Wellness tourism predictions move beyond the physical

The Silent Spa at Austria's Therme Laa Hotel. Photo Credit: Courtesy Vamed Vitality Resorts
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Jeri Clausing
Jeri Clausing

Wellness tourism has been one of the hottest sectors of travel for years. And it is evolving as fast as it's growing. So what's on tap for 2017?  Industry experts predict an expansion of offerings that go beyond the physical.

Creativity programs ranging from adult coloring books, literature classes and concerts, a new focus on silence and the addition of mental-health experts to more traditional spa resorts are among three of the tourism-related wellness trends identified in the most recent report from the Global Wellness Summit, "Eight wellness trends for 2017."

In an age of 24/7 connectivity, it's not surprising that silence is among the trends topping the list. While digital detox programs, where hotels ask you to check in your phones, tablets and computers during your stay, are not new, the report said, "Wellness destinations are embracing a dramatic approach to 'turning off' the noise: true silence."

For example, Austria's Therme Laa Hotel this month introduced the Silent Spa, complete with silent assistants and coaches. Additionally, the report said "wellness monasteries" are on the rise, "infused with the silent, contemplative values of ancient, sacred spaces," such as Italy's Eremito, which has no WiFi or phone signals and features silent, candlelit dinners. In Germany, the Brenners Park Hotel & Spa has installed "digital kill switches" for totally silent rooms. And Mexico's destination spa, Rancho La Puerta, holds meditative meals set to soft music.

The report also noted that art and creativity are taking center stage in wellness, and said we'll see
more sophisticated takes on the growing trend by luxury hotels to offer adult coloring books, along with "a profusion of multisensory experiences, from sound baths to 'yoga concerts.' "

The Casa Madrona in Sausalito, Calif., for instance, offers an Art of the Sea package that includes private painting lessons, tickets to museums and spa treatments. The Kimpton Hotel Monaco in Portland, Ore., provides easels, brushes and paint at their evening wine hours and the Tideline Ocean Resort & Spa in Palm Beach, Fla., offers nights of painting under the stars.

But "the unrivaled example of a wellness retreat magnificently merged with musical and cultural programming," the report said, is the Schloss Elmau, a castle in Germany's Bavarian Alps that in addition to five spas and a yoga program has a 300-seat concert hall that hosts 220 concerts and performances each year. It also has a program that enables thousands of top musicians, writers and thinkers (and their families) to "play to stay" every year.

More wellness resorts are also adding mental health professionals to their staff, from sleep specialists to psychologists and neuroscientists.

At the Stanglwirt in Kitzbuhel, Austria, a resident clinical psychologist offers everything from relaxation hypnosis to burnout prevention. ESPA Life at Corinthia Hotel London has just brought in a "neuroscientist in residence" to create programs tackling mental wellness, resilience and positivity. And the Park Hyatt New York just partnered with drop-in studio MNDFL for both in-room meditation and group classes in their vast Spa Nalai.

The report was put together following the group's annual Global Wellness Summit, held in Austria this fall, with input from wellness experts from around the globe, the group said.

"No other trends report is based on the perspectives of so many wellness experts, whether leading economists or futurists or the heads of hospitality, spa and beauty brands," said Susie Ellis, Global Wellness Summit chairwoman and CEO. "And it makes for a powerfully collective, global and informed set of predictions."

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