. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, but on a wellness trip, you are choosing to go somewhere with food and activities that support your best health. That's the very foundation on which a wellness trip is built.

Wellness Tourism Overseas

Most people who enjoy a wellness spa vacation are repeat customers because it satisfies them in a way that no other holiday does. Now, more people are looking overseas to have wellness experiences that expand their cultural horizons. For instance, Ananda in the Himalayas is a destination spa in India where guests can receive authentic Ayurveda treatments, take yoga classes in the country where it originated, and light candles by the banks of the Ganges at dusk. The setting is spectacular -- a maharaja's former palace on 100 forested acres.

In Thailand, Chiva-Som is a beach-front destination spa combining ancient therapies of the East with Western diagnosis techniques to enliven mind, body, and spirit. Personalized programs and treatments are available in detox, weight management, and stress reduction, and Thai massage is a specialty.

Using Specialized Travel Advisors

While it's easy to book with a single property like Ananda in the Himalayas or Chiva-Som, you can also go to a travel advisor who specializes in healthy travel for a group or individualized trip. Linden Schaffer of Pravassa has a philosophy that every trip include stress reduction, cultural involvement, physical activity, spiritual connection, and food education. The specific form it takes depends on the destination -- Santa Fe, Spain, Bali, Ojai, Costa Rica, and Thailand are among the possibilities -- with stays at boutique properties you might not otherwise hear about.

Aside from the immersion wellness vacation, more hotels are adding wellness components so business travelers can keep up their healthy lifestyle while traveling. The MGM Grand in Las Vegas has added special wellness rooms and suites; Canyon Ranch’s SpaClub in Vegas also employs “wellness professionals.” The InterContinental Hotels Group, which owns Holiday Inn, announced plans for its Even Hotels — with an “intrinsic focus on wellness in terms of food, work, exercise, and rest” — at dozens of locations across the country.

SRI International for the Global Spa & Wellness Summit (GSWS) estimates that wellness tourism already represents a US $494 billion market.

The World Health Organization defines wellness as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being. It goes beyond mere freedom from disease or infirmity and emphasizes the proactive maintenance and improvement of health and well-being. Wellness incorporates attitudes and activities that prevent disease, improve health, enhance the quality of life, and bring a person to increasingly optimum levels of well-being.

The concept of wellness tourism dramatically broadens the appeal of medical tourism, which is associated with plastic surgery but also means dentistry, knee replacements, and other medical procedures. Many global consumers opt for these journeys because another country offers significantly lower costs or greater procedure/treatment availability.

People are increasingly embracing travel with a higher benefit to either themselves (and their bodies) or others, whether that’s wellness tourism or voluntourism (travel with a philanthropic component), environmentally aware (eco-travel), or educationally or culturally immersive travel.

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