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October 29, 2013updated Jun 15, 2014

Wellness Resorts & Spas: Putting Your Health First

By Chris Boyle

Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary and Holistic Spa ResortNo one can deny the health benefits of a short ski vacation, yachting trip or a holiday lounging by the pool. But recently, a trend has been emerging for breaks focused on taking a proactive approach to improving physical and mental health.

With a shift in focus from ‘beauty and pampering’ to ‘health and wellness’ within the luxury spa world, Elite speaks to the experts for the reasons behind the move and takes a look at some of the most exciting properties at the forefront of the wellness trend.

It’s official: Today’s hectic pace of life is having a negative impact on our health. From jetlag to sedentary board meetings, overindulgence and the stresses of professional life, the modern world is doing little to help us in the quest to live better for longer.

Which is why it’s no surprise that wellness tourism is a sector that’s been on the rise in recent years – with the world’s jetsetters leading the charge. Now worth an impressive a $438.6 billion to the global market, this area of travel is predicted to grow almost twice as fast as overall global tourism from now until 2017, currently accounting for about 14% ($438.6 billion) of all tourism expenditures.

So what exactly does the term ‘wellness’ represent? Ultimately, it refers to a state of “complete physical and mental wellbeing”, according to a recent report by the Global Spa & Wellness Summit, and any activities that can contribute to achieving or maintaining this state.

From meditation and tai chi to mountainbiking and intravenous vitamin drips, wellness resorts and spas are offering a range of activities to improve health, prevent disease and help you come out feeling revitalized and ready to face life’s challenges with a new-found focus.

But why are global travelers suddenly taking their health into their own hands and using their vacation time to address health concerns such as stress, weight loss and fitness levels?

Karina Stewart, founder of Kamalaya Wellness Resort in Koh Samui, Thailand, says that it’s all about taking responsibility for your future wellbeing: “I think that people realise that they have to participate in their health and wellbeing and in how they’re going to age over time.

“I believe they now know that having money and then expecting to go to a doctor and have the doctor take care of them, that is a model that has let us all down.”

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At Kamalaya, guests are offered an extensive range of services and treatments – from Ayurvedic massage and acupuncture through to stress management sessions and nutritional guidance – with the focus on the personal goal of the individual, whether it be weight loss, detox or sleep enhancement.

Results oriented, holistic programs are key to the concept in general, as is a shift in focus within spas away from superficial beauty treatments and temporary respite from stress to more long-term health benefits.

“Previously, when people have thought of a spa they’ve just thought of a facial or a treatment; it’s been about a bit of relaxation but with no real health benefits,” explains Helen Greenhow of specialist UK tour operator Wellbeing Escapes.

“And now, it’s really about health and it’s about, ‘Yes, you look better’, but that’s more a bonus result; it’s not the aim.

“It’s about making yourself feel better from within, kick-starting the release of toxins. So more and more places are researching and hiring appropriate staff, taking a philosophy – whether it’s traditional Chinese medicine or macrobiotics or raw food – and applying it.”

“It’s lifestyle. It’s holistic,” says Stewart of Kamalaya’s philosophy. “It’s the recognition that we have the capacity to have a very big impact on our state of wellbeing and our health state through lifestyle and prevention. And prevention is key.”

So what can guests hope to take away with them after a short break for a week or two at a luxury wellness destination?

“Nutritional and fitness advice, meditation; different tools that they can use as little or as much as they want,” says Stewart.

“The experience lasts for a very very long time – it’s much deeper than skin deep. And they have tools to keep reinforcing that. Sometimes it’s only a couple of lifestyle changes, but those changes, if they’re really integrated, build and last for the individual.”

Greenhow is in agreement: “It’s not just about being healthy when they’re away; it’s about kick-starting a change when they’re back. Just a few small changes can make quite a big difference.”

Read on to discover some of the best wellness resorts and spas from around the globe.

(Image Credit: Kamalaya Koh Samui. Copyright © by Kamalaya Co.Ltd.)

Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary & Spa Resort – Koh Samui, Thailand

Kamalaya Spa Resort Alchemy Tea Lounge

Nestled within lush tropical splendour, Koh Samui’s Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary merges eastern and western healing treatments, offering a range of over 70 services from Ayurvedic massage to tai chi and personal yoga instruction.

Whether your primary concern is weight loss, increased fitness or stress management, there is a program here to address it, with personalized plans and a la carte services also available.

Although your one or two week stay at Kamalaya is results orientated, the approach at this wellness resort is – at its core – holistic, ultimately focused on addressing not just your physical needs, but your emotional and spiritual ones too.

(Image Credit: Kamalaya Koh Samui. Copyright © by Kamalaya Co.Ltd.)

SHA Wellness Clinic – Alicante, Spain

SHA Wellness Clinic, Alicante, Spain

If the ‘fountain of youth’ were found to exist, it would undoubtedly be hiding at the futuristic SHA Wellness Clinic in Alicante, Spain.

Set upon a picturesque Mediterranean mountainside, this cutting edge clinic aims to slow down the aging process and prevent illness through the combined powers of ancient oriental practices and pioneering advances in western medicine.

Forget about eating carbs here, as the modern macrobiotic diet is at the heart of SHA’s philosophy, with a Japanese and Mediterranean inspired menu tailored to each guest’s personal needs.

Non invasive aesthetic procedures and anti–aging treatments are also available as part of a fully personalized experience. The aim here is to help you foster healthy habits you can carry on long after your stay, but how much you take away from two weeks of re-booting at SHA will ultimately be down to you.

Espace Henri Chenot, Palace Merano – Merano, Italy

Once the well-kept secret of the Italian fashion industry, Espace Henri Chenot is a wellness spa primarily focused on detoxing your mind, body and soul.

Regularly inhabited by high profile visitors including Elle MacPherson and Princess Caroline of Monaco, this distinctly western spa offers high tech detox, energy and anti-aging programs in a setting that additionally boasts one of the best climates in the world.

Henri Chenot pioneered the detox concept more than 30 years ago, so you can rest assured that at his luxury ‘espace’ you are guaranteed to receive the energy boost that you so desperately crave in one of the most luxurious settings possible.

Ananda in the Himalayas – Uttarakhand, India

Ananda in the Himalayas palace

The first ever destination spa in India, Ananda in the Himalayas has built up a significant worldwide reputation in recent years, with accolades from almost every major travel publication.

Focused on the traditional Indian systems of Yoga and Ayurveda combined with the best in international therapies, this retreat has an approach to wellbeing that is both spiritual and holistic.

Offering everything from yogic cleansing and meditation to Swedish massage, Ananda – meaning ‘bliss and contentment’ in Sanskrit – describes its experience as a ‘private journey to understanding the self’.

After your stay, there is an optional 30 minute consultation with an Ayurvedic physician, who will make recommendations on lifestyle and dietary changes you can implement upon your return from your idyllic stay in the hills.

Canyon Ranch Arizona – Tucson, Arizona

Canyon Ranch Tucson ArizonaWith a fully comprehensive approach to addressing your wellbeing, Canyon Ranch’s property in Tucson, Arizona is a luxury destination with a difference.

Based at the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains, guests are perfectly positioned to get active and enjoy everything from desert hiking and biking trails to tennis, swimming and braving the high flying zipline of the High Ropes Challenge Course.

The all encompassing, no nonsense experience is ideal for the lone traveler and also offers up ‘spiritual fitness’ classes, nutritional guidance, spa treatments and workshops in stress management.

With a three-to-one staff to guest ratio and respected medical physicians at the dedicated Health & Healing Center, no stone will be left unturned in helping you to achieve optimum health and make better lifestyle choices for the future.


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