Wellness Travel Will Become More Vital than Ever in the Wake of COVID-19

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by Erin Davis,

Before COVID-19 became a reality, wellness travel was becoming much more than a buzzword. In fact, by 2018 it had become recognized as one of the fastest growing sectors in the tourism industry.

According to the Wellness Tourism Association (WTA), ‘wellness travel’ is described as, “travel that allows the traveler to maintain, enhance or kick-start a healthy lifestyle, and support or increase one’s sense of wellbeing.” As we move forward from the devastating COVID-19 pandemic, a wellness-focused vacation that leaves you returning home feeling truly revitalized, as opposed to feeling sluggish from an overly indulgent break from reality – will become more vital than ever.

Canyon Ranch
Photo courtesy of Canyon Ranch

“Once social distancing restrictions are lifted, borders are reopened, hotels and resorts open their doors, more planes take to the skies, and we have made the decision to leave our homes for leisure excursions our personal health and safety will top our list of priorities,” Travel to Wellness founder/editor and WTA president Anne Dimon tells WTM Global Hub.

“Under the heavy burden of this global pandemic, and witnessing that it has been the elderly and those with underlying health conditions who have paid the greatest toll, it has become so much easier to accept the age-old adage coined by the poet Virgil: ‘the greatest wealth is health.’ If there are any silver linings to COVID-19, it’s served as a reminder not to take health and happiness for granted.”

Spa Eastman
Photo courtesy of Spa Eastman

Months of being in a “physical distancing mode” have inspired a reevaluation of lifestyle choices and habits and subsequent action to make appropriate changes. This mindset will likely influence travel choices once the time is right. “People who might not even consider themselves to be part of the ‘wellness travel’ surge will become so based simply on the fact that they are making their personal health and wellbeing a top priority at home and, subsequently, taking those newly formed habits and practices with them when they travel,” said Dimon.

Of course, ‘wellness travel’ can mean many things. It can include anything from a spa-filled stay at a luxury resort, to a physical activity-focused weight-loss retreat, or a silent stay at a remote spiritual centre. Of course, the wellness tourism industry is currently adapting new safety measures in response to the pandemic to provide a reassuring stay for guests and new protocols and procedures will be implemented as necessary.

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
Photo courtesy of Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

“The big draw as the industry begins to recover will be those slightly more remote locations, away from congested areas, easily access by car or short non-stop flights and, ideally, surrounded by nature,” predicts Dimon. “Easy access to nature is something that typically tops the list of ‘must haves’ with wellness-minded travellers, and nature is one of the pillars of wellness travel.”

While a wellness vacation may not be a reality in the near future – especially if it involves air travel – research has shown that even booking a trip can boost your mood and mental health. In a time of monotony, it can’t hurt to have something to look forward to.

If you’re looking to refresh and refocus, we’ve compiled a list of wellness travel hotspots to have on your list for 2021, as well as one with some of our weight loss spas and fitness retreats to help you decide on the right one to meet your needs.

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Erin Davis is a Toronto freelance writer and regular contributor to Travel to Wellness.