Featured Post

Monday, January 20, 2020

Travel 2020: Transformational Travel Set to Alter the Landscape

As the year — and decade — turns, travel journalists are bombarded with client-serving PR pitches about the newest/hottest/splashiest trends. But given that change is an evolution without a clear starting date, it’s wise to employ 2020 hindsight before looking forward to how travel will unfold in 2020.
Conveniently, the recently released 18th annual Bain & Company Luxury Study, produced in conjunction with Altagamma, provides some guidance.
The pool at Ritz Carlton Bacara in
Santa Barbara, California

According to the study, the overall luxury market, encompassing both luxury goods and experiences, grew by four percent at constant exchange rates to an estimated 1.3 trillion euros globally in 2019. The growth is coming largely from Asia and from younger generations, according to the study, which was authored by Bain partners Federica Levato and Claudia D’Arpizio.

The report says that while millennials accounted for 35 percent of the luxury market in 2019, by 2025, that will rise to 45 percent. It’s members of Generation Z, however, who are poised to reshape the industry. By 2035, Gen Zers could comprise up to 40 percent of luxury buyers.

"Gen Z customers are the new frontiers of tomorrow's luxury market — and they already represent a growing portion of luxury consumption in Asia,” said D’Arpizio. They are also already showing specific consumption habits differentiating them from millennials. Therefore, going into the new decade, "luxury brands will need to connect with customers in an increasingly personal way," said D'Arpizio. "The products, experiences, and ideas that they deliver will need to flow together to appeal to the emotions of younger customers, who are diverse, global, and opinionated, and also more pragmatic than millennials."

She predicted experiential travel will progressively evolve into “achievement travel” for Gen Z, with an emphasis on travel experiences that allow them to align with community. Those experiences will need to be designed to be more sensitive to ethical and environmental standards, as Generation Z "will be more committed to social responsibility than prior generations." Moreover, the relevance of social responsibility is aligning among nationalities, with Asia catching up with the West.

The Travel Landscape Transforms

Global consultancy Euromonitor suggested that experiential luxury is set to outpace all other categories of luxury spending: “Luxury is becoming more than just a price point but a state of mind that luxury brands embody as consumers continue to seek truly authentic and transformational experiences.”

Transformational travel seems to be the term on everyone’s tongue as we enter the New Year. It’s defined by the Transformational Travel Council as “intentionally traveling to stretch, learn, and grow into new ways of being and engaging with the world.”

Currently, transformational travel is mainly linked to the wellness arena. And, in fact, a new survey of Virtuoso travel advisors specializing in wellness named meditation and mindfulness as the top travel activity their clients are seeking. That’s because clients “are looking to wellness trips to restore balance and transform mind, spirit, and body. They are seeking skills to help maintain that calm and support their mental, spiritual, and physical health once they return home.”

But in 2020, transformation is likely to break free of its wellness yoke. According to Philippe Brown, founder of luxury travel advisory Brown + Hudson, a 2020 vision of transformation includes insight, memorability, knowledge, purpose, and timeliness, all of which can permeate all levels and types of travel. 

“As travelers harness nature, culture, and social activities to connect with their inner self and to promote qualitative life changes,” said Brown, “travel won’t be so much about the where, but the why.”
Anse Cafard Slave Memorial in Martinique

Brown + Hudson has coined the term "meta travel," suggesting, Brown said, “both ‘beyond travel’ and a self-referential idea of travel that teaches you how to travel. It’s getting consumers to think about why they are traveling in the first place.”

For families looking to bond, for example, Brown + Hudson is designing trips as compelling games, like “a 14-day in-country escape room that helps families to discover themselves and wherever they are almost peripherally — and addictively,” said Brown. These are tailored journeys that include challenges, puzzles, and mysterious encounters. By turning a trip into a game, Brown said, “Serendipity and shared experiences allow families to discover places with a heightened multi-sensory awareness.” 

Providing tourists with a means of experiencing different cultures is another type of transformational travel that is gaining traction. In Luang Prabang, Laos, Amantaka has launched the Buddhist Learning Centre designed to educate guests about the principles of Buddhism. Guests can receive private daily teaching from an abbot, or they can witness monks and novices at sunrise accepting alms.

In terms of travel to remote and unfamiliar destinations, Brown noted that it's easier for Western travelers to experience transformation when they are comfortable. Providing the luxuries needed to make challenges achievable in difficult environments is key to allowing nature help the mind switch off, focus, rebalance and potentially transform, noted Brown.

Piers Schmidt, founder of London-based Luxury Branding Services, applauded forward-thinking companies like Brown's that continually eyeball trends, rather than waiting for a date on the calendar. "In the real world, consumers and the companies and brands that seek to serve them continue to adapt to the beat of a drum that has little to do with the pronouncements of forecasters and more to do with evolving commercial contexts and consumer preferences.”

“The eagle-eyed will always be able to spot interesting new things that are gaining traction in the less well-documented nooks and crannies," added Schmidt. "The trick, however, is not to seize on these willy-nilly and lazily badge them as a trend with a pithy headline, but to have the wit and imagination to interpret what such early indicators mean for you and your business and execute on them accordingly.”

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Traveling with 2020 Vision

Where’s everyone going in 2020? Check out my most recent appearance on Great Day Washington to find out.

Need more information on any of the destinations mentioned? Here you go.

Cape Verde:  

Japan National Tourism Office:  www.japan.travel

Tourist Office of Spain: https://www.spain.info/en_US/

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

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.

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. 

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
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.


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.


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.


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.