Everyone travels for their own reason. For more and more people these days, that reason appears to be wellness.

According to the Global Wellness Institute, the market for wellness tourism – defined as “travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal well-being” – fell precipitously from $720 billion in 2019 to just $436 billion in 2020, when the pandemic disrupted travel all over the world. GWI is now projecting the sector to grow “rapidly” in the coming years, reaching $1.1 trillion by 2025.

From my position overseeing spa and wellness operations at Carillon Miami Wellness Resort along the Atlantic in Miami Beach, I can tell you that when prospective guests call for reservations and information, they now ask far more questions about wellness programming than they used to. Back before COVID elbowed its way in, guests tended to see “wellness” as sleeping late, laying on our sparkling beachfront, sipping piña coladas, and doing a couple of fitness classes a day. Indeed, in 2019, our hotel reservations team fielded far more questions about the size of our beach and our number of swimming pools than anything to do with the concept of “wellness.”

Not anymore. Shaken by the pandemic and intent upon living life to its fullest, longest, and healthiest, callers are now curious about our schedule of wellness retreats, the topics of our wellness lectures, the highlights of our wellness-inspired medical programming, the nourishing goodness on our restaurant menus, and the steps that our team can take to guide them toward mental and physical wellbeing. Our reservations experts are now diligently trained to converse on the same.

With achieving personal wellbeing now on the front burner for so many, here are some trends and developments worth watching as wellness tourism continues to rebound:

Nordic Spas

I recently traveled to Canada to experience the new wave of Nordic Spas and returned convinced that they are about to have their moment here in the U.S. Also known as Scandinavian Spas, the concept is modeled after Roman Baths, inviting clientele to brave seasonal elements to experience outdoor water features designed to help them relax, unwind, reinvigorate, and embrace wellness. Scandinavian Spas offer a variety of hydrotherapy experiences, various deluges, vitality pools, cold plunges with the belief that taking your body from extremely hot to extremely cold temperatures can strengthen your immune system, purify your body, and help soothe various aches and pains.

Think of Nordic Spas as healing water parks for adults and expect their numbers to grow. I had to wait in line at the one I visited outside of Toronto, as entrance was limited and required a day pass to get in. The owner told me his spa was “always full,” with 500 to 600 people seeking healing per day, year round. That’s a lot of day passes, and a lot of revenue potential for resorts to consider.

Wellness Retreats

As more travelers focus on attaining wellbeing, wellness retreats are becoming almost a prerequisite for resorts. Fashioned for guests desiring to go in depth in nurturing their bodies, minds, and spirits, wellness retreats are typically designed to engage participants in a relaxing atmosphere and at a gentle pace, with programming on topics such as hormonal health, weight management, sleep issues, and mental wellness led by on-staff or consulting experts who teach new approaches to resolve personal issues. This year, Carillon Miami has offered a retreat series on Integrative Emotional Wellness, as well as an evergreen retreat focused on Serenity & Renewal. Additionally, we offer two retreats in partnership with the biostation, a premier wellness center offering a comprehensive, individualized, and holistic approach to total wellness and age management. Looking ahead to 2023, we’re excited to offer three new retreats on sleep, mental wellness, and energy renewal.

Whatever the property, accommodation and dining are usually part of the package, with menus designed to detox as well as nourish. Multi-day schedules typically include meet-and-greets, seminars, tips and remedies, spa treatments and fitness activities, individual consultations to address personal needs, and spare time to explore the resort and its surroundings. Guests should be free to dip in and out, participating programming as they choose.

Anti-Aging Action

Living longer and better are really top-of-mind with wellness travelers, and resorts are keen to offer services for the same. Last year, Carillon Miami partnered with the biostation to introduce new therapies that prevent and even reverse the impacts of aging on the body. Let by the biostation’s medical director Dr. Martin G. Bloom, we now offer related services such as Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) for men and women, Human Growth Hormone (HGH) & Peptide Therapy. People are just looking to live better and longer and achieve a greater understanding of their bodies, so things that can really help them do that will find interest.

Touchless Technologies

In March 2020, when the pandemic shook the spa industry, Carillon Miami Wellness Resort was quick to lock down its 70,000 square-foot spa in keeping with directives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But with 800 residents used to spending an average of 4 hours daily in our spa and fitness facilities, we knew we needed something to keep the healing going.

That something was touchless wellness, with innovative technologies such as Halotherapy + Infrared, a natural and effective solution for respiratory health and hygiene that, among other things, combats stress and supports immune health; the Prism Light Pod using red and near-infrared light to speed healing of skin, muscles, tissues, and joints; and V.E.M.I. – aka vibroacoustic electromagnetic and infrared therapy – that uses healing sound resonance in tandem with full-body vibrations, natural earth frequencies, and infrared for an unbelievable mind/body/spirit experience that is otherwise only reached in a deep meditative state.

Though Carillon’s spa therapists are now back in action, touchless wellness technologies remain a standout offering of the resort. We have packaged them into new experiences such as a popular Muscle Recovery Circuit, and we have introduced new, non-traditional offerings like the Salt Float Bath, a weightless bath incorporating 800 pounds of Epsom salt to lull people into a deep state of relaxation as they absorb magnesium to relieve muscle pain, calm anxieties, stimulate blood flow, release endorphins, and improve sleep.

I expect such innovations to keep coming. Earlier this year, for instance, Carillon began offering Dermashape, a non-invasive lymphatic treatment that employs a heating pad to sooth and warm the body followed by vacuum suction technology that releases stagnant lymph fluid, breaks up fat congestion, and increases the volume of lymph flow. I’ve seen a lot of technologies focusing on the system of late – it’s one’s health, after all.

Challenges and Opportunities

While the concept of wellness tourism is regaining strength, all is not rosy for associated spas and resorts. The biggest challenge facing the industry is it is largely people-driven, and there aren’t enough people – massage therapists, fitness specialists, and the like – to drive it, hence the continued growth of wellness technologies.

At the same time, I see passion for wellness growing. Prior to the pandemic, around 50% of the revenue brought in by my department at Carillon came from the local community. These days, it’s nearly 72%. Why? Because the local community is younger than our guest demographic, and 30-to-40 year olds are embracing wellness as a lifestyle and they’re purchasing treatments, retreats, and other offerings by series instead of a la carte.

Here’s looking forward to maintaining my wellness to keep up with them.