Holidays with real health benefits

Wellness holidays are booming. Anna Tobin looks at what’s on offer and why you should definitely prescribe yourself one.

Historically holidays have always been linked to health. Sick and rundown people would be sent away to a spa town or the countryside because it was thought that the natural mineral springs and sea air would help them to get better.

Over the past Century, however, holidays became more about hedonism than health; a chance to over eat, over drink and soak up the sun’s dangerous rays. But there are signs that things are starting to revert to how they used to be, possibly spurred by the growing evidence suggesting that the symptoms of ageing and chronic health conditions can be alleviated or even reversed by detoxing the mind and body and rejuvenating the spirit.

The US-based Global Wellness Institute published a study entitled the Global Wellness Tourism Economy at the end of last year. It reveals that wellness tourism became a $639 billion (£439 billion) global market in 2017 and it forecasts that this will reach $919 billion (£709 billion) by 2020. Wellness tourism is growing twice as fast as the overall tourism market.

What exactly is a ‘wellness’ holiday?
“A wellness holiday provides people with a restful and fun holiday, also giving them the opportunity for self-analysis, meditation, access to top-of-the-range facilities and unique medical treatments,” explains Frances Geoghegan, managing director of specialist wellness holiday provider Healing Holidays. “With growing emphasis on mental health, many programmes in the wellness industry include counselling sessions, and different mechanisms that help you transfer those learnt skills to everyday life.

“Today’s professionals face more pressure than ever, which can take its toll on both their physical and mental wellbeing. We are surrounded by technology which makes us connected at any time of the day or night, which can be draining. As a result, wellness holidays offer the chance to completely disconnect from everyday life and focus on what is needed.”

The great thing about wellness holidays is that they are so varied, encompassing everything from personal nutrition, fitness and meditation consultations to sleep enhancement, spa treatments, emotional healing and digital detoxing.

“The most popular wellness holidays for the over-50s are preventative ageing, fitness, weight-loss, detox and spa,” says Paul Joseph, the founder of luxury wellness global travel company Health and Fitness Travel.

These holidays can often be tailored to suit your personal health and wellness targets, as Joseph explains: “A customised wellness programme will be devised to suit your individual needs, meaning you are free to experience a range of fitness activities, as well as luxury spa treatments and healthy nutrition. The final piece of the jigsaw puzzle that you can expect to encounter on your wellness holiday is the opportunity to return home fully inspired to make lasting lifestyle changes. Your mind and body will leave rejuvenated, whilst your soul becomes motivated to continue reaching your personal wellness goals.”

Where can you take a ‘wellness’ holiday?
Pretty much whereever you fancy travelling in the world you will find a place to holiday tailored to healing, cleansing and rejuvenating your mind and body. The Global Wellness Institute report found that most wellness trips, around 292 million annually, are taken in Europe, and these are largely concentrated in Germany and France. Asia-Pacific, specifically China and India, however, is experiencing the highest growth in this area, with wellness trips in this region rising by 33 percent in the past two years.

Part of the appeal of wellness holidays is that they take you to some of the most beautiful and tranquil locations to be found anywhere on earth., “Whether you are in a resort by the Mediterranean Ocean or high up in the Fjords, the location for wellness tourism is a major part of the healing process,” says Geoghegan at Healing Holidays,

How much can you expect to spend on a wellness holiday?
A wellness holiday doesn’t come cheap. The Global Wellness Institute report found that In 2017, international wellness tourists on average spent $1,528 (£1,179) per trip, 53 percent more than the typical international tourist. The knowledge that wellness tourists are high spenders is largely why so many holiday companies are moving into this area. But there is the possibility that supply will outstrip demand and if this happens the premiums that you pay for getting up at the crack of dawn for a Tai Chi session and a celery smoothie will likely fall, which should also go a long way to reducing your stress levels.