There's no doubt the wellness travel market is healthy: According to the Global Wellness Institute, wellness tourism is a $563 billion industry. Wellness travel trends are constantly on the mend, however, to adapt to the changing wellness industry.
At the recent 10th anniversary of the Global Wellness Summit, over 500 wellness experts from close to 50 countries gathered to debate the future of wellness—identifying eight trends for the remaining months of 2017 and beyond.
The recent report 8 Wellness Trends for 2017—and Beyond, by Chairman and CEO Susie Ellis and Director of Research Beth McGroarthy, reported on key innovations in the industry. Here's what these trends mean for travel.
Stress-reducing and detoxifying, saunas are standard fare at hotels, spas and gyms worldwide. But if we say "sauna" and you say "small wooden shack," it might be time get out and explore the scene.
Saunas were invented over 2,000 years ago in Finland, and sauna-going is a way of life in Northern, Central and Eastern European countries—the experience is far different than saunas in the rest of the world.
Not to say Europe's saunas are steamier, but the rituals and facilities are often more creative and deeply social.
European architects are reimagining saunas. Some are taking the forms as community spaces with music, food, bars and more. Others are sauna amphitheaters, seating anywhere from 50 to 300 people sweating communally.
"In a world getting hotter and crazier, more people will travel to these countries for their cool, serene nature, and to try their hot sauna innovations at the source. And their breeds of more social, more entertaining and high-design sauna concepts will continue to spread across the world," Ellis and McGroarthy write.
Blueprints for better health.
Wellness travel could help elevate anyone feeling blue—and it might just be the blueprints of buildings making humans happier and healthier.
"Through new standards and technologies, building for human health—and a new 'wellness architecture'—will be one of the biggest (and most impactful) future wellness trends."
Strategies will span anything from plants that remove deadly air toxins, to "living" buildings with walls made of algae biofuel cells that grow their own energy.
Delos' Stay Well rooms, for instance, integrate wellness technologies and features that help optimize guests' health and well-being when traveling—from air and water purification, to dawn-simulation and circadian lighting. Launched in Las Vegas, the stay rooms are now featured in six Marriott International hotels.
And there are additional healthier hotels on the horizon.
With the invention of the smartphone in 2007, technology has exploded—and connected humans to work every waking hour. Combine that with urbanization, and humans are now calling for silence and quiet contemplation.
Wellness resorts and spas—even salons, restaurants, gyms and stores—are answering.
More and more, spas are appearing in properties such as monasteries, abbeys, nunneries, crypts, caves and even former bank vaults. Silent restaurants and silent meals at hotels are also on the rise.
"The silent, peaceful wellness retreat or spa will trump 'high-tech' varieties, because the need for disconnection is at triage levels."
Art and creativity take center stage.
Once upon a time, creative geniuses like Beethoven, Chopin, Dostoevsky and Mozart flocked to spa destinations to compose, create and even perform.
"Musical performance, theater and art exhibitions were as central to the spa experience as taking the waters."
Over the years, however, wellness became more about physical fitness and beauty. Today, creativity is starting to curve back and become central to wellness concepts at hotels, retreats, spas and studios.
Ellis and McGroathy note that in the future, we'll see more classes and programming focused on creative expression, art and live performance, and more creative professionals turning to stress-reduction activities.
"Beauty" gets a makeover.
Beauty and wellness go hand in hand, but the beauty industry has been shifting beyond the skin to include all the senses—what we feel, hear, smell and taste, too.
"Looking good, feeling good and even doing good is all part of today's beauty aesthetic."
Wellness travelers will be looking for the new beauty aesthetic, which includes ethically sourced and organic brands, mediation, exercise and more.
"Mental wellness is the biggest future trend, period."
Mental disorders are skyrocketing globally, and wellness travel will include a bigger focus on mental health. Hotels, retreats and spas will offer new approaches by bringing in psychotherapists and neuroscientists, meditation, sleep programs, a focus on creativity and more.
"Just as wellness tourism developed alongside of, yet distinct from, medical tourism, look for mental wellness to develop alongside, and distinct from, mental health."
In the past, the wellness industry turned away cancer patients due to misinformation and insurance policies. But the spa and wellness world is beginning to embrace this critically important issue.
Wellness destinations are leading the way by offering treatments for those affected by cancer, cancer care programs, and more.
Beyond the Elite "Ghettos."
Wellness travel has often been associated with "luxury," but that's changing.
"Ghettos of wellness" (dreamy tropical islands, five-star retreats, et cetera) typically serve the top one percent. The growth of the middle class, however, has fueled the growth on the wellness market, and wellness tourism is in the midst of a reinvention.
"The future is a shift from a property focus to developing and promoting towns, regions and even nations, where more authentic, comprehensive wellness is 'packaged': from positive environmental policies to access to sustainable, healthy food to broader social justice—benefiting tourists and locals."
To view the full 8 Wellness Trends for 2017—and Beyond report and learn more how wellness trends will affect travel, click here.
Written by Cassie Westrate, staff writer for Groups Today.