DESTINATION WELLNESS: WHAT THE LATEST BUZZWORD MEANS FOR TRAVEL
As the travel industry shifts and takes stock, different buzzwords dominate the conversation. Four or five years ago, everyone was obsessed with “authentic” and “local”, as travellers sought to lift the veil on destinations like never before. Two or three years ago, it was all about “farm-to-table”. From Washington’s San Juan Islands to downtown Miami, it suddenly became de rigueur to have everything at your local restaurant come from a farm or butcher within a 60-mile radius.
This year, the word “wellness” – and its siblings, “mindfulness” and “well-being” – is on everyone’s lips. “Judging by the number of juice bars and yoga studios you see, wellness has become mainstream,” says Barbara Close, the founder of Naturopathica, an all-natural beauty brand with standalone healing centers and spas. “24/7 living and chronic stress have brought wellness to the top. We can’t shut off.”
Close just opened a new flagship Naturopathica spa – complete with a vitality bar serving teas and tonics and a remedy bar stocking tinctures – in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. Visitors can come in, describe what they’re looking to treat (itchy skin, sleeplessness, bloating) and get products or a treatment entirely customised to their needs.
As Naturopathica, and wellness, have evolved, Close sees the need to address the gut and digestion – specifically pre-biotics and phytochemicals. “Pre-biotics are what make pro-biotics (the good bacteria in your gut) thrive,” she explains. “That’s why we’re focusing on elixirs and tonics that have phytochemicals like turmeric, echinacea, reishi, any sort of herb that has medicinal qualities. People are starting to understand that the gut is connected to the brain, skin and emotion: food as medicine.”
Sleep as medicine is also key. “It’s the perfect moment in time,” says Neil Jacobs, the CEO of Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas, a brand that has properties stretching from Oman to the Maldives to Portugal’s Douro Valley. “There’s a consciousness out there today – far greater than ever before – around sleep, nutrition, exercise, spiritual and mental health.”
“There’s a consciousness out there today – far greater than ever before – around sleep, nutrition, exercise, spiritual and mental health.” – Neil Jacobs, CEO, Six Senses Hotel Resorts Spas
Six Senses has always placed wellness at the core of their brand. They are once again leading the charge in the industry by unveiling a new integrative wellness-testing programme and yoga classes – the latter specifically designed to aid sleep. As part of the new programme, Six Senses guests undergo a screening that uses a finger oximeter to monitor heart rate, tissue oxygen uptake and arterial stiffness. They can also experience yoga nidra, or yogic sleep – a practice taught lying down, to induce full body relaxation. En-suite, a consultant will show guests what the optimal room temperature is for sleeping and how to prepare the body for rest.
Adds Jacobs, “The fear around Eastern medicines such as Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine is dissolving. People are ready to look at different approaches to wellness that in the past were taboo and woo woo.”
One thing’s for sure when it comes to spas and luxury: that one-hour standard facial or massage just isn’t cutting it anymore. At the Park Hyatt New York’s airy Spa Nalai, the signature 120-minute Spa Nalai treatment – a combination of a citrus scrub, French clay wrap and rejuvenating massage – has tripled in bookings in the past six months, as clients say they need more than just one hour to unwind. At the Peninsula New York, innovative offerings include the 90-minute Wat Pho Royal Thai Massage, a traditional technique used to treat Thai royalty, or the Second Skin Facial by Biologique Recherche. As an alternative to fillers, patches with 80% hyaluronic acid are placed on targeted areas to regenerate skin.
In another interesting twist, more hotel properties are now offering clinical testing and ushering in a new age of 21st century destination spas. Take Lanserhof Tegernsee, a modern retreat in the Germany countryside with stunning views of the Bavarian Alps. Guests check in for a week – and forgo the alcohol – to undergo urine analysis, DNA and genetic testing, food allergy testing, colonoscopies, cardiograms, and sonograms. (Massages and reflexology are thrown into the mix, too.) The ultimate goal: cleanse the gut and start anew.
And then there’s Cal-A-Vie Health Spa, one of California’s iconic destination spas. The resort offers nutritional analysis through blood and urine testing, so that they can measure guests’ vitamin, mineral and fatty acid levels and track how they are digesting fat and carbs. Fitness classes range from Zumba to hiking and yoga. Alcohol is a no-no – but no one’s going to kick you out for sneaking the occasional glass of wine. The point of travel, to a certain degree, will always be to stimulate the mind and indulge the senses, be it through food, fitness – and yes, even the perfect night’s sleep.
Jacqueline Gifford is the special projects editor at Travel+Leisure, where she edits features and covers major markets including the Caribbean, Cruising, Beauty, and Hotels.