Wellness means more than just a January detox – UK-based product now includes everything from ‘eco therapy’ to forest bathing.

Bubble trouble

There’s something very unnatural about stripping down to a swimsuit on a bleak winter’s night in East Sussex. It’s pitch black and I’ve left the comfort of a roaring fire to tiptoe across an icy deck - a move I instantly regret - but as I sink into the warm water of the bubbling hot tub, my fortitude soon pays off.

Still slightly windswept I recount the day's ramble, the crashing waves at Beachy Head like no force I’ve witnessed before and the bite of the sea breeze still stinging my face, but I feel invigorated.

Slowly my aches melt away and the canopy of rustling trees above me provides the perfect soundtrack. I relax into a dreamlike state until my fingers wrinkle in protest.

My only dilemma now is getting out.

Body and mindfulness

The demand for wellness travel in the UK goes far beyond a massage in a country house spa. Operators are now tapping into holidays associated with mindfulness, healthy living and boosting self-development.

According to Visit Scotland’s 2019 Insight Trends, wellness travellers are looking for experiences that enlighten the senses and ‘feed the soul’. The good news for agents is that they tend to be high-spending, high-yield tourists, especially in the domestic market where the premium is 178% higher than the average domestic tourist.

‘Ecotherapy’, defined as the emotional benefits and long-term health improvements associated with time spent in green spaces, is a trend recognised in the report. It sites yoga retreats, challenging long distance walks and the new North Coast 500 road - a scenic route showcasing Scotland's wilderness - as being instrumental in the country’s appeal to tap into wellness tourism.

The report states: “Scotland’s abundant natural assets of landscape, culture, food and drink, and heritage, combined with a varied and vibrant tourism industry, makes us well placed to embrace and capitalise on the global wellness tourism movement.”

Tour operator Wilderness Scotland offers a number of women-only walking holidays designed to encourage women to develop their love of and confidence in the outdoors and to meet like-minded adventurers.

New to the programme is the Wilderness Walking Glencoe and the Highlands trip, which takes in views of Highland Perthshire and the Glencoe valley. The tour departs August 15, 2020 and costs £1,895pp.

Meanwhile, Ramblers Walking Holidays (RWH) has a useful grading system to help agents choose a walk suitable to their client.

New for 2020 is RWH's Wonders of Snowdonia tour, which explores parts of the 83-mile-long Slate Trail over the hills and through the valleys and forests of Wales. The trip departs May 31, June 28, August 4 and September 13, 2020, priced from £729pp.

“With a growing interest in more healthy holidays and walking offering numerous health benefits, we are definitely seeing an increased interest in our holidays,” says Paco Gonzalez, Sales & Reservations Manager, at RWH. "Our holidays are the perfect solution to experiencing the country and, of course, for enjoying the many benefits that exercising brings as you go.

"And with some fantastic UK holidays with a shorter duration, these make a great entry point for agents to recommend to clients that want to try out a group walking holiday before booking one of longer duration trips or one further afield," he said.

Shearings Holidays has introduced a new selection of self-guided walking breaks in various locations across the UK, ranging from Ben Nevis in Scotland, Mount Snowdon in Wales, Helvellyn in the Lake District and the Bedruthen Steps in Newquay to the Sandown to Ryde coastal walk on the Isle of Wight.

“The UK has so much to offer in terms of relaxation," says Jane Atkins, Managing Director at Shearings Holidays.

"Many destinations offer incredible scenery and great opportunities to unwind, and when it's all arranged by an expert tour operator it really couldn’t be easier. These are a great option for customers who want to combine the ease of travelling to our hotels by coach, with the opportunity to explore the great outdoors by foot,” she said.

Healing hotspots

The Japanese concept of ‘Shinrin Yoku’, or forest bathing, has been linked to reduced rates of cardiovascular illness and Type 2 diabetes. Despite its name, forest bathing doesn’t require you to strip down to a bathing suit, it is simply the practice of slowing down and immersing yourself in the forest atmosphere.

The National Trust claims that two hours of mindful exploration in a forest could reduce blood pressure, lower cortisol (stress hormone) levels and improve concentration and memory. That's because trees release chemicals called phytoncides, which have an anti-microbial effect on human bodies, boosting the immune system.

UK operator Forest Holidays has naturally got onboard with the trend and offers Forest Bathing sessions when staying at one of its Blackwood Forest cabins. The experience includes a guided walk through the forest with the chance to meditate in the surroundings and ends with a shared tea ceremony using foraged plants.

Bubble breaks

Although wellness product is expanding, spas and hot tub breaks continue to be in high demand. “Hot tub holidays or ‘bubble breaks’ have been growing year-on-year,” says Sally Henry, Sales Director at Awaze UK – Hoseasons’ parent group. “More than 40 of our locations across the UK offer spa and wellness facilities, from in-lodge treatments to full spa packages, with breaks to these locations now accounting for nearly 20% of our bookings."

She adds: "They are ideal for groups of friends and perfect for pre- and post-wedding breaks - something we cater for through our Evermore and Autograph luxury lodge collections. And many of our Go Active locations also have spa facilities.”

Warner Leisure Hotels offers a range of spa breaks in the UK including pampering and treatment packages at Grade two-listed Studley Castle in Warwickshire.

A two-night spa break includes dinner and breakfast, an evening or morning spa session, 55 minutes of treatment time and a TempleSpa set. Clients can also try yoga, archery, zumba and more. Agents can book a Warner Leisure Hotels break from £199pp with a £10 deposit at any one of the brand’s 14 retreats between January and June 2020.