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Yoga retreats will always have a place, but it's this expanded consumer definition of wellness activities that presents big opportunities ahead for the travel industry.

Vacations, by definition, are for relaxation and to escape routine, to rest the mind and body and return feeling invigorated. But since the pandemic, focusing on mental and physical well being through travel isn’t just a nice to have if not a prized privilege that consumers now see linked as part of their self care.

It’s a shift that tour operators noted this summer with a steep surge in demand for wellness trips, with increased bookings already taking place for some, and predictions of an impending boom in wellness vacations to the tune of $919 billion worldwide by 2022.

It’s now clear this trend of travel becoming in and of itself an opportunity to heal and a splurge on wellness is here to stay going into 2022. Sixty-eight percent of world travelers said they are likely to base their next trip around improving their mental well-being, according to a new global survey by American Express conducted in September 2021 and examining the overall physical and mental health activities that consumers are prioritizing as a result of the pandemic.

Travel ranks high on that list, with 76 percent willing to spend more on trips as part of their well being, and over half willing to pay extra for wellness activities on future vacations, while an overwhelming majority agree that travel helps to improve their mental health.

Consumers from the U.S., UK, Australia, Japan, Mexico, India and Canada prioritize well-being activities differently. Outdoor exploration emerged as a preference in many parts of the world, such as walking, biking, and yoga, while Japanese travelers pointed to cooking and said travel itself had the greatest positive impact on their mental health.

The outlook is a promising one for wellness focused resorts as well — 41 percent of global travelers confirmed their interest in booking hotels that offer wellness activities, while just over half said they were willing to pay more for hotels with an in-room exercise program.

“While we all know that travel experiences can be good for the soul, after the past 18 months, it’s no surprise that consumers are looking to their vacations as a way to relax, unwind and participate in activities that can benefit their mental health and well-being,” said Audrey Hendley, president of American Express Travel.

Outdoor activity allows for learning something new while also supporting a small business in the local community, Hendley added.

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Tags: amex, mental health, wellness travel

Photo Credit: Global travelers include exploring the outdoors as a key activity on a wellness trip. Luca Temporelli / Flickr Commons

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