7 Wellness Travel Trends to Watch in 2016

Discover the health-focused trends on the horizon in destinations across the globe.

U.S. News & World Report

7 Wellness Travel Trends to Watch in 2016

People in an aerobics class at the beach.

From nutritious dining options to outdoor sports lessons, many resorts are working to provide guests with a healthy getaway.(Getty Images)

Want nutritious meals, indulgent spa treatments or complimentary fitness classes? Along with enticing health-focused services and programs, such as personal trainer apps and guided hiking tours, wellness retreats are offering an array of new amenities to lure travelers of all ages, tastes and budgets.

Once marketed at high-end spas, wellness services are ever-expanding in hotels, airports and leisure destinations across the globe. And with a growing number of health-focused initiatives, it probably comes as no surprise that interest in wellness tourism is steadily climbing. According to the Global Wellness Institute, wellness tourism is one of the fastest developing sectors of the travel market. "[Wellness tourism] revenues expanded from $438 billion in 2012 to $494 billion in 2013 – and that 12.7 percent growth rate was 40 percent larger than originally forecast, and continuing the upward trend," says Andrew Keaveney, a teacher and director of digital media at the Art of Living Retreat Center, a wellness center in Boone, North Carolina.

And the trend doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon, as increasingly stressed Americans seek digital detox trips that offer the chance to unplug and boost mental and physical health and wellbeing. Keaveney also highlights a growing curiosity in wellness-focused experiences because of our fast-paced lifestyles, as a 2015 National Institutes of Health survey reveals that yoga participation has nearly doubled to 21 million, with 9.5 percent of American adults participating.

To help you identify the wellness trends that will shape 2016 and guide you to a healthy getaway, we charted the top wellness travel trends on the horizon, from airports with yoga rooms to hotels with full-day medical programs.

Healthy Cuisine Choices 

"The 2015 State of Wellness Travel Report showed that a growing number of popular hotels and cruise lines are starting to offer a variety of healthy, and sometimes even organic, food choices," Keaveney says. He forecasts that the farm-to-table concept will continue to pop up in new locations thanks to its blend of two rising trends: experiential-based travel and wellness travel. "Alongside farm-to-table meals, organic ingredients and a greater number of healthy alternatives, people are seeking out services that offer some kind of relief – from technology, from hectic schedules, from stress – and these services are being offered," he adds.

To cater to the demands of wellness-oriented travelers, a growing number of hotel restaurants are featuring menus with healthier choices, reduced portion sizes and restricted use of high-sodium and high-sugar products, says Anne Dimon, wellness travel consultant and CEO of Travel to Wellness and co-founder of Wellness Travel Media. And an increase in lighter and healthier fare is also carrying over to cruise ships, she adds.

Tech-Forward Fitness Amenities

Beyond nutritious meals and replenishing spa treatments, hotels, resorts and airports are targeting fitness junkies with high-tech gadgets and state-of-the-art facilities. At the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, for example, guests can borrow Beats by Dre headphones for spin classes, says Alison Lewis, founder and editor-in-chief of Healthy Travel Magazine. And at Westin properties, guests can borrow New Balance workout gear, join group running sessions and link their Fitbit FitStar Personal Trainer app with fitness sessions designed by Westin's national running concierge, Chris Heuisler.

A handful of hoteliers are also courting road warriors and fitness-focused travelers with complimentary gear. Fairmont's Fairmont Fit (available to all Fairmont President's Club members) offers complimentary Reebok fitness gear so business travelers don't have to worry about lugging running shoes and workout clothes, Dimon explains. Meanwhile, chains such as EVEN Hotels and Swissôtel Hotels and Resorts include yoga and workout gear, such as Pilates balls and yoga mats, in guest rooms, she adds.

Expanding Health-Oriented Activities at the Airport

While not every airport offers convenient wellness services and facilities, a number offer lounges, trails and fitness equipment to keep you relaxed – rather than frazzled as you wait for your flight. "Leading-edge airports, including Chicago O’Hare International, San Francisco International and Heathrow in London, are now offering quiet rooms where passengers can practice yoga and meditation while waiting for a flight," Dimon says.

Burlington International Airport, for example, features a yoga space on its second floor, along with a manicured roof, where you can unwind at a picnic table before your flight. For those craving more time outdoors, Phoenix Sky Harbor International offers an indoor fitness trail with views overlooking "mountains, parks and preserves from Gate A30 to Gate D8," Lewis says. And Chicago's O'Hare offers an 8,000-square-foot fitness center at the Hilton Chicago O'Hare Airport Hotel, which is ideally situated across from three terminals, and only requires a small fee, Lewis says.

Services to Help You Relax (and Sleep)

A rising number of hotels aim to provide guests a restful night's sleep with snooze-inducing amenities, Lewis says. At Westin properties for instance, beyond the brand's signature Heavenly ​bedding, you can select items from the Westin Sleep Well Menu​, Lewis explains, pointing to the hotel's assortment of herbal teas and bedtime snacks. "Each menu item is packed with amino acids, vitamins and minerals that aid rest and recovery and reset sleep-wake cycles," she adds. And The Peninsula Hotels recently introduced spa treatments that aim to calm the mind and offer an environment that is conducive to a peaceful slumber through meditation and breathing techniques, she says. Meanwhile, at Carmel Valley Ranch, you can book a Somadome, a spa therapy that strives to replenish balance through color therapy, meditation and energy healing tiles, Lewis explains.

Getaways Designed for Active Travelers

For adventurous vacationers yearning for a physical challenge, a variety of resorts are pairing nutritious dining options with personal fitness consultations and outdoor sports lessons, Lewis explains. The Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort's Winter of Wellness package, for example, includes a private golf lesson taught by a certified PGA pro or a tennis lesson with an expert, along with a Swedish massage, she says. And at Paséa Hotel &Spa, which;opens this summer in Huntington Beach, California, guests will be greeted by a surf butler on the beach, she says.

Meanwhile, for those who prefer getting their heart racing indoors, a variety of hotels are offering spin studios on the property grounds, including Miami's 1 Hotel South Beach, which houses its own SoulCycle facility. Plus, a variety of hotels are opening beachside and rooftop yoga classes, she adds. Aulani, A Disney Resort & Spa in Oahu, Hawaii, for instance, offers dozens of fitness classes each day, which might include anything from yoga along the beach to paddleboard yoga to tai chi to group spin classes, she adds.

Incorporating Medical Programs Into Wellness Packages

Medical testing is increasingly offered as a component of wellness retreats, Dimon says. She points to Red Mountain Resort in St. George, Utah, which offers guests nutrition evaluations to identify health concerns and create tailored nutritional regimens based on individual health issues and lifestyles. Through a partnership with a nearby medical center, the resort offers "a four-night package that includes body composition and metabolic testing," she explains. Beyond personalized recommendations based on guests' health history and personal wellness goals, travelers attend fitness classes and mediation workshops. For those looking for more in-depth medical evaluations, the Four Seasons Westlake Village near Malibu, California, ​in partnership with The ​Ranch Malibu, offers a medical program called The Ranch Integrative Lifestyle Physical, Dimon says. The comprehensive assessment tests your personal metabolic rate, body composition and life-balance to design a culinary and fitness regimen based on your individual needs and medical history.

Mandarin Oriental properties, on the other hand, feature a Healthy Living program through the Mayo Clinic, Dimon explains. Guests have their body composition, stress and posture, among other criteria, evaluated, plus they can enjoy wellness classes, such as Pilates and meditation, along with nutritious meals and rejuvenating spa treatments.

Health and Wellness Services According to Your Taste

"Destinations across the globe are collecting their wellness-type offerings (such as spas, active tours, hot springs, culinary tours, etc.) under designated 'health and wellness' or 'wellbeing' tabs on their websites," Dimon says. In fact, some places are customizing their wellness amenities​ to travelers' personal interests, she explains, pointing to Santa Monica, California's tourism board, which offers a list of fitness activities in the area, and New Zealand's tourism site, which features noteworthy health spas and hot springs across the country​. Beyond tailoring services to guests' tastes, hotels are offering free classes, she adds, citing the Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, which offers complimentary walking, jogging and hiking tours.

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