Wellness tourism was on the rise before the coronavirus pandemic caused travel worldwide to come to a standstill. In fact, before the pandemic, wellness travel accounted for 17% of tourism across the world, according to Travel Market Report. Now, from virtual visits to promoting connecting with nature, resorts and travel providers are adapting to the new normal when it comes to wellness tourism.
“We wanted to host an event that would help improve people’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health during these difficult times,” Diana Mestre, Velas Resorts’s wellness consultant, told Forbes. “We know it can be hard to work out, practice self-care, and manage anxiety while being quarantined. Also, many people’s fitness, beauty and dietary routines have drastically changed over the last two months, which can also have a huge effect on one’s mental health.”
Stress relief is now a major priority for travelers. Before the pandemic, the global wellness industry was worth $4.5 billion.
“Previously, hospitality was very centered on spas and fitness, and there really wasn’t anything in between,” said Melissa Walker, senior director of global wellness at Hilton. “I would say the biggest change in the four years I’ve been at Hilton, is the understanding that wellness is very holistic.” It comes down to travel advisors staying informed and asking clients about their health desires and needs, Walker told Travel Market Report.
Connecting with nature also remains appealing as many practice social distancing. Japan’s J-Wellness, emphasized minimalism, forest bathing and meditative movements in the forest. Natural and spiritual rituals are essential medicine in Japan. “Forest spas,” for example, are on the rise. There are 62 healing forests in Japan, plus two-thirds of the world’s hot springs.
Wellness travel has been impacted. In Morocco, Equinox, postponed their spring 2020 trip departures due to the pandemic, but was selling six days of hiking at the cost of $6,250. The package included a hike up Mount Toubkal, which is the tallest peak in the Middle East, plus trainers, local cuisines, yoga classes and breathing sessions. According to Equinox, members of all their clubs have expressed interest in the trips and were sold out this year prior to the coronavirus pandemic.
Travel and tourism industry companies are doing their best to stay afloat anticipating that travel will resume soon.
Steph Lawrence, co-founder of Traveling Spoon, which connects travelers with vetted local hosts, is forgoing salaries to preserve cash for the company.
“We have a plan in place to reach out to our most in-need hosts in developing countries around the world where our hosts rely on Traveling Spoon for income to insure they have what they need to support their families,” he said.
Bettoja Hotels in Rome decided to remain open and is operating with minimal staffing and sanitizing rooms using ozone.
"In almost 150 years of history we have never closed our hotels and we have no intention of starting now,” Maurizio Bettoja, president and CEO, said. “It is evident we are working at a loss, but keeping our hotels open is a service that we consider necessary to meet the needs of those who are forced to travel despite the emergency and we can guarantee our in-house guests restaurant services, too.”
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