How do you spell relief? Wellness and Spa experiences are a major trend according to one industry insider

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Affluent travelers are not shy when it comes to voting with their dollars. Connecting with oneself is now the new black and the younger wealthy class have shelved the desire for bling and shiny things, instead buying and having unique and once in a lifetime experiences. Luxury travel providers and suppliers have taken note of this defining trend and put all their resources in creating those unique experiences. The investment has paid off as luxury travel continues to grow globally and boom in certain regions.

Our industry insider, Karine Lackner, understands the luxury travel market well as Executive Editor of the luxury travel publication, Horizon & Beyond. Taking time out of her busy schedule, she shares her thoughts and perspectives on the state of the luxury travel market and reveals some important trends that could drive the next ‘big thing’ for the upper tier travel category:

Karine Lackner, Executive Editor Horizon & Beyond
Karine Lackner, Executive Editor Horizon & Beyond

TheTopTier: Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us Karine. Can you give us a quick update on the Middle East luxury travel market? How is business?

Karine Lackner: The official numbers say a very positive outlook. Abu Dhabi’s growth in 2015 was particularly impressive. Leisure tourism has seen a boost over the past few years and the trend is expected to continue as future demand generators such as the upcoming Cultural District are completed. With an annual growth rate of 16 percent in luxury hotel rooms between 2011 and 2015, the market has seen the introduction of several luxury hotel developments including two St. Regis properties, the Sofitel, the Ritz Carlton, the Anantara and the Rosewood.

The Sultanate of Oman saw inbound tourism numbers rise by an average of 7.4% per annum in the last decade and 1.4 million international tourism arrivals are targeted by 2019, up from 1.1 million in 2015. Oman’s Tourism Strategy for 2015 through to 2040 has an investment value of US$35 billion. Recent figures from the Oman Airports Muscat saw an 18% rise in passenger numbers through the capital’s gateway in 2015, surpassing the 10 million passenger mark for the first time in its operational history, while Salalah Airport also saw a rise in traffic by 22% to reach more than one million passengers.

According to the Qatar Tourism Authority 3 million visitors arrived in 2015. Qatar’s tourism and hospitality industry is building momentum as it enters the second half of the decade, with an ambitious target of four million visitors by 2020, supported by US$40-45 billion worth of sector investment under the country’s National Tourism Sector Strategy 2030 plan. A total of 1,400 rooms were added to the market in 2015; as part of its commitment to reach 50,000 additional rooms by the 2022, when it will host the FIFA World Cup. Kempinski Marsa Malaz Hotel, Banana Island Resort by Anantara and Melia Doha Hotel, were a few of the brands to enter the market last year with Qatar Tourism Authority reporting an estimated 10,000 rooms currently under construction and expected to enter the market by 2018/9. Qatar tourism receipts aim to reach $7.2 billion by 2025.

TTT: What are some of the hot travel trends you are seeing for 2016? Are experiences still the priority for affluent travelers?

KL: Experiences will always be the motivation of travelers. Everyone needs something different than his daily routine. The question is more about what would the individual be more inclined to? Experiencing adventure to get some adrenaline boosts or experiencing relaxation to calm the so stressed mind. For some travelers to get out of their environment and feel ‘alive’ by traveling to another culture might be already an experience in itself.

France has not lost its charm ! Paris and the South, from the picturesque and glitzy St. Tropez to the stylish Monte-Carlo, especially at the Grand Prix F1 weekend with events all over town, such as Amber Lounge, where drivers and Jetsetters mingle. The scenic countryside of the Provence is great for a trip that is unique in flair, colors and culinary delights.

Italy is still the perfect spot for a well-rounded trip of relaxation, food, shopping and culture where one can admire the beautiful landscape along the Amalfi Coast and enjoy the small island of Capri (outside the high season please) or explore the culture of Venice, Rome, Milan and Florence. Tuscany has definitely a lot to offer for those who enjoy more culinary sensations than a sunny beach vacation in the Mediterranean.

South Africa is a must-visit destination for both adventure and relaxation. Travelers can experience luxury safaris to see the country’s incredible wildlife (featured in our next edition H&B Spring 2016) The country provides all the outdoor activities that are on your bucket list, from diving with sharks to riding ostriches and if you are lucky, witness the birth of a baby elephant, to enjoying the incredible rocky beaches of Cape Town.

Australia. From snorkeling in The Great Barrier Reef to visiting the iconic Sydney Opera House, there is plenty of wildlife and culture to be explored. The first COMO-owned property Australia just opened its doors in October 2015 in Perth. Spanning the top three floors of three Victorian-era buildings, the luxury hotel features the amazing COMO Shambhala wellness therapies, shops, and restaurants including Chef David Thompson’s newest culinary endeavor, Long Chim.

For those looking for the truly different adventure, the vast white sheets of ice, glaciers and water of Antarctica are waiting for the ultimate wilderness getaway. Taking a cruise to enjoy the best parts of the South Pole bearing continent from icy kayak rides to wildlife tours will definitely make it the once in a lifetime trip and off the beaten path destination.

For a softer version Iceland with an incredible mix of waterfalls, glaciers, volcanoes and black-sand beaches, offers a diversity of vacation experiences, which is endless. From sailing trips to whale watching, volcano tours and the hottest tourist attraction, The Blue Lagoon, there are plenty of things to do for every type of traveler and family.

The Caribbean offers some hidden spots where taking a vacation and escaping from the world for a while is still possible. Twenty minutes by ferry from Tortola in the British Virgin Islands, you’ll find Peter Island Resort & Spa on the 1,800-acre Peter Island. You can rent a private villa, tucked away from the resort and perched atop a picturesque bluff.

Jumby Bay, A Rosewood Resort just two miles off the coast of Antigua is a former sugar plantation with villas and homes, spread out across the 300-acre private island, which can only be accessed by boat. Big-name celebrities like Mariah Carey and Paul McCartney are among its fans.

Parrot Cay by Como – Hop out of your plane and on to a ferry for a 35-minute trip to this Caribbean escape, which is found on a private, l,000-acre island in the Turks and Caicos. Beachside villas, plus privately owned three- and five-bedroom houses (one of them by Donna Karan) are available for rent. These structures have private sundecks, swimming pools and butler services. Stars such as Britney Spears and CharlizeTheron love its hidden-away charms.

Keemala, the rainforest property located in Phuket, Thailand, isn’t set on its own island but it is like it’s own little world. 38 distinctly designed structures including tree houses; bird’s nest, clay or tent, is utterly magical. Each villa has its own pool, as well as a personal villa “host,” who serves as your concierge who will happily be arranging for an elephant adventure in nearby national parks. The hotel’s Mala Spa specializes in holistic treatments and offers a delightful escape into yourself.

TTT: One big trend that we are seeing is the push towards ‘wellness experiences’. Is demand for such types of services and amenities the ‘next big thing’ for luxury hotels?

KL: Wellness is about making healthy lifestyle choices and maintaining one’s wellbeing. In the USA alone more than 15 million people used day spa services at least once in 2014, and by 2017 wellness tourism is forecasted to reach approximately $680 billion. Luxury travel today is not complete any longer without fully enjoying relaxing moments delivered by professional hands.

Since decades the spa & wellness industry exists, but recently five star hotels are realizing that adding an abundant service to their offers and not only a traditional massage, steam or sauna is not only an extra important revenue, but as well a criteria for guests to book the hotel or resort.

TTT: Can you give us examples of some top tier wellness experiences? What types of ‘wellness resources and services’ are in demand?

KL: There are several distinctions when talking about wellness experiences. First we must understand that there are totally dedicated places in this world if one is in search for a rejuvenation experience and help to achieve a healthier life. Clinique LA PRAIRIE, SHA wellness clinic , CANYON RANCH and some other specialized holistic health resorts are offering from weight control, to stress management and healthy lifestyle a complete guide how to take control of your wellbeing. Leaders in healthy living and luxury spa vacations offer destination spa resorts and spa day facilities. Their staff includes dieticians, certified physicians, exercise physiologists and therapists, so you can be sure to get the right treatment.

The luxury spa resorts in contrary to a wellness clinic offer a vast menu of health, fitness and pampering services. A comprehensive, integrative approach to wellness is the foundation of any good treatment and result in your wellness experiences to achieve greater balance in your life and feel your very best including mind, body and spirit.

Some luxury hotels brand their spas and so worldwide travelers can find the same spirit of what they experienced somewhere before. Examples are CHI Spa by Shangri-La, GUERAIN, CLARINS, and now even CHANEL spas in top locations ( the RITZ Paris will open one in 2016), SIX SENSES spas offer a wide range in many countries in Europe, the Americas, Asia and the Middle East. EVASON Fushi and Evason Kiri are spas still run by the founders of Six Senses in the Maldives and on a remote island in Thailand, CHIVASOM is another famous anti-ageing and rejuvenation spa, LA RESERVE in Switzerland is one of the most luxurious spas, at The FARM at San Benito in the Philippines you can detox and relax.

The list is long and one must know exactly what is his goal when looking into a wellness experience.

TTT: Can you share some details about the upcoming special H&B issue?

KL: H&B’s Special Spa edition vol.1 will be out by end of April and has been created to satisfy the need of many affluent travelers to understand where to get what. Many of the topics will as well touch widely unknown themes such as special rejuvenating skin treatments, DNA tests to discover your body’s ‘instruction book ‘, which defines how it is and how absolutely everything works in it from the hair colour we have to the number of white blood cells we produce. As beauty and health are written in our genes this is a major topic to be explored for young and older readers to prevent sickness, enhance your life and adapt to the best suitable lifestyle habits according to your genetic programme.

We will talk about the diverse wellness resorts all over the world, where a healthy living inspiration can be learned, we will ask professionals to talk to us about their experiences and therapies. And we will feature precisely how therapies work, products have been scientifically made and proven to work on the skin and most of all where to find these amazing, relaxing and wonderful places hidden in this world that one must visit, experience and engrave in his memory.

TTT: Thank you so much for your time today Karine. Spa and Wellness are part of the game plan for most luxury hotel brands and you can see that they are pulling out all the stops when creating lavish and opulent experiences. It will be interesting to see if China continues to push the market as spending really hasn’t slowed down in the travel end but luxury goods are suffering on The Mainland. We are really looking forward to the upcoming special edition and will feature its release.

By Doron Levy Courtesy TheTopTier Digital Media

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