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Showing posts with label wellness Travel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label wellness Travel. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Five Wellness Experiences to Enjoy in Nature

There’s nothing like a global pandemic to wake people up to the wonders of Mother Nature, whether it’s in the form of countryside, coastline or mountains. And that’s not by chance. The science behind the benefits of nature is proven, to the point where both doctors and wellness practitioners are increasingly prescribing outdoor activities that reap medicinal benefits, without the side effects. This “discovery” of the healing power of nature has pushed wellness vacations in nature to the top of health-conscious travelers’ lists. Here are five ways up your wellness quotient naturally, on your next trip.


Find Open Sky


There are few things more awe-inspiring than gazing up at a night sky untouched by light pollution. Stars that you didn’t even know existed glimmer brightly, and constellations and the Milky Way are easily visible. Looking up at a dark sky is a stellar wellness experience, often resulting in a meditative, beta-wave state.

If you want to take a star trek, head first to the International Dark-Sky Association website. IDSA certifies places with night sky-friendly lighting. The best of the best are called Dark Sky Sanctuaries. There are only ten of them in the entire world, and only one is in the United States. Cosmic Campground is in the Gila National Forest in the western part of New Mexico. Those with a fear of the dark need not apply. The closest source of man-made light is about 40 miles away. There aren’t a lot of hotels around here, either. So, after gazing up, you might want to plunk yourself down in Silver City, which is about an hour away.

Woodland Wellness

Since being developed in Japan 40 years ago, forest bathing has become somewhat of a global sensation. We’re not just talking about a walk in the woods here. A forest bath is a total immersion into the sights, sounds and smells of the woods. Several American resorts now offer guided forest bathing experiences as part of their wellness menus.

The Lodge at Spruce Peak is a year-round resort located in Stowe, Vermont. Its guided excursion explores the Green Mountains. Don’t be surprised if the guide asks you to take off your shoes, as contact with the wet, cool ground is believed to create a stronger connection to nature. The Lodge at Woodloch in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains brags about its certified Forest Bathing Specialists, who lead two-hour jaunts that focus on breathing and mind-clearing.

Say Hay

Sleeping on hot, wet hay was first popularized in Italy’s Dolomites. Farmers who cut hay used to sleep on it after a long day of work. But the new version of the practice is not just a roll in the hay. Wellness-seeking straw sleepers will instead find themselves wrapped in bales infused with fermented mountain herbs. The active substances in the herbs have a calming and anti-inflammatory action, and are said to strengthen the immune system and promote circulation.

While hay bathing is offered at many resorts in the Dolomites and has also spread to some places in Eastern Europe, it’s not a wellness option easily found in North America. Right now, the best bet may be a visit to Chicago’s Piva Beer Spa. As its name suggests, this place offers soaking rooms with wooden tubs filled with a brew of barley, hops and brewer’s yeast. After soaking up the beer bath, guests are moved to a relaxation room, where they lie on beds of hay. For those who want to roll straight from the hay to a comfy mattress, the closest hotel is The Robey, located in trendy Wicker Park.

Hot Spring Bubbles

The healing powers of hot springs have been appreciated for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks, the ancient Romans and the Founding Fathers were all fans of natural waters warmed geothermally. Due to their high mineral contact, hot springs are reputed to have a number of therapeutic benefits, including boosting immunity and circulation, reducing stress and relieving pain.

There are plentiful natural hot springs throughout the Mountain West. However, many are hard to find, and don’t have facilities nearby. To soak without roughing it, check out the Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop. If you follow the entire 720-mile route in the western part of the state, you can experience hot springs in 17 different destinations. Two of the top resort towns along the loop are Pagosa Springs and Glenwood Hot Springs.

Knee-Deep in Kneipping




Back in the 19th century, a German priest named Sebastian Kneipp revolutionized naturopathy. He came up with an idea to develop nature trails where people would wander barefoot through hot and cold water, and over sand, pebbles and forest ground. Countless Germans swear by the practice. While kneipping courses are abundant in the old country, Kneipp knowledge hasn’t seemed to translate to North America. So, if you want to try kneipping without stepping on a plane, head to a forest dotted with glacial waters and set your own course. Give kneipping a whirl, for example, in the Adirondacks or Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.


A version of this article appeared on the Orbitz blog.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Wellness Travel Expert Makes the Rounds to Sun Valley/Talks Forest Bathing and Kneipping



My recent presentation at the Idaho Tourism Conference was covered by Eye on Sun Valley (see link below story). While the reporter got my name and title wrong, and altered the last quote, I leave the story largely unedited for your reading pleasure.

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Imagine having your doctor write a prescription for you to take a walk in the woods! That could be the future of tourism in Sun Valley.

Sun Valley and the Gem State are uniquely positioned to capitalize on wellness tourism, which is “huge” worldwide and the fastest growing sector of the tourism industry, according to a wellness travel reporter for Skift.


Photo by Laura Powell

"What you have here is a must for the wellness traveler,” Laurel Powell told those attending the annual Idaho Conference on Recreation and Tourism held this past week at Sun Valley Resort. “You have quiet and opportunity for interaction with nature in a day when most Americans live in urban areas without much access to nature. What you have is unparalleled, particularly in the Lower 48.”

Outdoor recreation is a $427.2 billion business, and it’s growing more than twice as fast as the overall economy, increasing 16 percent versus the 7.5 percent that the overall economy grew between 2012 and 2017. Nature-based recreation is growing even faster—up to 44 percent for some states. Idaho is one of the states experiencing some of the largest growth in nature-based recreation.

Even spas that have traditionally incorporated everything inside are now offering outdoor activities and bringing in elements from the outdoors inside with lobby fountains and natural colors in their design.

“We think of wellness travel as spas and massages, but it’s becoming more than that,” Powell said.  “Everyone’s disconnected so they’re looking to boost their psychological well-being.”

How cool would yoga or meditation, she asked, under the stars in Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve be? Sun Valley and other Idaho towns could easily become centers for forest bathing, a practice developed in Japan that involves meditative guided walks through the woods engaging all the senses from sight to smell. 

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Forest bathing is known as “shinrin-yoku,” which means “taking in the forest.”
Photo by Karen Bossick
Trees and plants emit aromas called phytoncides designed to protect them from harmful insects, animals and microbes. Those and other smells are believed to help lower blood pressure, while boosting the immune system, improving sleep, lowering anxiety and reducing pain in forest bathers. It can be done in winter, as well as summer, spring and fall, Powell said. Add-ons like fly-fishing outings could offer forest bathers reason to stay longer.

Photo by Laura Powell

Some countries are also attracting people with kneipping, which involves walking along water trails or through puddles to stimulate blood flow and strengthen the immune system. “As far as I know, no one is offering this yet in the United States—it’s very unique,” said Powell.

Some places, such as Newfoundland and Finland, are selling isolation.
“Boise is supposed to be the most isolated urban area in the United States. That’s not a bad thing—being isolated and in the middle of nowhere is increasingly becoming a big draw,” Powell said. “People in Los Angeles and urban centers where they’re so rushed are craving that.”

Some tourism campaigns are even selling the sounds of silence. A 400-year-old monastery in Quebec City, for instance, hosts a week-long silence retreat where attendees join one another in a silent breakfast and happy hour is held in the chapel.

Honing in on Hot Springs


Image result for idaho hot springs images
visitidaho.com
Hot springs were once a big draw for the Wood River Valley when Guyer Hot Springs and a few hot springs near Hailey were going full bore. Traveling to hot springs for wellness is making a comeback.

The inaugural hot springs conference was held last year and a hot springs association was organized last  month, Powell said.
Hot springs are being augmented with restaurants and opportunities for artists to show and sell their art to elevate the experience. Tiny homes and Airstream trailers are offering alternative accommodations in places with no hotels. The experience can be enhanced with such things as bike tours to the hot springs, Powell said.

Colorado has established a 720-mile Historic Hot Springs Loop that takes geothermal bathers through Ouray, Glenwood Springs, Steamboat Springs, Pagosa Springs, Buena Vista and Salida.

“The No. 1 search on the Colorado tourist website in recent years has been hot springs,” Powell said. “People won’t go in the middle of nowhere for one hot spring, but put them together and, all of a sudden, towns that never got visitors are seeing tourism.”

Even urban areas are trying to position themselves as wellness destinations, according to Powell. Beverly Hills, California, for instance, recently kicked off a new “City of Wellth” initiative to showcase its wellness options. (LP⁠—This was not part of the talk, but taken from an article I wrote for Skift two years ago).

The campaign kicked off with meditation and other events led by wellness guru Deepak Chopra. It includes weekly public Walks with the Mayor and more restaurant choices for vegans, vegetarians, paleo dieters and locavores.

“It helps to tie local foods into community wellness programs,” Powell said. “It doesn’t feel very authentic when you go on a wellness vacation and all you see are Burger Kings.” 


Sunday, October 20, 2019

Why the Hot Springs Movement is Gaining Steam in the United States

The ancient Greeks did it. So did the ancient and not-so-ancient Romans, Japanese, and Chinese. Heck, even some of the founding fathers of the United States did it too. But despite its illustrious past, the idea of taking the waters has never really caught on in the United States, until now. Hot springs could be on the verge of a major wellness moment.


Glenwood Hot Springs


For centuries, many European and Asian cultures have viewed mineral-fed hot springs as a source of health, wellness, and healing. But according to the Global Wellness Institute, the sector is quite underdeveloped in North America, due to a lack of a historic bathing culture that is prevalent elsewhere. The times are changing, however, as more Americans are looking to nature for its power to calm and rejuvenate.
In the United States, hot springs have traditionally been seen in recreational terms rather than as a wellness endeavor, according to Vicky Nash, a tourism consultant who is dedicated to professionalizing the hot springs industry. Thanks to the efforts of Nash and a former U.S. senator, among others, hot springs are suddenly being reframed as wellness destinations across the country.

MOM-AND-POP OPERATIONS IN TRANSITION

According to Nash, about 28 states have hot springs in one form or another, although the majority are in the West and Southwest. Many of these waters are on public land, and a few are contained within fancy resort complexes. But for the most part, hot springs facilities are rustic mom-and-pop operations, solely offering a soak in the forms of mineral bathing and swimming. Some are a little more tricked-out, with extras like massage rooms and dining outlets.
Many of these smaller operations, long in need of a facelift, are in the process of changing hands. According to Nash, “A lot of the smaller hot springs facilities were established in the 1970s. Now those owners are selling, and new owners, including investment groups, are coming in with an interest of revamping them and getting them up to speed” for the growing wellness market.
That’s why many facilities, shuttered for years, are reopening, some with multimillion dollar investments. For example, a Phoenix-based couple, Mike and Cindy Watts, purchased the ailing Arizona Castle Hot Springs in 2014. The original facility was built at the end of the 19th century, but it was abandoned during the 1970s. Earlier this year, it reopened as a luxury healing center for the well-heeled. Some of the bungalows, complete with private outdoor tubs, list at $1,600 per night.
Mark Begich is another person betting on the business. The Alaskan businessman purchased Carson Hot Springs in the late 1990s. His company refurbished the property’s historic buildings, located just a few miles from Nevada’s state capitol. Also added were a restaurant and brewpub, making the facility more of a destination versus a pass-through. He, along with a group of investors, also owns Jemez Hot Springs and CaƱon Del Rio Inn and Spa in Jemez Springs, New Mexico.

BUILDING A NETWORK

Begich, by the by, is not just your run-of-the-mill developer. He heads up Northern Compass Group, a business and strategic communications consultancy. And he happens to be a former U.S. senator (D-Alaska). After leaving the swamp in 2014, he jumped back into the hot springs arena. First, he purchased those New Mexico properties and now, he’s become the force behind the development of the brand-new (as of October 2019) Hot Springs Association.
Begich pointed out, “In rural areas, local-level mom-and-pop businesses are critical to the economy. In remote areas, developing these facilities brings in money from outside the community and creates jobs.” But for the most part, they have been left to their own devices  By creating an association, individual operators will experience strength in numbers.
“There are so many layers of the business, but no one is coordinating information,” said Begich. Having an association to bring together hot springs operators across the United States “means these small businesses can pool resources, joining together to have purchasing and marketing power.”
Schawna Thoma is vice president of Begich’s Northern Compass Group. “Most hot springs are family-run, and people often feel isolated or intimidated about reaching out. We will serve as a network for these people, and offer tools and serve as an information resource.” The organization will allow small properties to band together to build awareness, while also doing less sexy things, like helping to negotiate water rights, share new technology, and develop affordable insurance programs. It will also start tracking visitor numbers and economic impact.

LAYING THE GROUNDWORK FOR GROWTH

The latter, said Begich, will be of immense help to operators seeking loans. “Right now, hot springs are difficult to finance,” according to Begich, “because the classification is difficult. That’s why the data is critical; it’s for financiers to understand the business.” That understanding may lead to a simpler lending process.
Vicky Nash is another person bringing together resources for the hot springs community. She helped develop the Colorado Historic Hot Springs Loop, which links five hot springs destinations in the western part of the state. During its five years in existence, each of the five communities has experienced an increase in tourism.
Nash last year launched the Hot Springs Connection. It’s the first conference in the United States dedicated solely to the needs of hot springs operators. The conference, the second of which is scheduled for November, allow operators to exchange ideas and get educated on topics ranging from water sanitation to tourism marketing.
Now that the industry has its own trade association, its own annual conference, and, to a certain degree, a new generation of owners, hot springs may be destined to become the next hot thing in wellness tourism.

This article originally appeared on Skift. I am Skift's luxury editor and wellness correspondent.