Don’t Be Fooled by Well-Washing

Wherever there’s market demand, there’s bound to be a few bad apples in the bunch. No doubt, you’ve probably experienced wellness washing—or, well-washing—without being aware of it. Or, perhaps you have and felt a bit scammed.

You’re in a good spot, as we’re going to break down where well-washing started, how the pandemic helped to mitigate it and how to avoid it moving forward as an informed, SMART, wellness traveler. 

What is well-washing

man in the middle of sand island on beach

Typically, a resort of scale will have a marketing or public relations team behind it. With those teams come statistics and data with key performance indicators (KPIs) for marketing and business goals. 

With the uptick in demand for wellness for travelers, in order to meet those marketing and business goals, resorts will use marketing ploys and verbiage to attract travelers (and their dollars) in any way they can. 

Like gluten-free became a thing for all food marketers to latch on to, well-washing in travel is here, too.

Which is fine, in theory, when they actually hold basis and premium value to what is being advertised. However, what happens when they don’t and it’s just fluff? 

Here are some examples:

  1. “We host a full list of wellness offerings daily” when there’s one class and the teacher doesn’t show.
  2. “We focus on the well-being of the traveler.” 
  3. “A buffet of wellness offerings for food selections” when there’s lemon water at the front and a lettuce bowl amidst the french fries.
  4. “Eco-friendly alternative with an ocean view” that burns through energy, a leaky AC unit, and the ocean view is a mere binocular look away.
  5. “Full spa menu” with one massage offering off-site.
  6. “A tranquil paradise away that will calm your stresses and ease your pains” which is just a loaded fluff of pretty words all in one sentence (be wary of any marketing like this in general).

These are just a few general examples, but you get the picture at this point. Like gluten-free became a thing for all food marketers to latch on to, well-washing in travel is here, too. 

Where it came from

well-washing map

As we already tapped into, profit potential and marketing strategies are part of the birthplace for wellness washing. Resorts and destinations want to make money, and need it now more than ever after the limitations in travel over the past few years. 

I come from a background in advertising, and as we like to call it, it’s a form of “false advertising” when one is sold in a direction that prevails to be false. So, who’s to blame here or to take responsibility? 

I’d suggest becoming more informed about what truly is “wellness travel” and wellness defined, both for yourself and what you’re seeing from this trip. 

Lucky for us all, there is no shortage of options out there when choosing a wellness destination

How to spot well-washing & what you can do about it

Woman by the pool

Let’s reverse engineer this well-washing concept  and look at the angle from a marketer’s mind. 

If I were to write a wellness description to get someone to book, what does this hotel offer that I can sell? Use your natural senses and whits about you, and keep the following in mind:

1. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

2. Have you looked through multiple sources of online media, or are you just on their website? Look beyond their self-promotionally managed pages for more honest information. 

3. When in doubt, have a trusted source with their own list of criteria for meeting a wellness destination. If you’re reading this post, you’re in good hands with Vacayou.

4. Word of mouth is still one of the best sources of information and inspiration when it comes to buying and booking.

5. Look for fluff words, such as “wellness” “healthy” “the perfect…” “everything you need too…” “dream destination” and other buzzwords you find in your wellness news feed that (and here’s the important part) aren’t backing up their talk with action. 

That last one takes a bit more work and effort to source out what’s true or not. However, think of your search like a dating site. Anyone can write whatever they want in their description for who they think they are in words. 

That doesn’t always equate to the actions and personality you experience on that first date. Date your travel destination with a bit of research and a suspicious eye. 

utah cowboy wild west rodeo folk

Well-washing isn’t something that’s specific to one region in the world or resort. It’s universal, for not so better or worse. 

A benefit of what has happened over the past few years has forced a bit of a cleanse due to stricter regulations from companies and authorities for travel locations to hold and adhere to in order to operate. 

That being said, it’s the wild west out there, especially when you’re traveling to other countries outside of the normal you’re accustomed to in your own hood. 

This isn’t to deter you in any way from booking! Solely to inform you and make your wellness travel experience even better and more fulfilling. 

Closing out on that note, have you personally experienced well-washing? What did you learn or take away from it?

Vacayou’s travel concierge team can help you discover, book and plan your next meaningful experience. We are here to help create a healthier global community through wellness and active travel.

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