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Today is considered the busiest day for British airports over the festive season and in the four days leading up to Christmas Day, almost 70 million people will “take to the skies”. Yet it’s not just the festive season that creates a buzz for the travel industry.
When the Global Wellness Institute published its first wellness tourism report in 2013, it put the sector’s contribution to wellness growth ‘on the world’s radar’. The latest release, published in November 2018, shows that wellness tourism grew more than twice as fast as tourism overall in 2017 and is forecast to grow even faster through to 2022.
Wellness, hospitality, and travel are now converging in unprecedented ways, from the ‘healthy hotel’ concept going utterly mainstream to airports, airlines, and cruises injecting so much wellness programming, to the profusion of ever-more-creative wellness destinations, retreats and tours.
Katherine Johnston and Ophelia Yeung, Global Wellness Institute Senior Researchers.
It’s not surprising that the tourism industry has jumped into the wellness pool, after all, it’s a response to what people want – to both travel well and to be well.
But, there is still a gap.
Many of the new business models are primarily focused on before and after travel. Offering improved transit options through airport lounges, or education for how to prepare for your journey. And less emphasis on the experience of how consumers are getting to where they’re traveling.
And the how really matters.
In a study of business travelers it was found:
… frequent and extensive travel is associated with many physical and behavioural health risk factors, including obesity, high blood pressure, lack of physical activity, smoking, alcohol dependence, trouble sleeping, anxiety, and depression.
Simple adjustments to how you travel make a huge difference to your mental, physical and emotional well-being. You get to arrive fresher and more focused for the job or slide more easily into that relaxed state on that wellness break.
Those businesses that have shifted focus to how you travel (the ‘during’ phase) have been predominantly based in the airline industry so far.
Virgin Australia launched the ‘world’s first dedicated meditation flight’ in October this year, offering passengers guided meditations in partnership with mindfulness and meditation leader in Australia, Smiling Mind.
While Virgin Australia suggested this was the first flight of its kind, the availability of wellness content for passengers has actually been increasing for years. Virgin Atlantic first partnered with Headspace, a global leader in meditation and mindfulness, back in 2011. And there’s been a flurry of announcements in the past year or two with many European airlines such as Air France, British Airways, Turkish Airlines, and Lufthansa all rolling out wellbeing offers of some kind.
There is plenty of evidence to suggest a practice of mindfulness can make a huge difference to wellbeing and support the experience of travel. With Headspace itself having been shown to support “reduced stress, improved focus, increased compassion, and decreased aggression.”
However, it’s more than just what’s on offer on your in-flight entertainment system – it’s the whole experience that matters when traveling. And there are still plenty of opportunities for a more holistic wellness journey.
It’s all the smaller touches – such as lighter food menus, yoga spaces to stretch in, (what about in-person yoga instructors on board?), in-seat massages, utilizing benefits of essential oils to optimize the environment – that all add up.
And, ensuring this experience is available for all travelers.
Singapore Airlines’ new partnership with Canyon Ranch, a luxury wellness lifestyle brand, appears the most promising, or holistic in its nature.
Its offering focuses on the during phase and integrating strategies for improved sleep, exercise and stretching, and nutritional meals. Yet it’s unclear how much of this will be offered to the ‘average’ traveler and it appears that the wellness programme is on offer predominantly for the longest-haul flights.
There have been other novel concepts since Virgin Australia’s ‘world first meditation flight’ too, which is promising for the growth of the during category.
Headspace launched the first Mindful Cab experience in London late November ‘to help bring a little more breathing space to commuting’. Offering passengers an opportunity to tune in to guided mindfulness sessions in between their commute. Its own research shows that 67% of people in the UK say they are feeling increasingly stressed and worried, more so than they were five years ago, and 80% of Londoners find their commute stressful.
For the busy, high-functioning consumer, these new emerging markets and concepts remain promising for supporting ‘travel wellbeing’ in a more holistic way. And surely, if you are traveling more well, you can expect that to have a knock-on effect on your daily life.
December 23, 2018 at 10:26AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs