The rise of wellness travel post-COVID

No matter how you look at it, the last year has been stressful—from worries about catching the virus to job stress and the problems in the world around us. Through all of this, not everyone has taken the time to focus on themselves and their own wellness, so now, as the world starts to come out of the restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, those looking to travel again will be seeking ways to relax and get themselves well.

Hotel Business spoke with Mike Malo, president of Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa, a wellness and health resort in Miami, to get his take on the state of wellness travel.

Do you think there will be an increase in wellness travel as travel comes back from the pandemic? Why? We are already seeing a large increase in recent months. People have been sedentary for a long period and realize as we migrate towards a more “normal” lifestyle, that it will once again be necessary to make health and fitness a priority.

Individuals are still wary of airline travel, particularly for long flights overseas. They are also hesitant to travel to locations where large crowds are present, like beach destinations. With limited options, knowing the need to shed the “COVID 15,” combined with the desire to attend to personal needs, the wellness arena is the perfect option. It checks all the boxes. It is less crowded with many efforts made to make it a safe environment. It allows the guest to focus on their personal well-being, and it is in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere. Travelers get the feel of vacation while attending to personal growth needs, educating themselves on how to take better care of their body and live a longer, more productive life.

What particular aspects of wellness travel will be popular? I think people will focus on outdoor activity more since they are tired of winter and COVID stay-at-home restrictions. In the short run, their focus will be more on getting outside, where they feel safer and more socially distant as the impact of COVID still remains a problem in congested areas. The ability to be in a location where there is access to superior facilities to help reset their mind and body, yet isolate from crowds, will be in great demand. Previously, I talked about the resistance to air travel. Our guests are increasingly driving to our locations, avoiding the congestion of airports and planes. Airline travel is once again becoming more popular, but people are focusing on domestic flights.

Foreign destinations are fraught with restrictions and quarantine issues, which are driving people away from international travel until things cool down—maybe not until 2022. Safety is still a key concern of travelers and people feel more comfortable in more isolated locations where they can venture out but hunker down at the same time. I think the focus will remain on their overall health, a perfect opportunity for wellness destinations to step to the forefront. From a weight loss and fitness aspect, I think many wellness venues have proven to be both safe and health-regenerating to our guests. With limited capacities enforced, guests have been able to achieve their fitness and weight goals, while being in a safe environment.

What do you think a vacationer hopes to achieve when they are on a wellness vacation? A wellness vacation focuses on you, rather than having you focus on your surroundings. We are here to recharge your inner self, set you on a lifelong path so that you can physically do the “regular” vacations in the future.

People get so caught up in the everyday grind that they often don’t get the opportunity to focus on their own personal health and well-being needs. Not enough sleep, eating out all the time, job stresses, combined with a hectic home life, raising a family and meeting their needs. The tendency is to put the focus on everyone else and not on our own wellness. A visit to a wellness resort gives you the opportunity to step back and shift the focus back on you. The value of such a vacation is limitless and the reward can be a life-changing experience that can guide you through the rest of your days. The goal is to not to cram never-ending quantity into your life, but to have a quality experience, enjoying your life and those around you.

Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa

What do you think a vacationer hopes to achieve when they are on a wellness vacation? As people are living longer and retirement lasts longer than the five-10 years it used to, people realize that they need to have the right diet and be physically able to enjoy the benefits of that longer life. People want to travel into their 80s and beyond, but realize to be able to independently do so, they need to take better care of themselves. Too many people have watched their parents age, often with multiple physical ailments. They may live to an advanced age, but the enjoyment and quality of life was missing. The golden years that they dreamed of never became a reality because they didn’t have the stamina or the will to enjoy the time.

The average lifetime has grown by more than a decade from prior generations. In previous generations, retirement was just a few years, but now retirement is more like 20 years for the average person. The opportunity to really enjoy those years is there for the taking. Many people have that goal and realize they need to have health and fitness levels that will allow them to achieve their retirement goals. That is the function of wellness facilities. The good news is that people are beginning to realize at an even younger age the need to prepare for this extended journey called retirement. The sooner they begin to prepare the more active and productive life they can lead when the golden years arrive. At Pritikin, we tailor our entire program to the needs of individuals and work one on one with them to make sure they get the most out of their stay.

Do you think that business travel will include some aspects of wellness in the future? More and more, we are seeing guests coming in that have been recommended by company executives because they are worried about the health of their employees. This trend I believe will become even more prevalent as people work longer and business leaders see the benefit of keeping their key employees healthy. So, whether it is a couple of days getaway attached to a business trip or a complete program, the focus is more in this area than ever before.

Employers and employees both have seen the disruption to a business that results from extended periods of separation, such as we experienced during the current and ongoing pandemic. It has shown to everyone how paramount to success employee health is. Nothing is more detrimental to following a good wellness program than travel, especially business travel.  Long days, dining out, lack of adequate fitness facilities and too many meetings that involve sedentary environments.

To combat this, it is imperative that we acknowledge this contrarian lifestyle and take steps to alleviate the problem. We need to focus as much on the needs of the traveler, help them stay healthy and on track while on the road. We need to recognize, as business leaders, that we have the obligation to assist our business travelers in their commitment to wellness while on the road. From restricting hours of meetings to feeding quality meal offerings, to maintaining reasonable fitness alternatives and remote coaching for them when traveling, we need to partner in the health of our employees. Pritikin has a robust remote coaching program from both nutritional and fitness-related aspects that could assist your traveler stay on track with their personal wellness goals.