Last updated August 30, 2023
Bet you’re wondering about the hype behind a wellness retreat? We take a peek into our crystal ball and explore what’s on the horizon for wellness retreats in the future.
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It was San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, circa 2015. A combination of yoga, surf, healthy food exploration, workshops and one-on-one conversations held for 17 individuals in the middle of an oceanside jungle. My first wellness retreat was a huge success in all the ways a retreat leader could ask for.
I knew this kind of experience and way of taking time off for individuals seeking more out of life was only just beginning to develop roots that would grow and expand in demand years to come.
Flash forward to today. The wellness retreat industry is (to my foreshadowing) continuing to flourish at an exponential pace.
According to the Global Wellness Summit, the wellness industry is estimated to grow from $4.4 trillion to $7 trillion by 2025, with $822 billion of that pie dominating the wellness tourism industry. To break this down even further, the wellness retreat industry is set to be worth more than $1 trillion. Yowza.
Not much of wellness is “new” in our discovery. But guests want more than a copy-paste retreat itinerary. So, what is the future of wellness retreats? All this, and more, below.
The Rise in Demand
If wellness, yoga, matcha tea, healing foods, feng shui and journaling methods have been around for centuries, why the rise and demand for wellness retreats at such a rapid pace?
“For the past decade, yoga and wellness retreats have moved in two directions: increased luxury and specialization,” shares Miami-based retreat leader and Certified Hypnotist, Ewa Josefsson.
The market for 4-5 star retreats has grown exponentially. Many professionals have discovered yoga and wellness retreats as a way to maximize their vacations.
“In one week, a retreat-goer can experience a new location, stay at a high-end retreat center where everything’s included, exercise daily, eat well and make new friends in a relaxed setting,” says Josefsson.
Chock it up to our fast-paced lifestyle, desire to prioritize our physical and mental health, and simply a better drive toward a more fulfilling way of living. The idea of attending a wellness retreat is very common.
As Javier Martinez Luna, Director of Hotel Operations and COO of Azulik Tulum, adds: “Wellness retreats mainly offer programs that help you expand into more of your true capacity. Meanwhile you can let the judgments and negativity go away, find peace and return to a deep self.”
What Defines Wellness
Something that has shifted vastly over the years is the definition of wellness and the definition of a wellness retreat. It’s no longer just offering a green juice, morning yoga class or slapping a detox label on a spa treatment.
Travel Expert and Concierge, Sarah Dandashy says, “Wellness retreats are anything that focus on physical and mental well-being.” Traditional trips tend to be gluttonous by nature. Wellness trips offer a way to kick start a personal wellness focus to even supplement individuals’ wellness components of their everyday lives.
As the demand for wellness retreats has increased, so has consumer intelligence and awareness for sniffing out retreat wellness washing.
“Retreat offerings are increasingly popular because it gives the traveler exactly what they’re looking for. Everything from yoga retreats to detox retreats to cycling retreats—but with other wellness-minded travelers,” Dandashy says.
What to Look for in a Wellness Retreat
Even with demand, there’s always room for growth and expansion in the retreat world. What’s missing and can be seen as a niche opportunity for some are gaps in the current market.
Trauma Therapist and Group Retreat Leader, Colleen Nelson says, “I see a lot of retreat offerings based on yoga or business. It’s not often that I see retreats that include therapeutic guidance.”
Adding that in the future she’d love to see more offerings with “a deeper therapeutic benefit and potential for depth and expansion in variety and practitioners.”
Whereas some wellness retreats are more location based—such as local ceremonies, specialties and experiences with a core concept rooted in culture. For example, Azulik is in the heart of Tulum and home to Mayan culture.
Martinez shares, “At Azulik, we design tailor-made wellness retreats. We host complimentary activities that help you improve the way you do wellness.”
Azulik’s customized programs include activities, gastronomy and meditation—many of which I personally experienced. These programs are rich in the culture of the Mayans and Riviera tradition.
What Does the Future Hold
What’s ahead for the future of wellness retreats then? As a retreat leader, “it will continue to get more and more specific. As people get more clear on exactly what they want to get out of the experience, we facilitators need to follow suit and have clear direction as well,” says Jossefson.
With a deeper focus on community and getting niche to the needs of the individual, a retreat can offer a greater depth of personal growth.
On the hotel front, Martinez continues, “In the future, guests will keep booking hotels that include full programs of wellness. You don’t really have to go to a retreat and wait until it starts and group travel together. The program will allow you to go to the hotel and start anytime.”
Basically, the future of wellness retreats hints that you will be able to retreat when and how you want whenever you’re ready to join.
The Future of Wellness Retreats is Now
From Nicaragua to the present day, I’ve been at the forefront. I’ve been able to witness the demand of the retreat business, how it has ebbed and flowed over the years like a hot knife through ghee during the pandemic and back on the rise once again.
While I’m no longer hosting retreats, I’ve seen firsthand that wellness is across the board only growing. From retreats, to healthier foods in lounges, to better meals at restaurants with quality and locally sourced foods and kombucha and sparkling on tap over hard liquors and sugary drinks, it’s a global movement. And one that I’m all for supporting. The future of wellness retreats is now.
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