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Wellness Travel Trends — The Rise of Luxury Sabbaticals

When the term work sabbatical arises, most of us think about a tenured professor taking a year off to conduct research. But this perception of the work sabbatical is quite outdated. Enter the luxury sabbatical.

Did you know that 17 percent of all businesses today in the U.S. have a sabbatical program? Likewise, a quarter of the top 100 Fortune best companies do as well. These excursions are not simply escapes from the routine but instead an indulgence in luxury and wellness.

Without question, work sabbaticals today are much different from days past. 

Defining Today’s Work Sabbaticals

In the past, researchers and authors might take a leave of absence to explore new ideas and material. The purpose was to immerse themselves in creative surroundings to stimulate innovative thought while recharging their sense of focus.

To this extent, today’s work sabbaticals are no different. However, they no longer just involve researchers and authors but individuals from all walks of life. Increasingly, all types of companies are investing in work sabbaticals for their employees. And the vast majority invest in luxury travel destinations as a means to achieve this. 

Modern work sabbaticals tend to be several months in duration, typically between 3 and 12 months.

In addition, most individuals who enjoy these creative and rejuvenating escapes do so with their families. With a focus on work-life balance, companies allot significant budgets for luxury travel related to these sabbaticals. And with attention to exploration, learning, and self-reflection, today’s work sabbaticals offer opportunities to recharge and reconnect.

Ultimately, this is believed to result in a win-win for all. 

Drivers for the Luxury Sabbatical

The concept of a work sabbatical is certainly not new. However, the combination of luxury travel and sabbaticals is a more recent trend initiated by technology companies.

Many such companies on the West coast realized the advantages that these creative and rejuvenating escapes offered their business. Not only did employees return recharged and invigorated, but they also brought new ideas and concepts for positive change. As other industries began to realize these positive effects with work sabbaticals, they have increasingly come on board. 

Of course, employees and executives have also embraced these concepts as well. In fact, many companies are finding that they need to offer such work sabbatical programs in order to attract the best talent.

By offering luxury travel sabbaticals after a certain tenured period of time, companies engage a higher number of creative talents. And in doing so, they also support a positive culture of health and wellness. All of this helps drive the current trends that combine luxury travel with work sabbaticals. 

Modern Profiles of Work Sabbatical Travelers

So, who is today’s luxury travelers who opt to go on work sabbaticals? Indeed, many are executives and managers within companies who value the opportunity to immerse themselves in an exploratory environment. However, a significant number of individuals are employees who have been with a particular company for a long period of time.

As work sabbaticals are structured into company benefits packages, this population will increase. And if these luxury travel experiences result in positive results, this trend will likely persist for some time.

Interestingly, many individuals who engage in work sabbaticals have some input into their luxury travel opportunities. Many prefer to revisit areas that they might have traveled to when they were younger.

Termed “backpacker evolution,” wellness and luxury travel that returns to past destinations lets individuals gain new perceptions. This naturally enhances the opportunities for creativity and reconnection.

Likewise, work sabbaticals are not always about traveling alone. In fact, multigenerational travel, group travel, and women’s only travel are common for some work sabbaticals. 

 The Infusion of Wellness and Luxury Travel

A big push for work sabbaticals has also involved health and wellness concepts in the workplace. Specifically, wellness practices that allow individuals to “disconnect” from technologies are recognized as being important.

Likewise, the need to “reconnect” with nature and one’s self is also appreciated as a part of holistic wellness. These concepts, along with the promotion of healthy mindfulness, have further fueled luxury travel and work sabbaticals.

When combined with the advantages work sabbaticals may offer a business, it’s therefore understandable why these are becoming increasingly popular. 

The modern work sabbatical is also not about luxury travel for the sake of indulging in luxurious surroundings. Instead, this type of luxury travel seeks to engage the individual in an effort to promote experiential learning and reflection.

This means that work sabbatical destinations tend to be more exotic in nature and often involve a number of sites. Each site offers a new experience that can further help individuals explore new concepts and ideas.

Similarly, these experiences embrace holistic wellness concepts that further help rejuvenate the person while promoting wellness practices.

As a result, work sabbaticals offer a great chance to make major lifestyle changes that support long-term health. 

Targeting the “HENRYs” 

While a number of luxury travelers engage in work sabbaticals today, there is a select group that deserves specific attention. Labeled “HENRYs,” which stands for high-earners-not-rich-yet, these individuals represent the luxury travelers of the future.

As a group, they are in the top 20 percent of income earners. Likewise, they adopt luxury consumer practices during these early years that eventually evolve into lifestyle preferences. For HENRYs who engage in work sabbaticals, this group represents an important future consumer of the luxury travel industry. 

In terms of those who participate in work sabbaticals, a higher percentage of HENRYs comprise this group. As high achievers with high expectations, destinations of luxury travel offering work sabbatical escapes need to impress these individuals.

If successful, these same destinations can enjoy greater loyalty among this important consumer segment. And by introducing wellness offerings during their luxury travel, HENRYs are likely to pursue wellness travel beyond work sabbatical periods. This is why this group of work sabbatical travelers are of high interest to those in both luxury travel and wellness tourism. 

Seizing the Opportunity for This Rising Trend

Some have described the rising trend of work sabbaticals as a culmination of various movements at the same time. Changes in workplace practices, attention to mindfulness, and shifts toward holistic wellness all support the increase in work sabbaticals.

At the same time, this unique combination of events also encourages both luxury travel and wellness tourism. For those in the wellness tourism industry, work sabbaticals represent a great opportunity. Being able to meet the needs of these special travelers could certainly pay off big in the coming years. 

Of course, the increase in work sabbaticals also represent opportunities for travelers and employers alike. Surveys have indicated that those engaged in work sabbaticals seek three primary experiences. These include opportunities for education, a chance to give back during their travels, and experiences that offer personal enrichment.

As employers increasingly offer work sabbaticals to their employees, identifying luxury travel that meets these needs should be pursued. In doing so, businesses and individuals alike gain the chance to recommit themselves to a larger mission and purpose. And this is why work sabbaticals are likely to persist as an ongoing wellness and luxury travel trend. 

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