The wellness industry has seen an increase in consumer interest. After stagnating during COVID-19, it’s once again on the upward trajectory as more and more people prioritise their personal wellness. 

A 2021 report by McKinsey and Company estimates the global wellness market to be worth more than $1.5 trillion, with an annual growth of 5 to 10 percent. The company conducted a survey with the participation of more than 7,500 consumers across six countries. 79% of the respondents said they believe that wellness is important, and 42% consider it a top priority. 

The rising interest in wellness has also seeped into the travel industry. According to a 2019 study by Skift, an overwhelming 71% of respondents said that participating in physical and mental wellness activities is an important factor in their travel decisions. When asked whether they agree with the statement “I am more interested in spa and wellness experiences when I travel than I was 3-5 years ago”, 17% said strongly agree, and 43% said agree. 

Clearly, consumers care deeply about wellness and it looks like this travel trend is here to stay. So how can vacation rental managers have a piece of the cake? 

In this blog post, we’ll cover what property managers need to know about strategically appealing to and capturing guests with an interest in wellness travel. We’ll also share some insight from Stacey Sharp, Founder of RetreatMi, a niche listing site for wellness vacation rentals. 

What is wellness travel?

The Global Wellness Institute defines wellness tourism as “travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal wellbeing”. 

Wellness travel may be a fast-growing trend in 2021, but it is a centuries-old concept. Throughout history, people have sought places away from their homes with the aim of rejuvenation, healing and improving their wellbeing.

For example, the Romans travelled to baths, hot springs, and seaside resorts for treatments and healthier climates. For centuries, pilgrims worldwide have visited the dead sea for its therapeutic properties, while the Chinese, Japanese and Korean have travelled to hot springs for relaxation and community. But it was in Russia where the first resort spa was documented over 300 years ago in Karelia. 

To this day, wellness travel is still similar at its core. But according to GWI, wellness tourism today is about much more than the destination or activities – it’s an extension of the very values and lifestyle of the traveller.

So, what makes a holiday a wellness holiday? Every traveller has a different idea of what wellness means to them. Some people like to go on adventurous and challenging hikes to decompress, while others prefer relaxing spa treatments and yoga sessions

According to the Skift survey we cited above, the most popular wellness programmes and activities that respondents would plan a trip around include:  

  • Healthy cooking classes (44%)
  • Volunteer trips (40%)
  • Fitness boot camps (40%)
  • Stargazing excursions (39%)
  • Spiritual retreats (31%)
  • Art therapy (29%)
  • Yoga retreats (27%)
  • Sound healing (26%)
  • Digital detox retreats (20%)
  • Experimental therapies such as cannabis and VR (15%)
  • Meditation or mindfulness retreats (11%)

Why is wellness travel becoming more and more popular?

All around the world, more people are incorporating elements of health, prevention, self-actualisation, experience and mindfulness into their daily lives.

As a result, it’s not a surprise that people expect to continue their healthy lifestyles and wellness routines when they are away from home.

According to Stacey Sharp, Founder of RetreatMi, “Even before COVID-19, people were already becoming more aware that a healthy mind and body are essential to a happy life. Today, travellers view vacations as a time to relax, switch off, decompress and feel refreshed. While the travel market has been slowly moving towards wellness-focused travel, we have noticed a sharp rise in interest since the pandemic and people focusing more than ever on mindfulness and wanting to get away and be active.” 

With so much “unwellness” embedded in today’s society – day-to-day stress, lack of sleep, the difficulty of maintaining a healthy routine), it’s no wonder that people are seeking out wellness tourism. It offers a promise of combating those negative qualities and turning travel into an opportunity to maintain and improve health. 

So who are the travellers booking these wellness retreats? Anne Dimon, president of the Wellness Tourism Association, says that while wellness travellers can be anyone, the bulk tends to be higher-educated women between ages 30 and 60. 

The 2019 Skift survey we referred to above found that 68% of the “Old Millennial” generation had taken a wellness trip in the past 12 months, while the numbers decreased gradually for younger generations (54% for “Young Millennials”, 44% for “Old Gen Z” and 34% for “Young Gen Z”. 

According to Stacey, RetreatMi hosts “small private groups and also larger corporate groups that are taking a more active or wellness-focused vacation, taking time to focus on their yoga practise, meditation or heading out to experience local adventures.

How can vacation rental property managers take advantage of the wellness travel trend?

As consumers are becoming more and more inclined to invest in their own mental and physical wellbeing, wellness has become a high-yield industry.  

Targeting wellness travellers is a huge financial opportunity for vacation rental property managers because:

  • Wellness travellers spend more than regular tourists. A 2018 study by the GWI found that international wellness tourists spend 53% more than the average international tourist, and domestic wellness tourists spend 178% more than the average domestic traveller.
  • Catering to wellness travellers presents opportunities for upselling. You can offer extra services from sports equipment rental to transfers, guided tours, activities and much more. You can partner with local providers and offer guests a plethora of wellness services.
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The top 3 wellness travel websites to list your properties on

RetreatMi 

Wellness Travel Trend

Retreatmi is an innovative platform bringing together wellness experiences with vacation rental properties so travellers can curate their personal wellness or active getaway. 

Offering affordable wellness retreats and packages, RetreatMi guarantees the best price for healthy travel adventures. 

The vacation rental website’s most popular destinations include North West England (Lake District), South West England (Cornwall & The Cotswolds), Thailand (Koh Samui, Phuket) and Indonesia.

To qualify as an ideal place for a wellness holiday, your rental (or your destination) needs to appeal to guests seeking a wellness experience. While there are no universal criteria for what makes a wellness vacation rental, there are many different activities, facilities and characteristics that wellness travellers look for in a rental.

In fact, RetreatMi has a “Local Activities and Speciality” filter that allows travellers to filter their searches by the type of wellness holiday they’re interested in. This includes:

  • Low Air Pollution
  • Digital Free Zone
  • UNESCO Heritage Site
  • Eco Retreat
  • Ladies Only
  • Men’s Retreat
  • Surfing
  • Hiking
  • Kayaking
  • Workout Space
  • Cycling Trails
  • Rock Climbing 
  • Scuba Diving
  • Wildlife Preservation Area
  • Yoga
  • Zero Carbon Footprint
  • Ice Baths

If any of your properties match this profile, you can get listed on RetreatMi now through Rentals United.

If you want to know more about RetreatMi and other exciting niche websites, get The Rentals United squiggle mag

Vacayou

Wellness Travel Trend

Vacayou is an online booking platform that helps travellers find and book wellness retreats. 

Started by a team with a passion for travel and wellness in their daily lives, Vacayou was launched with an ambition to spread life-enriching wellness trips.

Understanding that everyone has their own idea of what a wellness getaway should be, Vacayou wants to cater to all. 

On their website travellers can book trips that involve a hike up a mountain, a bike ride through wine country, getting away for a weekend at the spa or immersing yourself in a yoga or meditation retreat. 

Exoticca 

Wellness Travel Trend

Exoticca is a next-generation tour operator that designs one-of-a-kind multi-day experiences. 

The company curates its own package tours in over 50 destinations around the world with the help of destination experts. The team carefully designs the itineraries, always seeking to optimise both the experience and the prices for travellers. 

The combination of manually curated products with Exoticca’s tech allows the company to offer exclusive prices. The company’s offering includes relaxing wellness experiences as well as active adventures for all kinds of travellers.

OTAs that offer wellness subcategories 

Next to niche channels that specialise in wellness travel and retreats, some of the world’s most popular OTAs also offer their own curated selection of wellness experiences.

Properties that make it into these exclusive lists compiled by OTAs get more exposure and are guaranteed to attract the attention of travellers.

Here are a few examples:

HomeToGo

Wellness Travel Trend

HomeToGo is Berlin-based vacation rental metasearch engine that allows travellers to compare over 18 million listings from 1,000 providers across 200 countries. 

The platform has a section dedicated to wellness travel where guests can search for vacation rentals with a wellness element, including spa holidays.

Get listed on HomeToGo via Rentals United

Flipkey

FlipKey, a part of the Tripadvisor family, is a vacation rental marketplace with over 300,000 properties around the world. 

The OTA has a curated list called Say Spaah, where it features holiday homes and villas that offer luxurious wellness experiences.

Get listed on Tripadvisor/FlipKey via Rentals United

Vrbo

Vrbo is Expedia Group’s vacation rental brand with over 2 million listings worldwide.

On the Vrbo platform, travellers can create Trip Boards – similarly to Pinterest boards – where they can save listings around a certain theme or a trip they’re planning. 

Vrbo creates its own Trip Boards with hand-picked properties, and there’s a board for Wellness Retreats where guests can choose from a number of stunning properties to relax at.

Get listed on Vrbo via Rentals United

Conclusion: Wellness travel and vacation rentals go hand-in-hand

For a lot of property managers around the world, attracting wellness travellers may just be the key to revitalising their business after the pandemic. 

Judging by the rising consumer interest, wellness travel is not going away – and it’s a high-yield trend that’s worth embracing.

If you have rentals in a destination where guests can enjoy wellness activities or active adventures, all you need to do is get listed on the right niche channels. 

For example, the Rentals United channel manager lets you get your properties instantly live and bookable on RetreatMi, so you can start attracting wellness travellers now. 



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