The Four Directions that Wellness Travel Can Take

by László Puczkó
The Four Directions that Wellness Travel Can Take

Some suppliers mistakingly think relabelling a spa to wellness center, or investing in a Jacuzzi to the basement, does the job and makes them “wellness operators.” Photo: Shutterstock.com. 


While the actual representation of wellness in tourism can take many forms, how the wellness orientation is strategized and then, communicated, is just as important. Based on 25-plus years of work with operators, developers and public bodies, I created the landscape of the directions of wellness.

 Wellusion

There are four distinct implementation directions that wellness can take and advisors are expected to understand what direction a particular wellness service provider is at. It may not be enough to recognize the type of the hospitality business, e.g. spa hotel or retreat. Advisors need to be able to advise clients based on the direction the supplier has taken.

We can identify four different directions:

  • ‘Wellusion’ – wellusion is the softest approach in the implementation of wellness. The ‘wellness illusion’ is often used by hotels, resorts, and other suppliers. They believe that relabelling a spa to wellness center, or investing in a Jacuzzi to the basement, does the job and makes them “wellness operators.” Sadly, such illusion often is enough. Not so savvy guests can appreciate this soft application and the related communication change. Since the market gets more and more experienced and health conscious wellusion may not be with us for long.
  • ‘Welltertainment’ – when an operator fuses wellness and entertainment and fun, they can end up offering wellness entertainment, i.e welltertainment. Have you tried lemoga, i.e. lemurs and yoga, when lemurs happily hop around you while you are practicing yoga? Or, have you heard of beer yoga, i.e. you are holding a beer bottle during yoga and you are permitted to have a sip between asanas? Not yet, well, look out for such innovative services. Of course, ‘hardcore’ yoga persons may not appreciate such development, but suppliers may attract new segments to take part in wellness-improving activities by fusing fun components. The question is, however, what is the shelf life for welltertainment services? Where is the fine line between welltertainment and wellusion?
  • ‘Wellinent’ – advisors may find that programming an operator, which is eminent in one certain wellness direction, i.e. a wellinent, is actually relatively easy. A silent meditation package necessitates a specialist retreat that can cater for such demand. Advisors cannot really trust a large resort that offer silent meditation on the spa menu. The challenge is the business viability under this wellness direction. The market for very specialised and focused wellinent business may not be very large. On the other hand, however, wellinent guests are not only very loyal, but also very much aware and conscious of their needs and expectations. Look out for hints. If a hotel listed yoga among its fitness programmes do not recommend that hotel to yoga enthusiast. They may not find the spiritual component which is essential to them.
  • ‘Wellnessification’ – there are more and more hotels and resorts that have taken the wellness orientation seriously. They have infused wellness all along the guest journey. That includes room amenities and bedding, air filtering, food and beverage provision, as well as products used for spa treatments. Most of hospitality businesses were not built with wellness in mind initially. During recent renovations or remodelling wellness orientation might have already been into account. The degree of that, however, can differ greatly. Since there is no international standard for wellness hotels or resorts as such, advisors have to be careful to select the wellnessified properties and not the wellusion ones.

Such complexity of the wellness market may sound confusing and even scary so the responsibility of advisors can only grow. Guests, and consequently the advisors in the post-COVID 19 era, will require different set of information and references.

The advisors can pre-select their business partners and can help them to get ready for the new normal. Wellness-oriented guests may appreciate additional information about the destination they wish to visit. Advisors can get prepared to this new information search by collecting data from their partners about the following areas

  1. About the rooms
    1. What kind of air-conditioning is used and more specifically what is the air-conditioning cleaning protocol like, e.g. frequency, chemicals used?
    2. Describe the quality of linens and bedding in the room and linens in the bathroom in terms of what it is made of and how it is cleaned, e.g. allergens, detergents, parabens in creams, etc.
  2. About F&B
    1. Can they cater for allergies and diet preferences?
    2. How the food is sourced and prepared, e.g. palm oil contamination?
  3. About the spa/wellness/fitness provision
    1. What do the creams and oils used in the treatments contain?
    2. What kind of certification do the spa/wellness/fitness staff have?
    3. How do the treatments look like in more detail beyond the promotion language?
    4. How is the water treated in the swimming pool and the wet bar?
    5. Do they have signature treatments and if so, what are those?
    6. Do they have any evidence of the great impacts of a treatment or ritual? Where is the evidence coming from and what does FDA say about it?
    7. Do they provide pre and post stay consultation or coaching?
    8. Do they use the data from wearables in the definition of personal wellness packages?
    9. What kinds of yoga does the retreat offer and at what level?

This list can go on and on. Depending on the destination, the type of wellness trip and the motivation of the wellness-oriented guests, advisors would need to get prepared to dig deeper in the fine details of wellness as a concept. The more wellness-specific questions advisors as from the business partners at the destination, the better. Not only hotels and resorts, but also local DMCs can benefit from more specific questions. This can indicated the growing interest and can also highlight the complexity of the task. Doing so, advisors themselves not only take part in the sales process but also can initiate the very much anticipated wellness shift.

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87

% consider Well-Being Travel information a must or more important than ever for every traveler

60

% of advisors say they want suppliers to provide specific examples of sustainable and meaningful travel policies in action

649

Billion dollars is the size of the wellness travel market