Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, wellness travel in the world of travel and hospitality remained a loose concept. The industry was notorious for adopting and embodying all areas that fit a “wellness” component; with travelers filling their days with beachside yoga classes, couple’s massages, hiking, surfing, or lounging poolside as a form of escapism.
While those types of trips still exist, the days of one-size-fits-all wellness travel might now be long gone. As the world continues to face the COVID-19 pandemic head-on, people have become increasingly conscious about their health, especially for those addicted to jetting off to new and far away places. Moreover, after being confined indoors for months, people are now highly aware of how both travel and outdoor exploration play a vital role in our mental and physical well-being, allowing us to connect with ourselves, others, and nature.
“Wellness is on everyone’s mind during COVID-19, especially when making travel decisions,” says Vivienne Tang, the founder of Destination Deluxe. “People’s mental health has greatly suffered during the crisis, so there is a high chance mindfulness will become part of people’s daily habits if they haven’t already,” she adds.
When it comes time to openly cross borders again, trip-goers and health enthusiasts will have developed a more nuanced and personal idea of what “health” means to them. Although wellness vacations aren’t the product of the pandemic, it’s hard not to wonder what the resurgence will be for the industry as a result of it. The dream vacation guests were planning for 2020 may be on hold, however it doesn’t mean they have to hit pause completely. In fact, a rejuvenating experience might be just the stress-buster most folks need at the moment.
From increasing longevity through science-driven methods to rediscovering your true self amongst nature, we explore why wellness travel, upcoming trends to watch, and destinations to head to for an overdue wellness getaway.
Why travel for wellness?
Vacations are often an exercise in overindulgence, which can lead to feelings of guilt upon returning home. However, wellness travel is all about reenergizing, finding balance, and practicing self-care, while disconnecting from everyday stressors like worrisome news headlines and the pressures of work.
Wellness travel allows you to take part in a newly discovered activity while you’re away (think: yoga, forest bathing, organic eating/cooking) that can teach you how to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life at home.
Think of wellness travel as a cleanse for your mental and emotional health. By disconnecting from the toxins in your life, you can clear your mind for healthier thoughts and, hopefully, return home feeling better and more refreshed than when you left.
What will wellness travel look like post-pandemic?
The concept of wellness travel isn’t going anywhere in a post-coronavirus world, but what’s on the list of activities or menu most likely will.
According to Tang, spas will incorporate new wellness techniques, such as sound healing and breathwork, which are two deeply transformational healing modalities that can be practiced with social distancing measures in place.
Secluded getaways, whether they’re actually nearby or just a short flight away, check all those boxes for those still looking to maintain physical distance between themselves and strangers. And of course, activities that used to cater to large groups will be replaced by limited-space experiences.
“Post Covid-19, people will be much more specific about requirements and demand tangible and measurable results,” confirms Dervla Louli, founder of Compare Retreats. “Detox and immune-boosting retreats in remote locations in nature will become even more popular than before,” she adds.
Where should I travel for wellness?
When considering where to travel, start with the risks involved. If anxiety spikes at the thought of being on shared transportation like a plane, train or ferry, then consider closer-to-home destinations that are within driving distance.
Otherwise, research some getaways that are a little more remote like a secluded island, a lesser-known beach or a national park that are accessible across less restricted borders. Here are our favorite off-the-beaten path destinations to explore as well as trends that are currently redefining the wellness travel industry:
Unplug and unwind from the overload of information and screens that inundated our daily lives in a place where phones are surrendered, or at least significantly limited. Our minds can become overloaded from our frantic, stressed, overworked lives, which are constantly exposed to screens.
Some wellness detox retreats are simply places where it’s easy to switch off; there’s no WIFI or mobile reception, or where the property actively encourages you to limit your screen time. Other wellness retreats offer dedicated detox breaks. The whole idea is to make it easier to break your social media or screen habit surrounded by like-minded people.
Step back in time amid the simple rhythms of life at The Mudhouse in Anawilundawa Wetland Sanctuary, Sri Lanka. Built with only environmentally-sound materials, the remote Mudhouse eschews modern distractions like electricity in favor of a closer connection to the earth. The cuisine is sourced from the onsite farm, and every hut includes a bicycle for low-tech exploration of the property.
“The Mudhouse’s slow-cooked food, open plan huts and fifty acres of forest make it an ideal spot for wellness-focused getaways,” says Tom. “We have all learned to enjoy slowing down in recent months, and The Mudhouse is a place where you can really control the tempo. Our island yoga sala also provides the perfect space to workout or meditate in peaceful tranquility,” he adds.
After months of social distancing indoors, many are craving long periods of time in nature. Take ‘forest bathing’, for example, a traditional and eco-therapeutic practice that can improve mental and physical health, specifically by immersing in nature or outdoor surroundings. A forest bathing trip involves visiting a forest for relaxation and recreation while breathing in phytoncides (wood essential oils). These are antimicrobial volatile organic compounds derived from trees and known to boost the immune system.
Nestled in the heart of a 10-million-year-old rainforest on the mystical island of Langkawi, Malaysia is The Datai Langkawi – a captivating destination resort that blends into its natural surroundings. The resort’s lush tropical rainforest embraces each room, suite, and villa, with private verandas and breathtaking views. This serene haven is where you can reconnect with nature and uplift your soul.
Datai’s team of resident naturalists and marine biologists have curated experiences and activities on the property to allow you to discover the unique flora and fauna of the resort, including rainforest and garden walks, coral reef explorations, jungle treks to natural pools and waterfalls.
Typically during a wellness retreat, one may spend a week in beautiful surroundings being tended to by holistic therapists, eating nutrient-dense food, and practicing yoga with limited technology. We are encouraged to switch off mentally and physically to ensure maximum decompression and relaxation during that week’s stay.
But what about making lasting change through a longer stay? A new wellness trend is to embark on longer-term wellness programs while still staying connected to one’s job remotely while staying immersed in a positive and healthy environment. This can contribute to increased productivity, relaxation, and a broader perspective.
The perfect place to do so? Fivelements Retreat Bali.
At Fivelements, the personal, spiritual, and physical wellness of every guest is improved through plant-based cuisine, healing meditation and yoga, and relaxing days spent by the sacred Ayung River.
“Fivelements Retreat Bali offers the ideal wellness destination where guests can hide away and relax from the daily stress and escape in almost ‘isolation’. Calming sounds from wildlife of the jungle and the flowing Ayung River makes morning yoga a delight to wake up to,” says John Nielsen, General Manager of Fivelements Bali in Indonesia.
With nine suites, each compèreing its own private pavilion, it’s the perfect space to work quietly in between yoga sessions, in the most inspiring environment. You can also indulge in unique Balinese rituals like energy healing, water healing, and reviving massages that will encourage you to nurture a greater harmony with your spirit, the environment, and others.
The work culture is changing, with those who can take regular wellness sabbaticals on a long-stay structured wellness trip, embracing the balance between Wellness and work.
With a substantial annual increase of people traveling worldwide, the surge of cultural experiences can also mean a strain on local resources, both socially, environmentally, and economically. So how can we help to ensure the longevity of these destinations for generations to come while providing an authentic tourism experience? Pick the road less traveled.
At Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge you’ll just about have the mountaintop all to yourself. Perched on a remote ridge outside Pokhara, central Nepal, this is the ideal place to relinquish your stress and sink into a deeper understanding of yourself and the natural world, without a soul around.
“With our incredible mountain panorama wellness comes from being more than doing,” says Marcus Cotton, owner of Tiger Mountain Pokhara Lodge. “Rather than an artificial spa, the grounds are our spa, the surrounding forest, farmland and villages are our gym. Our expert local guides love to take our guests to discover the cycle of agriculture in the area and to buy locally grown products,” he explains.
By choosing less-trafficked destinations, or places which are taking measures to combat over-tourism, protects delicate ecosystems. We can all do our part, as a tourist or hotelier to lessen the impact and alleviate pressure by discovering new locations, giving back locally, and connecting with nature.
A Barefoot Luxury Retreat in the Philippines
If you desire the utmost privacy and socially distanced experience, book the Perlah Villa at Nay Palad Hideaway, a 400-sqm fully equipped villa (for 6 people) with a private swimming pool, private beach, and a tree-top terrace. Nestled between the lush mangrove forests and soft supple sand on the island of Siargao in the Philippines lies this secret sanctuary. Create your own wellness experience and join a daily yoga session on the yoga pavilion, try a session on a SUP board or request a spa therapist who specializes in Hilot, a Filipino massage tradition acclaimed for its healing abilities.
“Nature has always been the center of our philosophy, because we simply love it, enjoy it and respect it. From the beginning we wanted the resort to be an example of good sustainability practices. It started with simple ideas like: a plastic bottle would never reach our property, to use only local and natural materials for the construction of the resort, to protect the astonishing lagoon and the immense mangrove forest in our backyard,” owner, Herve Lampert shares.
As we dream about wellness getaways in foreign lands, we reflect on the benefits of travel and how exploring new places fosters compassion, self-awareness, and reconnecting through intimate experiences and adventures. With Regenerative Resorts’ visionary, sustainable destinations, no two interactions are the same, making it easy and accessible for those who love to actively make a positive change on a personal level and in the world.