Wellness has long been an important part of and motivator for travel. Today, wellness is taking center stage in the travel industry in more numerous and interesting ways than ever before thanks to consumers who are becoming more and more obsessed with well-being in their day-to-day lives.
Skift Research’s latest report, Defining the New Era of Wellness Tourism: Trends and Best Practices for Stakeholders, examines wellness tourism as it exists today, to get a sense of where it’s heading in the future. In this report, we address the size and importance of the wellness tourism market, new trends in the space, and best practices for various stakeholders, including hotels, cruise lines, and airlines. Using data from proprietary Skift Research surveys, secondary data, and a dozen in-depth interviews with expert stakeholders, this report defines the new era of wellness tourism.
WELLNESS TOURISM EXTENDS BEYOND TRAVELER WELLNESS
Clearly, the main goal of wellness in travel is to address the personal wellness of the traveler. However, our interviewees stressed that the best wellness tourism experiences today also address wellness beyond the traveler, namely community wellness and environmental wellness (which are closely tied to one another). Some even argue that these are essential parts of the holistic idea of wellness we discussed before. As Cassandra Bianco, global wellness consultant for Selina, stated, in order for something to truly be about wellness, “It’s definitely a combination of the internal and external experiences … I think the idea of the customer being the center of the universe is … pretty much dying.”
Beth McGroarty of GWI explained that, in many ways, there is an extra pressure for companies in wellness travel to pay attention to their impact on the larger systems around them: “I think there’s just this pressure towards much more sustainability … from wellness destinations.” She also noted, “There’s this big movement towards — everyone talks about slow travel — but in wellness it’s taking on a very particular kind of form, which is kind of like moving at the speed of humans again. So many walking tours and hiking tours and cycling tours where you move more slowly through an area. You eat local food. You go to local markets. You meet local people. You do local crafts. You walk. You’re on the ground.”
There are many ways that travel companies can take account of community and environmental wellness alongside traveler wellness. Destination organizations can play a role in promoting this part of wellness tourism by requiring or encouraging travel companies to abide by certain sustainability practices, employ local people, or by making sure wellness tourism spending is returning to the local economy.
The representatives we spoke to from Lindblad Expeditions, Westin, Six Senses, and Singapore Airlines all mentioned sourcing local, sustainable food whenever possible as key parts of their well-being strategies. Not only does food sourced in such a way tend to be fresher and more nutritious, but it also supports local communities and minimizes environmental impact.
Case Study: Selina We mentioned Selina earlier as an example of the “new hostel model” that emphasizes its locations as “a place to connect with others” and form a community. For Selina, this community that is created is not just for its guests, but also for the locals. We spoke with Cassandra Bianco, who is currently the company’s global wellness consultant. She explained that Selina’s “goal is to be, kind of like, the piazza in town,” where everyone can intermingle, including members of the local community.” Every location has an “experience manager,” and “they’re in charge of the programming, which is daily. They’ll have workshops, events, everything from fitness to all sorts of things, really.” And locals can purchase class packs and receive discounts on certain offerings. Bianco is excited about the emerging trend of places like Selina that act as “community hubs.” These places, she said, “are attracting both locals and hotel guests. That’s a pretty awesome balance to strike, and that’s really how it should be.
Case Study: Singapore Airlines and AeroFarms Singapore Airlines in 2017 launched its Farm-to-Plane initiative with the goal of improving the environmental sustainability of its onboard dining, while supporting the communities it flies to and from. The airline in 2019 announced a partnership with AeroFarms, an indoor vertical farming company, as part of this initiative. According to Betty Wong, divisional vice president, inflight services and design, “SIA [Singapore Airlines’] flights from Newark will soon feature aeroponically grown greens from the world’s largest indoor vertical farm of its kind, located just a few miles from the airport.”This partnership hits at multiple facets of wellness. For one, it supports a local Newark-based company. Additionally, as Wong explained, the greens will be produced in an efficient, environmentally friendly way, being “grown without sunlight, soil, or pesticides, and with 95 percent less water than at a conventional outdoor farm.” Finally, the AeroFarms technology allows adjustments to “the spectrum of light to fully express each plant’s specific nutritional and flavor characteristics,” making it beneficial to the individual passengers as well.