In an age of transformative travel, wellness retreats tick all the boxes. An escape, a unique experience, the promise of self betterment, and opportunities to connect socially all serve to entice today’s wellness-minded traveler. These escapes go beyond the dimensions of traditional spa programs, introducing new cultural, sensory and even metaphysical, experiences.

The opportunity to be part of a movement

The current ‘festivalization’ of wellness retreats taps into movement psychology by making attendees feel that they are part of something on a global scale. ‘#Socality’, a concept that launched in 2014 and has become one of the most popular hashtags of the last few years encapsulates the sentiment. “Socality is not just a platform or concept, but rather it is a movement. It’s about creating spaces of belonging online and in person and helping people connect into their local and global communities…”

With a defined space beyond simply leisure, movement-related travel can assume a place of increased importance. From what started as a hashtag, was born and then sold out as an experience. Its website describes it as “a 4-day, 5-night experience to connect, create, and learn together in one of the most beautiful settings in the world.”

Another retreat focused on wellness is Wanderlust, a festival series that pops up in picturesque locations such as Oahu, California and Sunshine Coast, Australia. The festivals are described as “all-out celebrations of mindful living. We bring together instructors, musicians, speakers, and chefs for a 4-day retreat in the world’s most awe-inspiring natural resorts.” Attracting tens of thousands of guests each year, Wanderlust’s typical guest is a “female outdoor lifestyle enthusiast, an educated, affluent consumer who practices yoga, eats locally and sustainably, and likes to travel” with about 65 per cent of Wanderlust guests staying in resort hotels.

     “In urban locations wellness extends to the local community and most hotels encourage the local community to participate. An example is the Fairmont Palm's full moon yoga ... Over 70% of the guests are from the local community.’’                                                                                                        

Playing into AccorHotels local strategy, the group has created wellness experiences for guests and locals. In an exclusive interview with us, Chris J. Cahill, CEO Luxury Brands, notes, “In urban locations wellness extends to the local community and most hotels encourage the local community to participate. An example is the Fairmont Palm’s full moon yoga, which now has to limit the numbers to around 200 people. Over 70% of the guests are from the local community.”

Somewhere silent

Silence is one of the main components of mindfulness but is actually hard for many people to find in their daily life, making it a genuine luxury. “It’s because it’s so rare now,” says Beth McGroarty, research director at the Global Wellness Institute. “It’s funny that people pay for silence, because that’s how bad [modern life] is—[silence] is so precious.” The physical benefits of silence are well studied, with evidence showing that extended periods of silence can help lower blood pressure, improve memory, and relieve tension.

Finnish culture seems to understand the value of silence more than most, and this was capitalized on in a campaign by their tourism board. The campaign, titled ‘Silence, Please’ sells the message: “Space, time, peace and quiet – the four elements modern life lacks. Finland offers a chance for downshifting even in the heart of the city, and untouched nature is never more than half an hour away.” The value of silence for today’s guests should not be undervalued. Whether in Scandinavia or Shanghai, hotels need to recognize the value of quiet spaces as key to providing an escape.

Whether a particular destination represents an ‘escape’ need not be determined by its geographical location. Ultimately, wellness travelers are seeking to recharge, refresh and rejuvenate themselves in a purposeful way but the paths to achieving this are almost endless. It’s up to each hotel to design unique environments and services based on what they know about their guests.