The wellness tourism business is worth an estimated $639 billion (£491 billion) globally and is growing, according to a report by ABTA.
People want their time out of the workplace to be more experiential. Sitting poolside or by a beach for a week is no longer enough for us to recharge from the stress of work and everyday life; it appears we want to boost our wellbeing and take away tools to maintain balance. Spending in the wellness tourism sector is much higher, with the Global Wellness Institute (GWI) finding that international wellness travellers pay a whopping 178% premium compared to the average domestic tourist.
I recently returned from my own trip to a wellness retreat. Motivated by seeking and maintaining my wellness as I’m training for the Berlin marathon, I’m classified by the GWI as a “secondary wellness traveller” — those seeking to maintain or engage in wellness activities — and the majority of wellness tourism is represented by this group.
I chose The Body Camp Ibiza, a well-known retreat which is a holistic life transformation programme at its core. Body Camp delivers an “all in” programme focused on body, mind and soul. The diet is a 100% plant-based menu with no sugar, wheat or gluten. The programme is not focused on weight loss and no one day is the same, but activities are structured as intense fat burning activities in the morning and toning recovery in the afternoon.
Spending time in Ibiza with like-minded individuals, over the week it was interesting for me to hear the perspectives of why people had chosen a wellness trip over a regular beach holiday. Arriving solo on day one and being immediately immersed into a programme or experience can often be a difficult adjustment at first for some individuals; not to mention spending a large proportion of your monthly salary for the pleasure! Normally, it is almost the end of the week before individuals begin to embrace the new transformation, as it is time to fly home.
Here are my five top tips on how to gain the maximum experience from your wellness vacation:
1. Consider how you fuel your body before you attend
If you are going to be detoxing or changing your diet considerably by eliminating certain foods such as sugar or caffeine, try to make sure you do this gradually before you arrive. No-one wants to experience physiological or mental symptoms, like raging headaches and irritability, which can be quite rough for the first two to three days. Also, consider the amount of water you are onboarding; even if you think you drink enough, it probably isn’t! Start to carry a water bottle on your daily commute to the office and refill throughout the day.
2. Read the small print and research
Retreats are not cheap and you are paying for the experience! Take your time to read through the website and the social accounts of where you are thinking of booking. Are you ready to do a daily hardcore fitness workout, or spend time navel-gazing and finding your inner true self? Most companies will be honest about the experience and what to expect, but do check on social media, TripAdvisor and YouTube for traveller reviews of where you want to attend. Not every retreat will be right for everybody and it is important the programme is going to give you something back, to take forwards when you leave.
3. Be mindful of your fitness requirements
If hiking, water sports or the great outdoors is not your bag, certain retreats may not appeal. Hardcore bootcamp-style retreats also may not be your jam. It’s good to push yourself out of your comfort zone, and retreats should have highly qualified fitness professionals who cater for all levels of fitness, injuries and rehabilitation. Remember though; this is a week or two-week programme, so if your natural reaction is quite visceral to an example daily programme online, keep looking until you find something that fits!
4. Keep an open-minded approach
The idea of a wellness retreat is to embrace the new, especially if your retreat is holistic and focuses on the mind, body and soul. The Body Camp Ibiza included a mask ceremony, breath work and whole body shaking! Keep an open mind and remember your reason for coming to the retreat. We often do not get to try new and interesting practices, so grab the experience with both hands and give it a go! What is the worst that can happen?
5. Take the opportunity to meet new and interesting people
Unless you have dragged along a friend or family member, you are likely to be attending alone, so embrace this experience! Retreats bring together groups of people with a mutual interest but, apart from that, you can all be hugely diverse. Retreats are an opportunity to bond with individuals you may never come across in your day-to-day life. They will be your support to help continue all the hard work when you leave the retreat and you may find one or two lifelong friends.