Luxury Hotels Innovate as Wellness Tourism Grows

Yoga at BodyHoliday, Saint Lucia

The Global Wellness Institute defines wellness tourism as "journeys made by tourists who seek to improve or maintain their well-being during or as a result of their trip." Earlier this week, Luxury Travel Advisor attended Organic Spa Magazine's fifth annual NYC Experience Wellness & Travel Media Event at Conrad New York in downtown Manhattan. The event hosted a wide selection of organic spa remedies, representatives for wellness resorts and the first-ever Beauty and Travel symposiums to further discuss beauty advancements and the wellness tourism craze. 

At the symposium, a collection of panelists spoke on different topics within the wellness tourism division. The first panel, titled "What Is the Wellness Traveler Looking For?'" consisted of: Tom Botts, CMO of Miraval; Andrew Gibson, VP of Well Being, AccorHotels; Kathleen Shea, CMO of Canyon Ranch; and Nicolas Dominguez, managing director of Hamak Hotels. The panelists discussed why wellness travel is becoming increasingly popular, what the wellness traveler is looking for, and what their respective properties are doing to accommodate that type of traveler.

Panel at Travel Symposium - Organic Spa Event

From left to right: Andrew Gibson, Tom Botts, Moderator Sallie Frankel, Nicolas Dominguez, Kathleen Shea // Image from Organic Spa Media, LTD. Photographed by Alex Lucas 

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Luxury Innovations

According to Andrew Gibson, wellness travel is nothing new. He says it’s been a notable branch of tourism for decadeswe just now have the ability to measure it, the means to better understand it, and the demand to keep the niche market afloat. Gibson says that wellness travelers are seeking an overall state of "well-being," and that "wellness" is the set of services on the path to well-being. Ultimately, luxury hotel brands are aiming to provide their guests with an all-inclusive trio: luxury, convenience, and stress-reduction. He spoke on one of the brands under his title that is going above and beyond to accommodate, impress and provide that "wellness path" for travelers: Swissotel, Zurich. 

Swissotel, Zurich is home to the Vitality Room; a lavish guestroom that allows guests to work, play, and rest all within the same space. Many of the room's amenities were developed specifically for the Vitality Room, including hydraulic furniture that raises the coffee table to a height-specific work station and the "Wellbeing Wall," where guests have access to different training modules, workout equipment, and a cyber-trainerall within the room's wardrobe. For travelers fighting jet lag, the room has circadian lights that allow the light color to change, influencing the secretion of melatonin to the brain and helping guests to adjust. One of the room's most impressive wellness offerings is the air purification system that filters in fresh Swiss air. 

"Some of those [amenities] stick with guests who like them," Gibson said. "Others will say, 'well that's a load of rubbish, we don't need that' but it gives us that great opportunity to find out what the guest wants." He is convinced that some of the amenities in the Vitality Room will become standard in guest rooms over the next five years. 

Over at Miraval Resorts, CMO Tom Botts says the brand is taking similar steps to provide guests with a stress-free, personalized wellness vacation. Miraval offers 120 wellness and renewal programs, including a group-healing session in a Himalayan Sound Bath, a Water Lotus ceremony, and out-of-the-ordinary activities like cardio-drumming, traversing a tightrope, and Naga, a Thai-inspired massage using suspended silk ropes. Botts says "[wellness travel] is essentially selling the fountain of youth. Who wouldn't want to come back looking younger, or at least feeling younger or thinking that you're going to live longer?"

Piggybacking Botts' statement about the growing desire for wellness, Kathleen Shea, CMO, Canyon Ranch Resorts touched on the Canyon Ranch Life Enhancement Program. The self-contained Life Enhancement Center provides guests with the resources and expertise to live a healthier life. The program offers Specialty Weeks designed to hone on specific areas that guests might need help with: weight loss, tracking a health concern, exploring spiritual paths, or simply living healthier. 

Hot Wellness Travel Destinations 

The afternoon's second panel, titled "Hot Wellness Travel Destinations," panelists included: Kimberly Rossi, spa director, Art of Living; Armin Asceric, brand & marketing manager, The BodyHoliday; Carrie Harmon, general manager, Deer Lake Lodge; Joey Zielenski, corporate director of sales, R&R Resorts, and Derrick Braun, 'Farmicist,' The Lodge at Woodloch. Julie Keller Callaghan, Editor-in-Chief of our sister magazine, American Spa, also joined the panel and contributed several trends she's noticed in the spa and wellness industry. The panel was moderated by Rona Berg, the Editor-in-Chief of Organic Spa Magazine and the creator of all six beauty and travel symposiums. 

Panel at Organic Spa Event

From left to right: Armin Aseric, Julie Keller Callaghan, Kimberly Rossi, Derrick Braun, Joey Zielenski. Not pictured: Carrie Harmon, Rona Berg // Image from Organic Spa Media, LTD. Photographed by Alex Lucas 

The panelists discussed their respective properties while spotlighting each properties distinct wellness offerings. For your client's next trip, suggest one of these luxury wellness destinations: 

R&R Resorts 

Located in three distinct locations, Mexico, Costa Rica and Georgia; each R&R Resort offers their own set of exclusive wellness amenities. 

  • Maya Tulum Resort: Home to two fully equipped yoga halls with daily classes, 46 thatched-roof accommodations, including beach front and ocean view cabanas, a variety of spa treatments including a traditional Mayan Clay massage, and diet-specific dining, whether guests are vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free. 
  • Pura Vida Retreat & Spa: Home to four yoga studios, 49 guest rooms ranging from suites with wraparound porches to eco-chic Tentalows, a wellness center offering a variety of healing therapies, and three healthy meals each dayprepared using fresh local produce and greens and herbs from the on-site Holistic Garden. 
  • Dahlonega Spa Resort: Just a short drive from Atlanta, the Dahlonega Spa Resort is home to a 1,200-square-foot yoga hall and a 40-foot walking labyrinth. The Main Inn has 15 rooms and suites in addition to eight secluded cabins, a four-room spa, and various adventure options, including: hiking along the Appalachian Trail, gold mining, horseback riding, and mountain biking.


A Tentalow at Pura Vida Retreat & Spa - an R&R Resort/Image courtesy of R&R Resorts

BodyHoliday, Saint Lucia

BodyHoliday is an all-inclusive wellness resort in tropical Saint Lucia. The resort boasts 155 rooms and sits on 42 acres of lush property. The property offers themed months, retreats, and master classes that are designed to guide guests towards optimal health and wellness. As part of the pre-paid accommodations, all BodyHoliday guests receive a daily 50-minute spa treatment at the resort's 30,000-square-foot wellness center. Guests also have several recreation options including water skiing, yoga, snorkeling, fencing, T'ai Chi, and archery. 

BodyHoliday also includes a one-of-a-kind BodyScience Program, headed by Dr. Samantha Semmalar. The BodyScience Program is a fusion of western science and technology with eastern practices. The program is rather intensestarting before the guests ever step foot on the BodyHoliday property. From home, guests who wish to participate are asked to complete a 96-page questionnaire which provides insight into their medical and family histories. Blood, urine, stool, and even DNA samples are collected and then sent to a European lab for analysis. Based on the results, guests are placed in one ore more of BodyHoliday's six core programs: digestion, healthy aging, detox, weight management, destress, or fitness. 

Be sure to check for updates on luxury wellness travel. 

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