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When hotel rhymes with well-being

Until not too long ago, the association between hotels and wellness suggested the idea of a pleasant stay in a spa or in structures specifically designed to follow a particular program, which was aimed at weight loss, the search for absolute relaxation, massages and Turkish baths or even just the possibility to devote time to intensive fitness in the gym of a hotel. And before that, the very idea of a holiday has long been inseparable from "excess": sumptuous meals and endless parties, too much alcohol and more hedonistic pursuits.

However, as explained by Beth McGroarty, director of research for the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), a non-profit organisation, "the spread of travelling wellness programs has redefined the purpose of the holiday": as the perception of stress increases, the priority, in leisure, is increasingly given to the search for psychophysical well-being.

Travel in Wellness

If, as reported by the New York Times, already from 2013 to 2015 the market for "healthy" tourism has grown from $ 489 to $ 563 billion - in another two years, more than 100 million more trips with an explicit wellness component - it is estimated that between 2015 and 2020 it should increase by another 43%, with a turnover of more than $ 800 billion. According to the GWI, in 2014 the wellness sector already had a market three times larger than that of the global pharmaceutical industry. This is a truly vast area, whose largest share is made up of the Beauty & Anti-Aging branch and which also includes the large subset of Nutrition, and then that of Fitness and the so-called Mind-Body, up to Alternative Medicine and, with about $500 billion, to Wellness Tourism.
As for Wellness Tourism, its sphere of interest has expanded to the point of not only offering hospitality in all its forms, but also the very experience of travel: Singapore Airlines, for example, has recently introduced Deliciously Wholesome, an offer of meals in flight made with the collaboration of a nutritionist and rich in complex carbohydrates, lean proteins and fibre, while Delta Air Lines offers guided meditation sessions at the Asanda Spa Lounges of its Sky Clubs, in the international airports John F. Kennedy in New York, Seattle-Tacoma and recently also at Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta.

Even the cruise is moving away from the historic, bourgeois, enjoyable stereotype to embrace itineraries aimed at psychophysical well-being: the Linblad Expeditions adventure cruise company, for example, in collaboration with Exhale, has launched its offer of wellness tours around the Mexican peninsula of Baja, where you can enjoy snorkelling with sea lions, kayaking trips around the coast, or power yoga and intensive training classes.

A couple of years ago, the luxury travel company Virtuoso presented the Virtuoso Wellness package, with a portfolio of 42 hotels and cruises of excellence in the sector. Because, if it is true that almost any resort now offers some kind of wellness option, perhaps yoga classes included in the gym program or an oriental masseuse among the spa staff, a much more demanding audience is growing, interested in maximising the time away from home with targeted treatments, world-renowned professionals or unique experiences. "Well-being is finding the experience that will help you create positive change," explained Victoria Strubbe, Virtuoso's consultant at the Manhattan Beach, California office. The guests are no longer (only) interested in draining excess liquids, but in recalibrating themselves in general, starting out more consciously and motivated.

In this regard, nothing seems to have had the same impact among wellness lovers as that particular condition of intimate conviviality expressed by the Danish and Norwegian term hygge. In the world of wellness tourism, this has translated not only into increasingly avant-garde and at the same time welcoming pre- and post-spa treatment lounges, but also into excursions in the forests, watercolour or haiku lessons and reading circles, or in general anything that contributes to creating a connection with others based on simplicity and the sharing of small pleasures, on abandoning one's own comfort zone to experiment with something new that makes one feel at home in some way.

Rediscovering genuine tastes even on holiday

Always in the name of sharing and a return to simplicity, even the relationship with the diet is affected by renewed attention: "Our customers are tired of the word "diet", says Kathleen Sutter, owner of a Virtuoso agency in Sarasota, Florida. "What they are looking for is the direction for a proper lifestyle. Not only what should not be eaten, but also how what you eat affects your body, inside and out. And here the food and wine tours also become real lessons to understand how to best treat the raw material and how your body will metabolise those components.
Among the indisputable signs of real luxury, especially today, there is paradoxically the possibility to enjoy a real digital detoxification. "Digital detoxification often results in increased creativity and prospects. The benefits far outweigh any short-term inconvenience". says Karen Goldberg, CEO of Virtuoso Hotels and Resorts.

One of the best ways to reduce stress is to get rid of devices and connect to people face to face, with yourself and the surrounding environment.

Without the "blue light" effects of tablets and mobile phones, guests seem to sleep better from the first night and be more prepared for the activities and programmes on offer.

For this reason many wellness resorts prohibit the use of electronic devices in common areas and some do not even provide wi-fi or require the delivery of phones on arrival, while others go so far as to offer stress and time management workshops with a life coach to guide the root of smartphone addiction.

It's not long since the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills introduced seven wellness rooms in collaboration with the real estate wellness company Delos. For a few dollars more than the standard rate, services include Lather toiletries made with natural ingredients, air purification systems that reduce allergens and promote a restful sleep, showers with de-chlorinators and healthy menus to be consumed in the privacy of your rooms created by none other than the Cleveland Clinic. Enjoying the pleasures of wellness in the privacy of your rooms, this is what the customers of the Four Season asked, according to the general manager of the hotel Michael Newcombe, and you can’t say that they weren’t satisfied.
Marriott and MGM Grand also used Delos' expertise and together with its founder and CEO, Paul Scialla, they developed the Stay Well rooms, which had integrated health facilities during construction, such as innovative air purification systems, antimicrobial ceilings and a postural supporting floor. The lighting is designed to help regulate circadian rhythms and reduce jet lag, the mattresses are in a kind of organic memory foam that reduces exposure to germs, there are devices for aromatherapy and with the homonymous app you can receive instructions for guided meditation and advice directly from the Cleveland Clinic and Dr. Deepak Chopra, doctor and member of the board of Delos.

The Park Igls in Innsbruck, Austria, is a restful, high-end mountain retreat specialising in detoxification, intensive training and musculoskeletal wellbeing, many of whose fitness rooms have huge windows overlooking the mountains. Meals are nutritious and hearty (porridge with maple syrup, scrambled eggs, vegetable soups), but incredibly low-calorie (on 500-800 calories a day during detoxification), and the various classes of balance, coordination and stability are incredibly effective. If you add daily massages, hydrotherapy sessions, detoxifying wraps and walks in the middle of nature, breathing the clean mountain air, returning home invigorated and in splendid shape seems almost due.

There is no shortage of similar accommodation in the Bavarian Alps as on Lake Garda, or in Tokyo, declined according to specific customs, and then there are dream locations that have quickly become icons in the industry. One of these is the Vana Malsi Estate resort in Uttarakhand, India, a huge 21-acre estate with impressive high-ceiling buildings housing 66 rooms and 16 "retreat" suites. Young owner Veer Singh began his career as an organic farmer in Spain, before opening the doors of Vana with his family. Completely nestled in natural forests from which to observe monkeys and gardens rich in waterways, this minimalist and ecologically designed interior hotel offers Ayurvedic treatments as well as the so-called "Tibetan Healing", supervised by trained therapists at the Dalai Lama Institute.
The best suites have fireplaces, private meditation rooms and heated pools. In addition to experienced Ayurvedic chefs who can prepare plant, organic and locally grown wonders, guests can count on a team of Ayurvedic doctors, yoga teachers, Tibetan healers, fitness experts and even a highly talented acupuncturist: all they need to keep the stress of everyday life and anxieties about the future to a minimum and to consciously live the present moment, which is what Buddha himself said to be the "secret of good health of mind and body".

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