No one can deny the health benefits of a short ski vacation, yachting trip or a holiday lounging by the pool. But recently, a trend has been emerging for breaks focused on taking a proactive approach to improving physical and mental health.
With a shift in focus from ‘beauty and pampering’ to ‘health and wellness’ within the luxury spa world, Elite speaks to the experts for the reasons behind the move and takes a look at some of the most exciting properties at the forefront of the wellness trend.
It’s official: Today’s hectic pace of life is having a negative impact on our health. From jetlag to sedentary board meetings, overindulgence and the stresses of professional life, the modern world is doing little to help us in the quest to live better for longer.
Which is why it’s no surprise that wellness tourism is a sector that’s been on the rise in recent years – with the world’s jetsetters leading the charge. Now worth an impressive a $438.6 billion to the global market, this area of travel is predicted to grow almost twice as fast as overall global tourism from now until 2017, currently accounting for about 14% ($438.6 billion) of all tourism expenditures.
So what exactly does the term ‘wellness’ represent? Ultimately, it refers to a state of “complete physical and mental wellbeing”, according to a recent report by the Global Spa & Wellness Summit, and any activities that can contribute to achieving or maintaining this state.
From meditation and tai chi to mountainbiking and intravenous vitamin drips, wellness resorts and spas are offering a range of activities to improve health, prevent disease and help you come out feeling revitalized and ready to face life’s challenges with a new-found focus.
But why are global travelers suddenly taking their health into their own hands and using their vacation time to address health concerns such as stress, weight loss and fitness levels?
Karina Stewart, founder of Kamalaya Wellness Resort in Koh Samui, Thailand, says that it’s all about taking responsibility for your future wellbeing: “I think that people realise that they have to participate in their health and wellbeing and in how they’re going to age over time.
“I believe they now know that having money and then expecting to go to a doctor and have the doctor take care of them, that is a model that has let us all down.”
At Kamalaya, guests are offered an extensive range of services and treatments – from Ayurvedic massage and acupuncture through to stress management sessions and nutritional guidance – with the focus on the personal goal of the individual, whether it be weight loss, detox or sleep enhancement.
Results oriented, holistic programs are key to the concept in general, as is a shift in focus within spas away from superficial beauty treatments and temporary respite from stress to more long-term health benefits.
“Previously, when people have thought of a spa they’ve just thought of a facial or a treatment; it’s been about a bit of relaxation but with no real health benefits,” explains Helen Greenhow of specialist UK tour operator Wellbeing Escapes.
“And now, it’s really about health and it’s about, ‘Yes, you look better’, but that’s more a bonus result; it’s not the aim.
“It’s about making yourself feel better from within, kick-starting the release of toxins. So more and more places are researching and hiring appropriate staff, taking a philosophy – whether it’s traditional Chinese medicine or macrobiotics or raw food – and applying it.”
“It’s lifestyle. It’s holistic,” says Stewart of Kamalaya’s philosophy. “It’s the recognition that we have the capacity to have a very big impact on our state of wellbeing and our health state through lifestyle and prevention. And prevention is key.”
So what can guests hope to take away with them after a short break for a week or two at a luxury wellness destination?
“Nutritional and fitness advice, meditation; different tools that they can use as little or as much as they want,” says Stewart.
“The experience lasts for a very very long time – it’s much deeper than skin deep. And they have tools to keep reinforcing that. Sometimes it’s only a couple of lifestyle changes, but those changes, if they’re really integrated, build and last for the individual.”
Greenhow is in agreement: “It’s not just about being healthy when they’re away; it’s about kick-starting a change when they’re back. Just a few small changes can make quite a big difference.”
Read on to discover some of the best wellness resorts and spas from around the globe.
(Image Credit: Kamalaya Koh Samui. Copyright © by Kamalaya Co.Ltd.)