Wellness Travel is Healthy Trend

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Good-bye ‘fat farms’ and hello ‘soft wellness’ as more travelers choose vacation destinations that meet a revised definition of health. That includes spending more time connecting with nature. Above, my vacation is literally for the birds in The Galapagos Islands.

“It’s really changed,” said Jean Pickard, luxury travel consultant with SmartFlyer of Atlanta. “It used to be hard core where you worked out for a week. Now wellness travel has blossomed into going places to take a hike and have a nice lunch paired with wine. It’s a soft wellness.” Pickard was one of nearly five thousand travel  professionals who attended Virtuoso Travel Week, the annual conference of Virtuoso travel advisors and destination properties.

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Jean Pickard (right) met with representatives of travel destinations world wide at Virtuoso Travel Week.

Boom in Well Being

More travelers are literally taking the time to stop and smell the roses. That’s a healthy trend for spa-centered hotels such as the Evian Resort on Lake Geneva where some of the swimming pools in town are filled with (you guessed it) water from the Evian springs. “Guests wake up and the flowers are blooming and the birds are singing,” says Samuel Berne, of Evian Resort.

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Virtuoso, an international network of travel advisors and destination properties, predicts the wellness travel niche, representing 15 percent of global tourism, will reach $680 billion by next year.

“Simply defined, wellness travel encompasses physical, mental and social well-being, as well as spiritual health,” says Virtuoso’s Albert Herrera.

What’s on the menu has also changed with the wellness trend. “It used to be the vegetarian was the odd man out but now there’s not a table today where people are not watching what they eat including lactose free and gluten free,” said Roland Fasel, general manager of The Dorchester Hotel in London. “This all happened very quickly and you have to be ready to deliver with specific menus.”

Pickard is currently planning a trip to Japan for a client who doesn’t eat sushi and is gluten-free.

In Vietnam the question might be ‘where can I go for the safest street food?’

“It’s really a big deal. We tell the concierge the most important thing they can do is help guests with their food experience,” said Anthony Slewka-Armfelt, of the Hotel Metropole in Hanoi.

“If I’m into culinary it’s not just hotel menus, it’s providing information on what’s happening in the community,” said Chris Cahill, chief executive officer of Accor Hotels.

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Wellness trends include savoring little luxuries such as lobster risotto at Rivea restaurant, menu from Alain Ducasse, at the Delano Las Vegas Hotel.

Sound Sleep

The quest for wellness includes a good night’s sleep. “Lack of sleep is no longer a badge of honor. My travel clients want to get away from sleep deprivation and it’s goes beyond bed linen thread count to classes in meditation,” said Pickard.

There are even places that offer ‘electronic detox’ where you check your phone and other devices at the door as a part of a wellness vacation.

I feel better already. Are you packed? Don’t forget your running shoes.

This article also published in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Healthy Eating column.

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