In this third in a series of articles, I talk to travel experts about how we will travel next year and beyond. Insider experts, some of the industry’s leading companies and prestigious hotel brands reveal their insights as to the growing travel trends on the horizon and what travellers want from exploring the world.

Last time, I spoke about the rising trend of nostalgic travel as well as the return to expert-led advice. Today, I look at the latest wellness trends and the notion of ‘dopamine’ travel ­to bring exceptional, feel-good vibes.

5. MIND, BODY AND SOUL

Since before the pandemic, wellness was a rising trend in the travel sector, with hotel and resorts beginning to reimagine their offerings, from simple facials and massages to deeper, holistic experiences. When health became a priority for many during lockdown, an increased number of resorts took the opportunity to call in resident experts and to hone their wellness programmes to exacting standards. But, with travellers’ expectations rising, what’s on the horizon for the year ahead?

Little Emperors is a luxury private travel club, offering special privileges and rates at partner hotels all over the world. Founder Rebecca Masri identifies the wellness segment as one of the most important trends in the tourism industry. “Wellbeing is at the forefront when defining luxury, especially if there is a strong emphasis towards holistic approaches. It’s clear that hotels are investing more in their spa offerings,” she says. “Wellness remains a priority in people’s minds, especially following 2020 – a year which really had us thinking about our physical and mental health.”

She continues: “Hotels will have more wellness-focused stays, and include specific programmes tailored to guests: from detox to retox; weight loss to digital detox. Mental health is also a huge consideration, and clients are shifting away from pampering treatments and are moving towards more evidence-based medical treatments and health restoration programmes. Hotels that do this well are – Chenot Palace Weggis in Switzerland, SHA Wellness Clinic in Spain and Villa Stephanie – Spa Hotel Baden-Baden in Germany.”

Addressing what it sees as a gap in the market, and to meet a burgeoning need for authentic wellness hospitality, is new fitness-led hotel brand SIRO. Launched by Kerzner International, the owner of Atlantis Resorts & Residences and One&Only Resorts, SIRO will deliver an immersive hospitality experience for guests, with tailored programs and treatments developed by specialists in fitness, mental health, nutrition and sleep. The inaugural hotel, SIRO One Za’abeel, is set to open in Dubai in Q4 2023, with British-Somali professional boxer and humanitarian, Ramla Ali, football team A.C. Milan and British Olympic swimmer Adam Peaty, as brand ambassadors. They will play an advisory role in the development of SIRO, from its bespoke training programs to recovery, nutrition and wellbeing.

Placing itself as a dedicated fitness and recovery destination, SIRO One Za’abeel will specifically offer holistic fitness and wellbeing programs, with top-of-the-line facilities, expert guidance and coaching from a team of fitness and wellbeing experts as well as integrated programs focusing on five pillars: fitness, nutrition, sleep, recovery and mindfulness.

Meanwhile, rooms will feature the latest technology to promote restorative sleep, including smart Aero Plush mattresses, recovery wardrobes and smart curtains that will be connected to the SIRO app alarm clock and which will open gradually a few moments before the alarm rings to allow natural light to fill the room. The alarm will be set to follow the guest’s circadian rhythm in order to mitigate jet lag and encourage bodies to wake up in a more rested state.

SIRO will also offer a dedicated Recovery Lab to provide a range of specialised wellbeing treatments. Cutting-edge technologies will include cryotherapy, infrared and oxygen therapy, as well as a range of supporting treatments, such as physiotherapy, acupuncture and assisted stretching. Dedicated mindfulness coaches will offer workshops in breathing, meditation and visualisation.

Integration within the local community is a key ambition for each SIRO hotel, starting with One Za’abeel. The brand is developing a partnership strategy to provide sporting activities and education opportunities for local communities. Moreover, at each destination, SIRO will offer guests unique excursions, to test endurance and discover the local area, through sports like cycling, sailing, hiking, climbing and kite surfing. In Dubai, SIRO One Za’abeel will offer cycling in Al Qudra Lakes, hiking in the Hatta Mountains and paddle boarding in the Arabian Gulf.

Meanwhile, in Booking.com’s ‘Predictions for the Creative Reimagination of Travel in 2023, ‘Mind, Body and Soul’ wellness is described as becoming even more important across the coming year.

“Seeking to re-center the mind, meditation and mindfulness getaways are ever popular with global travellers (44%), while two in five (40%) aiming to find peace at a silent retreat and more than two fifths (42%) keen to go on a health hiatus that focuses on mental health, transformative health or that helps with life milestones such as menopause or pregnancy.”

Reflecting this in their offering is The Grove, in Hertfordshire, which will host a ‘Manifesting and Wellness Retreat’, with emotional health coach Roxie Nafousi (from 20-21 January 2023. Guests will be guided through a manifesting workshop, as well as taking part in meditation and yoga classes. The hotel is also home to Sequoia Spa, which was newly renovated in 2022, with state-of-the-art facilities and bulging menu book of signature treatments.

One&Only Portonovi, which opened in 2021 and is the brand’s first European outpost, is the first One&Only to offer Chenot Espace – a groundbreaking hub for wellness. As part of its advanced offering, guests can experience a transformative journey of detoxing and resetting the body, with pioneering treatments scientifically designed to enhance guests’ vitality and optimum health. Next in line is One&Only Aesthesis, along the Athenian Riviera in Glyfada, Greece, which will also be home to a Chenot Espace once it launches in 2023.

Opened in August 2022, Rosewood Vienna, meanwhile, is another resort offering a heightened wellness offering. Situated in Petersplatz, one of the most famous squares in Vienna’s Old Town, the hotel has opened its doors to Asaya Spa, the first at a Rosewood property outside of Asia. The wellness space extends over floors five and six of the hotel and has views over the dome of St Peter’s Church. As well as four treatment rooms, relaxation area, sauna, steam bath, and experience shower, there is a social suite for total relaxation. Asaya – named after the Sanskrit term for setting an intention or hope to propel self-change and transformation – will also offer therapies based on Vietnamese traditions which aim to be antidotes to the ailments of busy, stressful urban life.

Another hotel putting wellbeing at the heart of its offering is Heckfield Place, in Hampshire, where its Little Bothy Spa is home to a range of master practitioners, to offer therapies such as naturopathy, osteopathy, sports massage and myofascial release. The spa places an emphasis on a connection to the hotel’s natural surroundings, with ingredients for treatments drawn from the apothecary garden, and juices and infusions made fresh each day. Leading wellness experiences include forest bathing in the estate’s arboretum and guided cold-water immersion therapy in the wild lake – both ancient practices designed to reinvigorate and restore the body utilising the power of nature.

Finally, Perfect Stays, a holiday home company with properties in Devon, Cornwall and Somerset, has identified ‘Collective Wellbeing’ as a booming area. “According to the Global Wellness Institute, it is expected to grow an average of 21% annually through to 2025,” says Rebecca Jackson, head of brand at Perfect Stays.

She continues: “Requests for private in-house spa treatments through our concierge service have increased considerably. Emslie Mills from Home Spa Cornwall, which offers therapies to our guests, has noticed that alternative treatments, like reflexology, meditation and hot stone massages, are being requested much more frequently. While wellbeing is often perceived as an individual endeavour, we’re seeing a shift towards a more collective approach. In-house beauty treatments and massages used to be the reserve of couples and weary parents needing a break. However, group bookings are on the rise, with therapists creating entire spa days and treatment parties in the comfort of our holiday homes.”

6. DOPAMINE TRAVEL

When it comes to going away on holiday, we’re all in search of the ultimate in the feel-good factor with a specific quest for destinations that offer ‘it all’. In fact, the search for this has seen holiday specialists, On The Beach, tagging the rising trend ‘Dopamine Travel’. New data from the company has revealed an emerging trend of burnt-out Brits booking ‘dopamine-destinations’ for their summer holidays. Stats reveal that sun-seekers are increasingly flocking to locations with the brightest and boldest contrasting colours which help to stimulate those coveted ‘feel good’ hormones.

In fact, On The Beach reports that compared to the same period, pre-pandemic in 2019, bookings to ‘dopamine-inducing’ destinations – famed for their bright scenery – such as Crete are up by 62% in July, closely followed by Rhodes (45%), Positano (16%) and Santorini (10%).

Zoe Harris, chief customer officer at On The Beach, says: “After a tricky few years, we know that Brits, more than ever, need to get back abroad and enjoy that ‘holiday feeling’. It’s no surprise to see the increase in bookings to these dopamine-destinations.”

The company has collaborated with colour psychologist Lee Chambers, who says:Dopamine travel follows in a similar vein to dopamine dressing and decor, as, psychologically, we appreciate the powerful impact of the colours in our environments and how they can activate feelings and emotions. Travel itself can be highly rewarding, but the challenges over the past two years have left us hungry to visit and explore vibrant destinations that are bursting with colours and filled with novel smells and sounds.”

Discussing the most popular dopamine-inducing destinations, Lee Chambers says: “It’s no surprise to see the Greek isles are popular, with their mix of sand dunes and clear blue seas bringing that cheerful sense of relaxation. The south of Spain and Morocco provide warm, welcoming oranges alongside colourful villages and awe-inspiring old towns, to stimulate a whole range of positive feelings.”

He continues: “The pastel towns of the Amalfi coast are also powerful for a peaceful Mediterranean wander, surrounded by lush greenery that grounds us and brings us into a mindful focus. And for some people, it will be embracing the colours of the sunset on Santorini, feeling both the warmth and connection of watching time and embracing the intensity of the colour in our hearts and minds, making everything feel that bit brighter and generating a feeling of awe that instantly makes us feel human and happy.”

At the other end of the scale, and taking the ‘dopamine’ feeling one step further, however, is The House of DreamMaker®, a company which has specialised in experiential travel over the past three decades for ultra-high-net-worth travellers. The aim of his dream-like offerings, says founder, Gregory Patrick, is to blur the lines between fantasy, reality and reverie, via exceptional, personalised experiences which bring the world to colour.

“DreamMaker’s primary purpose is to deliver unbound amazement – to create beautiful moments that are so unique, that they give life more meaning,” he says. “It’s hard to put a price on ‘amazement’. It can only be achieved when unparalleled creativity meets high-precision execution and rigorous experiential artistry in imagining each experience to the smallest detail, and The DreamMaker is obsessive about all these details! The focus is on providing well-balanced and all-inclusive travel designs that expand the mind, allowing those at its service to see the world in a new way.”

Notable adventures have included ‘Americana on 10 Wheels – The Wild West’, in which explorers experienced aworld-first, ultra-luxe road trip through the desert in a 45-foot, $2.8M SuperCoach. With a full complement of staff, including a butler, private chef and doctor, guests are fully immersed in the history and culture of America’s West. The 20-day experience included journeying across America’s striking landmarks, to fully immersive experiences with storytellers, Wild West experts and actors to bring to life the culture of times forgotten.

‘A Symphony of Africa’ was another one-of-a-kind travel experience tailored around safari. The two-week journey led the guests across the very best game reserves in South Africa, Botswana and Zambia, with white-knuckle adrenaline activities in Victoria Falls and a helicopter adventure up the Eastern Cape. It’s the ultimate in experiential travel.

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