The luxury travel market is often a starting point for themes that may, on first glance, seem a little bit out there. But given that some crazes withstand the test of time, it's worth assessing which ones might have staying power.
Starring in your own distinctive adventure, female empowerment and trips for mushroom tripping are all in vogue for travelers, according to a new report from the Global Wellness Summit (GWS).
The newly released 2018 study identifies eight trends that will have a meaningful impact on the $3.7 trillion wellness industry. Many of these trends pertain to the luxury travel arena as well, since novel wellness trends often manifest first in high-end vacation spaces.
Travel marketers talk a lot about storytelling and experiences these days, but one of the GWS trends takes the journey steps further.
As Beth McGroarty, director of research for GWS, notes, by its nature, “travel is an ongoing quest versus piecemeal, disconnected experiences.”
Yet, itineraries provided at wellness destinations often do not connect the dots. McGroarty, the lead author of the report says, “We predict more wellness destinations will use the power of circuits and epic storylines” to create linked experiences, where the traveler is the pilgrim in an immersive story. The report calls this trend Circuits, Sagas and Epic Storylines.
It cites several examples of multi-chapter journeys, ranging from theatrical travel sagas to real-life games of Survivor.
For example, London-based Based on a True Story creates adventures for its well-heeled clients involving epic stories featuring multitudes of sets, actors and locations. According to founder and CEO Niel Fox, these journeys cast travelers as the heroes of their own stories. He cites “A Greek Odyssey… an adventure that unfolded with hundreds of actors, as a family encountered gods and goddesses…as well as having to overcome mythological monsters…. as they uncovered a trail of gold.”
A more wellness-oriented saga is unfolding as Six Senses embarks upon a new venture in Bhutan. A story-based wellness circuit opening in autumn will have guests traveling among five lodges, where they will discover programming based on the pillars of Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index. Six Senses is developing similar experiences elsewhere.
“A focus on multi-property wellness circuits will be a much bigger priority for us going forward,” says Vice President of Spas and Wellness Anna Bjurstam.
Black Tomato’s Get Lost program exemplifies this trend, plus another—that of Extreme Wellness. The $30,000 Survivor-style trips often require travelers to begin training months in advance so they are ready for the mental and physical challenges that await when the company drops them off in the middle of nowhere.
Less pricey and more civilized, but also extreme, many resorts are adding Body Boot Camps to their programming menus.
But the trend of Extreme Wellness is not just about exhaustion. It also encompasses “hacking our way to better brains, bodies and overall well-being.”
The report says, “Expect wellness destinations to create customized, individual programs through combining personal biomarker screenings for assessing body composition, stress, and prevention, with a fitness tests for optimizing performance.“ A handful of high-end wellness resorts are already on the mark with this trend, including Six Senses and Canyon Ranch.
Several of the report’s other trends are relevant to high-end travel as well. One of the components of Getting our “Clean Air Act” Together is tourists avoiding going to polluted cities (or seeking to leave their own).
An obvious example comes from China. According to Ctrip.com, a leader in providing travel services to the Chinese market, smog avoidance and lung cleansing is becoming a major theme for luxury travelers there. Marketers are therefore touting destinations like the Seychelles, Maldives and Iceland as fresh air getaways.
A New Feminist Wellness builds on the recent wave of for-women, by-women businesses. Given that Merriam-Webster picked feminism as its 2017 Word of the Year, travel aimed squarely at women’s empowerment is timely and highly promotable. High-end, women-owned operators like Wild Women Expeditions, Adventure Women and Whoa Travel are leading the charge.
Likely the most offbeat of the trends examined is Mushrooms Emerge from Underground. According to the report, “Magic mushroom retreats, in nations where legal, will continue to pop up…where the ‘trip’ gets combined with increasingly luxe wellness experiences.”
MycoMeditations is a pioneer in the movement. The company offers weeklong retreats in Jamaica for fungi trippers. It may seem a bit out there, but then again, in 2015, GWI was among the first mainstream trendspotters to predict the budding of cannabis tourism for wellness purposes.
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Photo credit: Punakha Lodge. One of the five individual satellite resorts at Six Senses Bhutan. Six Senses Bhutan