‘Looking for a different kind of vacation this year?
One alternative that’s fast gaining popularity among baby boomers and younger travelers is spa or “wellness” travel. Instead of keeping to an aggressive itinerary, eating rich restaurant food, and returning home all done in and maybe 5 pounds heavier, more people are opting to spend all or at least a big part of their vacations at hotel, resort, and destination spas around the world. Here, the main focus is on rest, healthy eating, exercise, and other forms of stress reduction.
This growth, according to the recently released survey from marketing firm SpaFinder Wellness (which incorporates the responses of more than 160 travel agents), is also quite dramatic. Observing that this trend has now turned “a meaningful corner,” the survey reveals that 65% of these agents noted an increase in spa bookings between 2011 and 2012 with only 6% reporting a decline.
What’s causing this shift? Susie Ellis, the president of SpaFinder Wellness, has some very specific thoughts. “While the upswing in spa travel is being driven by the wider economic rebound, the survey clearly indicates that other factors are at play,” she says. “With more than two-thirds of agents reporting that people are now more interested in traveling to spas specifically for programs like stress-reduction fitness and weight loss, the results are a clear indication that more travelers are deciding they simply can’t afford exhausting, unhealthy vacations.”
Finally, the survey offers an additional insight that many travelers may find intriguing—even though spa business is picking up, great deals are both available and abundant. According to the travel agents, 35% said that “stay spa” deals were actually more aggressive in 2012 than in 2011 while 55% said that they had held firm.
‘Sound Good? Here Are 4 Issues to Consider.
If a spa vacation is sounding better with each sentence you read, and you’d like to look into the possibility more closely, here 4 things to keep top of mind:
- Think about YOUR goals. Spas are incredibly varied, so it’s important—even before looking into spas—to consider what kind of spa experience will mean the most to you. What kinds of services do you want from a spa? These can range from mud baths to golf, so it’s good to think about what mix is available at different places. Also, what do you want to achieve with spa treatments? What kinds of exercise and/or nutritional services are most important to you? And is a spiritual and/or religious atmosphere something that matters to you? Yes, there’s much to mull over.
- Check out your spa options. In the U.S. alone, there are more than 12,000 spas. Around the world, there are thousands more. So, you won’t be facing a scarcity of choices. The challenge is to match your spa goals with the destination you want to travel to and the spas in the area. Websites such as Spa Finder and the International SPA Association (ISPA) have lots of helpful information. One feature you might especially like about these sites is that you can easily narrow your search to, say, “beach spas” or “vegan spas” based on what you are looking for.
- Decide on a budget beforehand. Just as spa options vary widely, so do the costs of spa vacations. Figure out how much you want to spend and then look for spas that provide the kinds of services you are looking for in your price range. One key item to check out is what is covered in the basic cost of a spa visit and which services are extra. Also, a good strategy for stretching a budget a little farther is to book a visit during a non-peak travel time. You’ll find special deals more plentiful during these periods.
- If any of your spa treatments is non-refundable, or is part of a non-refundable package, make sure to include them in the trip cost for your travel insurance. Travel insurance can cover these treatments if you have to cancel or interrupt your trip.
If you’ve taken spa vacations and have tips you’d like to add, just post a comment. We’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject.
(Finally, a big thanks to Katie Cline of the TripInsurance.com staff for her input on this article.)