By Nadine Courtney
In recent years, the nebulous-sounding field of wellness has become hot – all the best destination resorts offer options. But where a hotel might have previously offered a smattering of extra massages in its spa or added yoga to its fitness menu, the next generation of spa-goers want something much more profound.
“There has been quite a shift in what clients look for in wellness travel”, says Kathleen Sutter, a Virtuoso agency owner based in Sarasota, Florida. “It is no longer just massages, yoga, salon treatments and weight-loss programmes, although these are still important options.” A few added classes or amenities no longer cut it. Instead, savvy travellers want to maximise their time away from home with multi-part treatment “journeys”, sessions with world-renowned professionals and destination courses worth travelling the globe for – all designed to take guests’ quest for wellness to the next level.
The ultimate goal? To come away with a clearer sense of self and a more perceptive understanding of your life’s purpose. “Wellness is about finding the experience that will aid you in creating positive change”, explains Victoria Strubbe, a Virtuoso advisor, based in Manhattan Beach, California. Guests don’t just want to treat sore shoulders; they want to change their lives.
Keeping this in mind, we found the top wellness trends you need to know now. From holistic health to hygge, we’ve got you covered.
Nothing has had a bigger impact on the wellness community recently than the Danish concept of hygge (pronounced “hoo-gah”). The popularity of hygge, which roughly means “the pursuit of cosiness” – think flickering candles, fireside chats with loved ones, woollen socks, and steaming mugs of mulled wine – can be attributed to the fact that everybody, regardless of socioeconomic status, nationality or political affiliation, needs a little TLC.
In wellness travel, this translates into programmes designed for connection and simplicity, such as forest walks, classes in reading or writing haiku, watercolour classes and alpine treks. Pre- and post-treatment relaxation lounges at top spas, meanwhile, provide opportunities for maximum hygge. Here, guests can settle into a recliner with a cosy blanket in a dimly lit room, sipping on freshly brewed herbal tea.
Hygge at the world’s top resorts proves that it’s possible to be halfway around the world – challenging yourself, getting out of your comfort zone, experiencing new things – yet still feel completely at home.
Indulging in delicious food and wine is often part of travelling, but many guests are now looking to eat more cleanly and to make thoughtful food choices based on their individual needs.
“Consumers are tired of the word ‘diet’”, Sutter says. “They seek direction for a proper lifestyle. Not just what should not be eaten, but how what you eat affects your body inside and out.” The focus on nutrition is manifested at top resorts with private vegetable garden tours and tastings, or in classes designed to better understand nutritional claims and buzzwords. Cuisine is frequently organic and often sourced on-site or locally, and it is not unusual to feature lessons from a variety of artisans – from foragers to cheese-makers – alongside classes led by world-famous chefs.
Conscious eating is less about declaring certain foods as bad – such as sugar, butter and fats – and more about being mindful of where food comes from, how it’s produced, how your body will respond to it, and whether you are making the best choices for you.
In a world where busy people’s mobile phones are practically superglued to their fingers, not returning an email immediately is considered rude, and many folks post their every move on Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook, putting the phone down, walking away and fully connecting with your surroundings is the ultimate luxury.
“One of the best ways to reduce stress is to break free from your devices and connect to the people you’re with, yourself and your surroundings”, says Karen Goldberg, managing director of Virtuoso Hotels and Resorts. “A digital detox often results in increased creativity and new perspective. The benefits far outweigh any short-term inconvenience.”
Resorts offering a digital detox often ban technology in public areas, and some don’t offer Wi-Fi at all. Other places require guests to surrender their devices upon arrival, returning them only after the programme or stay is complete.
Draconian though it may seem, the benefits are immediate: Guests sleep better and are more present to participate in the bevy of activities, treatments and programmes on offer – everything from bike rides and yoga to Thai massage, stress management sessions, and time with a life coach to help get to the root of the device addiction.
Meditation is practised around the world, but it has recently reached critical mass in the USA with apps zooming to the top of the Apple App Store best-seller list and pop-up, pop-in studios sprouting across the country to help busy people calm their minds.
“In these uncertain times, consumers are looking to reclaim the present”, Sutter explains. “They meditate to experience transformation and find inner strengths.” As a result, resorts are offering a bevy of meditation and mindfulness classes, many with specific focuses, such as chakra meditation to correct emotional imbalances and awaken energy within, or guided sessions with a behavioural therapist.
Whatever the individual practice, the benefits of meditation are grounded in scientific fact: A recent study reported that mindfulness meditation provided a cure for pain relief, while devotees report reduced stress, clearer thinking and diminished anxiety.
If the word “spa” makes you think of Zen music and frou-frou treatments, you have never been to the new breed of high-tech medical wellness facilities. These spas for the serious-minded promise serious results, and are designed to identify and address chronic conditions.
Programmes are PhD-worthy, including units devoted to stem-cell biotechnology to help treat autoimmune diseases, or full-day medical intakes that incorporate a body composition analysis, taking blood and a metabolic rate test. Vitamin deficiencies, allergies and food intolerances can be spotted and treated, while more pervasive conditions have a chance to be identified and addressed through a combination of traditional and holistic treatments.
For guests suffering from persistent but vague ailments that have eluded diagnosis or treatment, high-tech wellness facilities are the perfect place to drill down and get to the root of what ails you.
Horses have long been recognised as therapeutic for those working through trauma or emotional issues, and many luxury resorts have turned to equine therapy programmes as a source of creativity and connection.
“The ancient Greeks documented the benefits of horse riding as therapy”, says Austin-based advisor Krista Betts. “Animals naturally relax us and give us peace, so it’s no wonder why spas are offering equine therapy as an option.”
Programmes built around horses – where guests often don’t even ride but instead work alongside the animals – are beneficial for both couples and individuals, and are also popular as team-building exercises. The sessions are designed to facilitate better listening and communication, while also reflecting human behaviour and acting as a spiritual mirror (after all, horses are known to be intuitive and to sense emotions). Other popular options include painting classes on the live canvas of the horse, to express emotions and centre energy.
Guests report a sense of renewed calm, clarity and connection following equine therapy – a simple but powerful way to regain a sense of purpose, control and clarity.
For the full selection of 41 Virtuoso Wellness partners, please contact your travel advisor.
Find your wellness at these select Virtuoso Wellness hotels, resorts and cruises:
Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa – Sonoma, CA
Blackberry Farm – Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
The Ranch Malibu – Malibu, CA
Miraval Resort & Spa – Tucson, AZ
Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort – Hawaii
Borgo Egnazia – Puglia, Italy
Castel Monastero Resort & Spa – Siena (Tuscany), Italy
Grand Hotel Quellenhof & Spa Suites – Bad Ragaz, Switzerland
Schloss Elmau Luxury Spa Retreat and Cultural Hideaway – Bavaria, Germany
SHA Wellness Clinic – Albir/Valencia region, Spain
Chable Resort and Spa - Chocholá, Mexico
The Resort at Pedregal – Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
BodyHoliday Saint Lucia – Caribbean
The Dhara Dhevi Chiang Mai – Chiang Mai, Thailand
Mukul Beach, Golf & Spa – Nicaragua
Crystal Cruises – Itineraries offered worldwide.