The road to wellness travel

Posted on September 8, 2016 by Eleanor McKenzie
Mature people doing yoga on holiday

Some years ago a friend remarked to me “all the young ones are looking for holidays where they can practise yoga or something like that. They want to ‘do’ something with their time off.” It struck me at the time as something of a sea change in attitude to holidays, although I was pretty sure that the Club 18-30 style vacation was still going strong in resorts around Europe. Now, it seems apparent that people of all ages are looking for the type of holiday that improves the body, mind and spirit; wellness tourism is a major growth sector of the travel industry and British holidaymakers are proving passionate in their pursuit of the self-improvement holiday.

A survey published in the International Medical Travel Journal revealed that 94% of British people now “seek holidays to pursue health and fitness” and 85% of the people surveyed said that they would now be willing to try a health and fitness holiday to “improve their body and mind.” Those are big figures but as I can’t see the questions on the survey or discover how the respondents were selected, let’s just take them as a broad indicator of popular feeling. The research also revealed that these people are looking for holidays that include “spa treatments, fitness classes, land and water based sports” to ensure that they don’t return from holiday with an expanded waistline. Perhaps, more importantly, they want to use the down time to learn a new activity or make changes to their lifestyle.

Mature couple relaxing at a spa

Health retreats

There are undoubtedly many spa and yoga retreats available worldwide that offer an opportunity to combine wellness with exploration of the local region. These holidays cater to everyone, but there are some that offer people with specific health issues a place where they can find life-changing guidance and help.

Take type 2 diabetes for example, which is increasing in the UK population and as a response to that and the media coverage of ‘problem foods’, sugar detoxing is fast becoming a focus of a number of wellness travel operators. For example, one company offers a five-day sugar-detox option in its Morocco, France and Spain locations. Most of us have grasped how to cut out fats or carbs from our diet, but eliminating sugar is more complex. As nutritionist Max Tomlinson told the Independent “When blood sugars are fluctuating, you’re either high as a kite or downright nasty.” You’ll also be relieved to hear that when it comes to healthy holidays that focus on revising your diet then the organisers are now aware that they must offer “genuinely tasty cleansing meals” rather than “predictable ‘brown’ veggie fare.”

Of course, you don’t need to have diabetes to benefit from a sugar detox, but if you do have diabetes and are looking for a holiday tailored to improve the condition you might like to try Active with Diabetes Walking Holiday, a partnership venture between the Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation and Ramblers Countrywide. And, there are many more available worldwide.

Some wellness tourists are simply looking for a holiday that is out of the ordinary. Asia is a particularly popular destination for this style of holiday, with Thailand and India leading the way. There are numerous holidays available that combine yoga with visits to local attractions, Thai massage courses or Ayurvedic medicine retreats in southern India. The list of experiential travel possibilities is almost endless and many wellness travellers want a more authentic experience than a five-star spa offers.

You can even go on a wellness cruise. Technogym, which is one of the biggest suppliers of fitness equipment has partnered with a cruise line to launch a series of “wellness themed expedition cruises” for 2016 and 2017 that include daily wellness lectures, spa treatments, Pilates classes and guided gym sessions using state-of-the-art Technogym fitness equipment.

In an era when many of us are cash rich and time poor, using our holiday to improve aspects of our lives that during the daily grind we keep putting to one side seems an excellent use of those precious days we set aside for ourselves. If you were seeking a trip that would take you on the road to wellness, what type of holiday would you choose and what destination would most appeal to you?

by Eleanor McKenzie

Eleanor McKenzie is a Northern Irish writer with a passion for art, literature, and red wine. She's worked at advertising agency JWT, edited a journal for a European social policy think tank and tried to teach teenagers the difference between "there" and "their". Being 50+ has not significantly changed Eleanor's life, although she finds it a handy excuse when she wants to avoid anything too energetic.