Wellness tour pioneer Pravassa will partner with travel agents

Pravassa's only domestic destination is New Mexico with its unique Native American culture and scenery.
Jeri Clausing
Jeri Clausing

As demand for wellness travel continues to grow, so too does demand by luxury travelers for personalized vacation packages that not only offer the best in fitness and health, but also local and cultural immersions.

Starting next year, agents will have a new resource for developing such itineraries when Pravassa, an original among the rare breed of tour operators specializing in the luxury, experiential wellness space, expands its services to the agent community.

Founder Linden Schaffer said the program, to work with and offer commissions to travel professionals, has been a long time in the making.

Although she started her company in 2009 - long before the wellness travel explosion - she said it was "created as my passion," and she had no real background in the broader travel business.

"When agents started coming to me, I had no idea what they were looking for or what I could do for them," Schaffer said. "On the flip side, agents didn't know how to sell wellness. So there was a huge disconnect."

Pravassa, which initially focused mostly on group tours to Asia, has grown to include set departures as well as customized itineraries in increasingly diverse destinations, including Peru, Nicaragua, Colombia, Australia and New Zealand. As it grew, wellness crept into mainstream travel, and Schaffer says that disconnect has narrowed, enabling her to expand her services to the travel agent community.

"It's finally that time," she said. "Because, thank you to the major hotel chains that have launched wellness, thank you to the industry resources like Virtuoso who say this is important, we're going to have wellness vendors, we can now put these itineraries together and have the agents turn around and sell them to their clients."

Where her programs differ from the traditional wellness resorts, like Canyon Ranch or special programs put together by luxury hotel brands, is that they have huge cultural and experiential components, Schaffer said.

For instance, the only domestic destination Pravassa currently offers is New Mexico because of its unique Native American culture and scenery. And a new Pravassa itinerary involves New Year's in Bali, where the day is one of silent meditation and even the airport is shut down.

She calls it intentional travel, where itineraries are vetted and curated by herself and travel and wellness experts to offer unique local experiences "through a wellness lens."

Schaffer says the agent program is in a beta of sorts right now, working with 10 travel professionals who have either been selling wellness for a while or who have had some wellness training. In partnership with them, she said, Pravassa is working to make sure it is creating the tools agents need to sell Pravassa before rolling it out to a broader group of professionals next year.

Still, she said, Pravassa will be selective in its partnerships, ensuring that they both understand wellness and have a luxury client base.

"This is a partnership," she said. "Because we are the only tour operator out there that does wellness, and we are providing so much sales and marketing for them to just plug in  we need to make sure the agent is also committed to us, make sure this is something they are passionate about."

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