Do Wellness Retreats have a Future?

Let’s talk about wellness retreats, since a good number of you plan to go on a wellness retreat in 2022 and since that is what I (purposefully and passionately) do for a living.

What is a wellness retreat? The Global Wellness Institute defines wellness as “the active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health.” I would add “mental and physical” before health, but otherwise, it is a useful definition.

Is it still accurate in this peri-pandemic world?

With a new season of retreats coming up, I went for a walk with Arcady (my sighthound) and thought about it. I got the impression, from last year’s guests, that people are now looking for quite a different sort of retreat when they come on a wellness retreat here now.

My most popular retreat, the Connect with Horses Mindfulness and Meditation retreat – aimed at helping guests manage stress more effectively with the assistance of my horses – was as popular as ever last year, but I had to change the schedule somewhat, to accommodate my guests’ needs. Last year, and the year before, my Walking the Camino de Santiago de Compostella and Wine Tasting Wellness retreat moved into the second most popular position and the Claim and Create Your Magical Future retreats that I started in 2020, got off to a great start.

So what has changed?

  1. I noticed that one of my guests‘ top priorities was to reconnect with nature, which is not at all surprising if you remember that many of them were stuck in apartments in cities during the lockdowns. They wanted to spend as much time as possible outside, which, luckily, is not difficult here in the sun-drenched south of France in summer, so we did just about everything outside except for sleeping.

This year, it will even be possible to sleep outside: several guests who read about stable stays – overnighting in a stable with horses – encouraged me to create something similar here. Personally, I am not that keen on the idea of sleeping in a stable, so from next year, you will be able to sleep here under the stars, surrounded by horses. Also, as the house is on the edge of a huge natural forest, I am hoping to offer forest bathing to guests in 2022.

2. The next notable change was that guests wanted to spend more time just resting, sitting under the lime trees in a deckchair, quietly reading a book or taking a nap. I kept the schedule the same, but shortened the sessions, so that guests had more time just to be with the horses, instead of doing something with them. I also noticed that guests who attended the Walking and Wine tasting retreats, took sometimes even twice as long to do the day’s walk, and the same with the wine tasting. Guests more than ever savoured each and every moment.

3. Last year, many of my potential guests, on booking, inquired if they would be staying in a private house. Of course, I confirmed that they would, but emphasized that my comfortable cottage is no luxurious hotel, and that the food, though wholesome, is not cordon bleu. When I asked them about it when they got here, they all insisted that they prefer to stay in someone’s house, partly as they considered it safer, but also because they wanted to connect to local people, support local businesses and learn more about the local culture.

4. I had more requests for private retreats than ever before. In a way, this is understandable, as people wanted to avoid large groups while on holiday in 2021, fearing that they might pick up the virus. I thoroughly enjoyed these one-on-one retreats: I felt that I got to know my guests much better, so much so that several of them are now close friends, so I decided to stick to small groups in future, both during my wellness retreats and during group coaching sessions.

5. More and more guests now want to know and talk about slow and sustainable tourism. This has always been important to me, so it was easy (and invariably enriching) to share my understanding of slow tourism and my ideas about sustainability with them.

Could it be that the definition of wellness has changed, and therefore the definition of wellness retreats? The definition, “Wellness is the act of practicing healthy habits on a daily basis to attain better physical and mental health outcomes,” sounds adequate, until you realise that wellness is about much more: “Wellness is a holistic integration of physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, fuelling the body, engaging the mind, and nurturing the spirit.” (1) and “a lifestyle and a personalized approach to living life in a way that allows you to become the best kind of person that your potentials, circumstances, and fate will allow.” (2)

Wellness consists of 8 mutually interdependent dimensions: physical, intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, vocational, financial, and environmental. I very much suspect that potential wellness retreat guests intend to find retreats that will enable them to increase their sense of wellbeing in each of these 8 dimensions.

Would you agree?

References:

  1. 8 Dimensions of Wellness, (UMD) University of Maryland’s Your Guide to Living Well. [Last accessed June 27, 2017]
  2. 2. Ardell DB. Definition of Wellness. Ardell Wellness Report. 1999;18:1–5

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