Why travel for wellness now?
If being cooped up has left you dreaming of escapism in the form of blue skies and golden sands, you’re not alone. Wellness travel and slow travel were already huge industry trends, combating problems of over-visited cities (think pre-COVID Barcelona, or Amsterdam) and with travellers becoming more socially conscious of the impact of their vacations.
According to the Global Wellness Institute, wellness tourism was a $639 billion industry in 2017. That figure is predicted to hit $919 billion by 2022. Post-COVID 19, we’ve never had more of a collective need to rejuvenate and recharge. Travel will certainly be a part of the healing process – provided it’s done responsibly.
What will wellness travel look like post coronavirus?
The Wellness Tourism Association defines Wellness Travel as, travel that allows the traveller to maintain, enhance or kick-start a healthy lifestyle, and support or increase one’s sense of wellbeing.
Experts say that coronavirus will escalate the existing slow travel trend further. Group trips will become more scarce – good news for Europe’s overcrowded capitals – and a focus on local communities and the environment will increase.
According to Booking.com’s Sustainable Travel Report for 2020, 82 per cent of travellers worldwide identify sustainable travel as important. The travel industry, especially hotels, is responding in kind, prioritising the health of its staff and guests by putting social distancing and extensive cleaning measures in place. In terms of guest offerings, expect a greater emphasis on relaxing spa treatments, local, small-group experiences and access to the outdoors.
Part of wellness travel 2020 will mean reconnection with nature, especially if you’ve spent lockdown in a densely populated city environment. We’ll see an increase in activities like forest bathing, a Japanese tradition that’s made wellbeing-focused walks trendy around the world. It’s been shown that even looking at trees decreases levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and walking in the woods lowers blood pressure and heart rate, especially when paired with mindfulness.
Where should I travel to boost my wellness post coronavirus?
For bracing sea air: Durham Heritage Coast (UK)
Stretching 17 miles from port city Sunderland to Hartlepool, this section of north-east England’s coastline is so breathtakingly beautiful that it was granted Heritage Coast status. Once an industrial powerhouse, the area is now known for its dramatic views of shallow bays and limestone cliff headlines. Its remote coastal path and bracing breeze are perfect for a socially distant reconnection with nature.
Stay at Seaham Hall, a vast, Georgian manor house at the north end of Durham’s Heritage Coast. Alongside its 37 acres of landscaped gardens and small number of rooms – just 21 boutique suites – the hotel has also opened a series of health-prioritising activities. Think outdoor movie screenings from pod beds; picnic hampers to go, packed with locally sourced goods; personal spa sessions on a secluded terrace; and bike hire for tackling the coastal path.
For comfort eating: Puglia (Italy)
There’s a reason why Italy’s sunny heel is one of its defining tourism regions: it practically spills over with intricately carved churches, ancient towns and some of the country’s finest food (which is saying something). The go-to place for olives, burrata and all manner of sun-ripened fruits and vegetables, it’s Puglia’s countryside that is its heart. All the better for any traveller in search of comfort and wellbeing via their stomach, who can forage their way through the Forest of Umbra or wander between olive and almond groves in the Valle d’Itria. All of Italy’s flavour, with none of the crowds.
Stay at Paragon 700 Boutique Hotel & Spa, which has just opened in Ostuni, Puglia, with a focus on tailormade, local experiences. These include individual visits to a burrata cheese maker, private cooking classes, or exclusive trips onto the Adriatic Sea on the hotel’s private boat, Dragonfly.
For restorative sun: Corfu, Greece
It doesn’t take long to find a sunny corner of this Ionian Island to have all to yourself. Despite its pre-COVID 19 crowds of tourists, the island’s more remote rugged hills and sanded coves were never more than a stretch of headland away. Now, vitamin D-deficient travellers (that’s everyone who just spent lockdown indoors) can head to Odysseus’s island to find a pocket of sunshine for that much-needed R&R.
Stay at MarBella Corfu, which is just a short drive or bike ride away from one of Europe’s safest beaches in light of the coronavirus pandemic: Halikounas, where social distancing applies. The hotel itself is offering tailored beach picnics and outdoor film screenings, and has appointed wellness ambassadors who can advise on health and sanitisation.
For mountain zen: Chiang Rai, Thailand
Northern Thailand’s Chiang Rai City is sleepy enough for a wellness holiday, with its slow pace and undeveloped river where you can hire a boat or stroll along the banks of the Kok River. But the province it sits within – Thailand’s northernmost – is a mosaic of dramatic mountains, lush floodplains along the Mekong and small hilltop communities. This is where to go for tropical zen, perhaps zipping between coffee plantations and coconut groves, or admiring the province’s dramatic temple complexes – like the golden Wat Phra Kaew, known as the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand.
Stay at Anantara Golden Triangle Elephant Camp & Resort, which will forever change the meaning of ‘travel bubbles’. The hotel offers a new, unforgettable night in a jungle bubble: a luxurious, transparent dome in the middle of the natural environment of a herd of elephants. Watch the hotel’s daily live stream to get in the mood.
For complete seclusion: Arizona, USA
The American road trip capital, this state is saturated with dramatic, natural wonders: The Grand Canyon, Monument Valley, Cathedral Rock. With its desert climate, endless skies and epic rock faces, it’s hard to imagine getting a greater feeling of space than you can on the open road in this southwestern state. Domestic US travellers can just hop in the car and go, with the horizon in their sights. And while cities like Phoenix, Flagstaff and Tuscon all have their draws, this summer when it comes to wellness travel it’s all about the great outdoors – where better to experience it than here?
Stay at L’Auberge de Sedona, where you’ll realise that Arizona isn’t just desert. At this resort of 62 cottages and 21 guest rooms, in a forest of Sycamore trees, guests are encouraged to try the Japanese ritual of shinrin-yoku (forest bathing), with a private guide.
How can I boost my wellness from home?
If you want to stay put this summer, you can save your wellness travel for later and look after your wellbeing from home. Your wellbeing is intrinsically linked to your physical health and mental health, and involves proactively thinking about your diet, sleep patterns and social schedules.
The NHS, the UK’s healthcare service, offers a set of guidelines for looking after your wellness. These include connecting with loved ones, keeping physically active, practising acts of kindness to others and practising mindfulness by focusing on the present. It also recommends learning new skills – so maybe it’s time to dust off those arts and crafts sets, or getting stuck into some DIY or home improvement.
Even if you stay in your home city this summer, you can take advantage of wellbeing day packages at spas or hotels, to pamper yourself and find a moment of calm.