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2022 trend forecasts agree: Wellness is officially overtaking travel

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The new report on the global wellness economy from the nonprofit Global Wellness Institute (GWI) agrees that a boom in wellness tourism is right ahead.

Around the New Year, the trend reports start rolling out, and what’s striking is that most of the mainstream travel trend forecasts agree that wellness travel will be a major and growing trend in 2022. As the analysts from the international advertising agency, TBWA’s trends division, Backslash, neatly put it: “Wellness has officially taken over travel.” 

While we’re currently experiencing an Omicron moment, the big travel organizations, including the World Travel & Tourism Council, have recently predicted that travel will roar back bigger in 2022 than in pre-pandemic years. In the flurry of articles on 2022 travel trends, just about everyone agrees that after two years of extraordinary stress, people will seek to heal their minds and bodies at wellness destinations as never before. If last year, our trend “The Year of the Travel Reset” argued that the future is traveling slower and more mindfully, embracing regenerative travel, challenging overtourism and correcting undertourism, embracing nature, and putting purpose first…2022 looks to be the year that it moves from ideals to reality.  

The new report on the global wellness economy from the nonprofit Global Wellness Institute (GWI) agrees that a boom in wellness tourism is right ahead. If this travel market took a massive hit in 2020–when it shrunk -39.5% to $436 billion–the GWI predicts that wellness travel will be the wellness sector clocking the fastest growth through 2025, expanding 21% each year to reach $1.1 trillion. Notably, the spa and thermal/mineral springs markets, the other two wellness sectors hit the hardest by the pandemic, will also see the biggest annual growth through 2025 (at 17% and 15%, respectively). We’re entering an era of new traveler values (a quest for nature, sustainability and mental wellness), as well as a period of rapid recovery from seriously pent-up demand, not just for travel, but for some serious healing.  

Demand for wellness experiences rose as 2021 unfolded, with luxury travel expert Tom Bartholomew noting that demand right before Omicron was so high that, “securing spa and wellness treatments at hotels now can be as challenging as the exclusive dinner reservation.”  

Wellness travelers will certainly have jaw-dropping and diverse new properties to try in 2022. It’s amazing, for instance, how fast the brand Six Senses has grown during the pandemic, opening four new destinations in the crazy year of 2021: Six Senses Fort Bawara near Jaipur, India; Six Senses Shaharut in Israel; Six Senses Ibiza; and Six Senses Botanique in the mountains of Brazil–with more coming in 2022. Many wellness resorts have just opened (or are about to)–including the nature-immersive Joali Being in the Maldives; Hacienda AltaGracia in Costa Rica’s tropical rainforest (a collaboration between New York City’s wellness center, The Well, and Auberge Resorts); the adventure-meets-wellness lodge, E Explora El Chaltén in the wilds of Patagonia, Argentina; or KAI Poroto by Hoshino Resorts, a modern take on a traditional Japanese hot springs inn (opening next week in Hokkaido).  

The Global Wellness Summit is being held Oct. 30-Nov. 2, 2022 in Tel Aviv, Israel. Each year, attendees can experience the best and newest wellness resorts as a pre- or post-Summit trip–and in 2022, the stunning Six Senses Shaharut in Israel’s Negeve Desert is likely to be one of the options.  

The GWS’s annual wellness trends report will be unveiled February 8, with a strong focus on the future of wellness travel. But as the trend forecasts roll in, one thing is clear: 2022 looks to be the year of wellness travel.

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