A panel of six wellness veterans come together for the fourth session of #TnlOutreach series, to talk about how things will look like for the wellness travel industry in the after-Corona (AC) world—what to expect, and what’s expected of us. 

Before the Coronavirus took hold, the world looked at wellness travel through a pair of rose-tinted glasses and as a growing ‘trend’. But times have changed and so has the vision. Now that the world has given a nod to calling it an absolute necessity, we decided to have a discussion, moderated by hotelier and lifestyle journalist Vishwaveer Singh, with leading industry experts to understand in detail the future of wellness in the AC world.

The Rise In Demand: Fleeting Or Here To Stay

Right before being hit in the face by the pandemic and the bans that followed, wellness travel was cited as one of the top trends for 2020. The unprecedented times might have brought these experiences to a screeching halt but if common consensus is to be believed, wellness trends are among the first ones to see a boom.

Future Of Wellness Travel & Experiences
Vickum Nawagamuwage, Founder and CEO, Santani Wellness Resort & Spa

“The statistics from across the world, sadly, are showing that the elderly and people with medical conditions are the first ones to lose this battle. There has been a global awakening that we, humans, are not as strong as we thought. And this realisation will lead to a greater demand for wellness travel,” believes Vickum Nawagamuwage, Founder and CEO, Santani Wellness Resort & Spa.

Future Of Wellness Travel & Experiences
Dr Harald Stossier, Founder and Chief Medical Officer, VIVAMAYR

“Not only will there be more demand, but there will also be a change in demand. People will look for therapies beyond pampering, and strategies that enable a boost in immunity” added Dr Harald Stossier, Founder and Chief Medical Officer, VIVAMAYR.

Future Of Wellness Travel & Experiences
Pawan Malik, Founder, Shreyas Yoga Retreat

However, Pawan Malik, Founder, Shreyas Yoga Retreat, believes it’s too soon to say if the spike we see now is going to stand the weather. “Throughout this journey of coming out of this pandemic, we’ll have many false openings. Along with them, we also need to consider a more realistic aspect that people will be nervous and extremely conscious about others coming close to them or touching them, which has become a crucial part of the wellness industry. Yes, there will be a latent demand for wellness travel but whether that sustains or not, depends on when we get our hands on the vaccine or get comfortable with travelling again,” he says to substantiate his point.

Upping The Hygiene Game

Future Of Wellness Travel & Experiences
Alejandro Bataller, Vice President, SHA Wellness Clinic

For Alejandro Bataller, Vice President, SHA Wellness Clinic, creating an overall protective environment is the only way to go about it. “Being completely COVID-free might not be possible but we must take measures to minimise the risk. This is important for our guests as well as our staff. We, at SHA, have come up with measures like asking for a COVID test from guests while booking, and their medical check-ups upon arrival. Same goes for our staff members. We have also installed demographic cameras, highly disinfectant systems, and following strict protocols. It is difficult but also necessary,” says Bataller.

Future Of Wellness Travel & Experiences
Manoj Khetan, Co-Founder, Naad Wellness

“Our safety standards at Naad have always been equivalent to that of the leading hospitals in the country. Our team lives in a housing complex provided by Naad, so their hygiene standards are at par with what we offer at the resort as well,” informs Manoj Khetan, Co-Founder, Naad Wellness.

Malik further suggests that every country will have to deal with the challenge of offering a safe space in its own way. “India, for instance, is known for not being diligent towards these practices—hygiene is not our best foot forward. So, the wellness industry here will have to up it’s hygiene and sanitation standards to be able to convince people to come here. Not to forget how our staffs manage their own hygiene standards and how we communicate the same to our guests is also going to play a big role.”

Immunity-Boasting And Ancient Practices To Trend

When it comes to what kind of drifts wellness experts foresee trending, immunity-boosting practices and ancient wellness rituals established over the centuries top the list. Aashica Khanna, Vice President, IHHR Hospitality, believes that now is the time to be extra vigilant towards what we have to offer. “People expect more from us because we have been taking care of their health for many years. They trust us. Thankfully, Indian sciences lend very well to the low-touch form of healing. For instance, yoga and Ayurveda are such age-old and trusted interventions that effectively enhance well-being. The Ananda philosophy is built on the same pillars.”

Future Of Wellness Travel & Experiences
Aashica Khanna, Vice President, IHHR Hospitality

Nawagamuwage states that the current scenario will separate spa hotels from wellness retreats that actually focus on overall well-being, “Wellness is more than just massages. Ayurveda, for instance, is based on Panchakarma, and it doesn’t necessarily involve physical contact. Also, there has been a lot of talk about immunity-boosting therapies so naturally, that will have a demand. Another trend I see is creating a preventive gap.”

“People will be looking for less superficial and deeper holistic well-being. In short to medium term, we’ll see an increase in the demand for immunity-boosting and other treatments like plasma and infra-red therapies. I also see a rise in the demand in telemedicine services, as people are now looking for ways to stay connected to their preferred wellness retreats and wellness experts in order to keep a track of their health,” informs Bataller.

Holistic Healthy Living Is The Word

Gone are the days when a week or two spent at your favoured wellness retreat while leading a hedonic lifestyle was good enough. The change has to be more unwavering than that—a healthy lifestyle is believed to be the new norm now. “The pandemic has made people more aware of where they stand from a health perspective,” says Khetan. Naad is planning to introduce two- to three-night packages to strengthen the idea of developing a healthy lifestyle.

“There has to be more awareness of self-responsibility. At VIVAMAYR, we will focus on nutritional aspects, among other things. There are possibilities in every medical field and our job is to support them so we can help people make healthy life choices,” suggests Stossier.

Khanna suggests that their core philosophy at Ananda will cater to the same. “Based on Vedanta that refers to the culmination of knowledge, our philosophy at Ananda In The Himalayas is designed through a logical and systematic exposition of eternal truths. Just in the short term, we might need to tweak our offerings as per people’s needs.”

Related: #TnlOutreach Session 4: The Future Of Wellness Travel & Experiences | Know Your Panellists