Brush up on your selling skills with tips on tapping into the wellness trend. Katie McGonagle reports.
1. “Wellness is your own personal journey”
Stella founded Wellbeing Escapes in 2005, combining extensive experience in the travel industry with a mission to make health-focused breaks accessible to all. The company has doubled its agent business over the past year to around a fifth of total sales, offering down-to-earth advice on a wide range of wellbeing experiences.
Stella Photi, founder and managing director, Wellbeing Escapes
“In a scenario like this, it’s more important than ever that people are healthy and have good immunity, so my prediction is that interest in this type of holiday is going to increase as people become more aware of their health.
“It’s still quite a niche market. You can go anywhere and have a spa treatment, but a wellbeing holiday is something that takes you a bit deeper. It’s one step beyond a normal spa holiday – it’s more integrated. A lot of agents find it overwhelming because they feel like their client knows more than them, but in the last 18 months, our trade business has grown a lot as agents see more demand coming from their clients.
“A lot of agents find it overwhelming because they feel like their client knows more than them, but in the last 18 months, our trade business has grown a lot.”
“With wellness, it’s very much a personal goal, so find out what’s driving that client – how do they want to feel when they come back? A lot of people have a specific goal: they want to lose weight, get fit or improve their yoga. Ask whether they’ve done this type of holiday before, because someone who’s never taken a wellness holiday before will have different expectations from someone who’s been to the world’s best retreats, so understand their level of experience.
“Over the past few years, we’ve seen more couples interested in active holidays together. The girls’ spa weekend is there but it’s very price-driven, so I would suggest agents get more specialist with what they offer. We’re always happy to work with agents in setting up training – wherever we can help, we would, for example if someone wanted to specialise in fitness holidays.
“There’s also much more of a focus on mental health and emotional wellbeing. When I started, everything was physical – losing weight and detoxing – but now people are more interested in learning how to meditate and restoring their mental health. Wellness is your own personal journey.”
2. “Holidays and health now go hand in hand”
As senior product & purchasing manager for Kuoni, Sheena is one of the most well-travelled members of the senior team at Kuoni. She knows what it takes to sell luxury spa resorts and is responsible for seeking out new retreats around the world to include in the tour operator’s spa and wellness collection.
Sheena Paton, senior product & purchasing manager, Kuoni
“Holidays and health now go hand in hand and we’ve seen a lot of innovation at resort level in this area. It used to be the case that spas just offered a standard list of treatments, such as massages, manicures and pedicures in fairly basic treatment rooms. But we’ve seen the whole area of spa and wellness really take off in recent years.
“We are seeing more customers come to us who don’t necessarily want a dedicated retreat and to be tied to a strict programme, but they want access to classes, treatments and healthy menus alongside the rest and relaxation of their regular holiday.
“As well as couples, we’ve seen more mums and daughters or girlfriends travelling together. They also suit solo travellers and this is a growing opportunity.
“You can do what most do and have healthy breakfast, have your free spa treatment followed by a boozy lunch and afternoon in the sun with cocktails!”
“There are some real standout resorts in our collection that would be our ‘go to’ options for this type of holiday. The Banyan Tree Samui in Thailand is outstanding, and the Spa Village Tembok in Bali offers great-value inclusions.
“The BodyHoliday is Saint Lucia includes spa treatments as part of the stay, with sport, yoga and relaxation classes so you can do total detox with doctors and health instructors. Or you can do what most do and have healthy breakfast, have your free spa treatment followed by a boozy lunch and afternoon in the sun with cocktails!
“Lefay Resort, Lake Garda, is another popular option. This property was built first and foremost to be a spa and consequently all rooms and suites have been constructed around the wellness complex, not only offering amazing views of Lake Garda, but also a clinically designed dietary programme with mind and soul-focused activities.”
3. “Spas aren’t just wheatgrass shots and vegan meals”
Since joining Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas in 2011, Mark has played a key role in launching wellness initiatives across the brand’s portfolio, as well as leading on spa operations and development. The company manages 18 hotels and resorts plus 30 spas across 21 countries worldwide, as part of the InterContinental Hotels Group.
Mark Sands, vice president of wellness, Six Senses
“Spa and wellness holidays promote good healthy habits, from the food you eat and the exercise you do to mindfulness and sleep that you can take home and integrate into your life. This is a different market to the usual holiday travel. Agents should ask questions and offer pre-arrival contact with the onsite wellness practitioners – this will ensure clients are well cared-for and get the personalised attention they deserve.
“There are many preconceptions that agents or tour operators worry about. Firstly, wellness and spa holidays are not just for solo travellers – there are options available for couples or groups of friends. Secondly, these holidays are as important to men as they are women. Travel patterns have changed and there is a growing trend of busy professionals using these breaks to learn, improve themselves or re-energise after burning out.
“Our classes get kids actively learning how to use home-grown herbs, fruits and even old coffee grounds to make products we then use on them in the treatments.”
“We are seeing more men and kids coming to our spas. We recently opened our first Kids’ Spa within the Six Senses Spa Mumbai and it’s exciting to see how our classes get kids actively learning how to use home-grown herbs, fruits and even old coffee grounds to make products we then use on them in the treatments. In addition, there is a much more even balance of spa-goers these days; on average it is about 60:40 women to men, although interestingly, the reverse is true in India, where nearly two-thirds of spa guests are men.
“It is worth bearing in mind that wellness and spa packages are not just for destination spas. Some places are strict and serious, and some are more flexible. While some will not accept children, others embrace them. Spa and wellness holidays do not need to be wheatgrass shots and vegan meals with no sight of a glass of wine. It is about that balance of making them fun, informative, transformative and realistic.”