The Year of Experiential Wellness

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what is experiential wellness

It used to be that a workout was good enough. So was a quiet vacation near the beach, or a fun, family afternoon at a festival. Now, we have experiential wellness. 

But today, “wellness” has taken center stage. More people are combining exercise with other things they love. From pets to alcohol, they’re actively seeking out activities that promise to improve their physical, mental and emotional well-being. All at the same time.

Some experts call 2020 “The Year of Experiential Wellness”. People want fun combined with wellness, and businesses are rising to the call. According to a 2019 survey that is part of the MINDBODY Wellness Index, Experiential Wellness is on the rise. 55% of those surveyed plan to attend at least one wellness event this year.

But others say Experiential Wellness already is the norm, and it’s time to raise the bar.

Going where Physical, Mental and Emotional Meet

24% of the MINDBODY respondents said a spa retreat was on the top of their list for 2020. Meditative yoga classes often are included, along with many other fitness and beauty services.

“In 2017 we saw beer yoga, wine yoga, acro yoga, goat yoga, dog yoga, cannabis yoga, laughter yoga, aqua yoga, paddle board yoga, and more,” according to doyou.com. “We expect to see this trend of experience-centered yoga classes continue.”

Experiential and Beyond

The MINDBODY team says yoga is but one of many activities that wellness businesses will focus on. Creating the ultimate “physical-meets-mental-meets-emotional experiences.”

“Think educational workshops, sensory immersion retreats, and other events that tie in multiple dimensions of wellness,” the article reads. “One of our favorites is Camp Yoga—a 3-day immersive camp in stunning locations with yoga, outdoor activities … and wine!”

Being part of a group, reminiscent of summer camp or team sports from childhood, making good friends and working together to win. These are a common theme in many experiential wellness offerings.

But a number of travel businesses say these offerings fall short.

“When it comes to luxury and wellness travel, those overly used descriptors, ‘authentic’ andexperiential’ are so, well, last year,” writes Jeri Clausing, for travelweekly.com.

Well-Being Achieved through “Transformative” Journeys

Clausing points out that the travel industry replaced “experiential,” with “transformative” in 2018, when the Global Wellness Summit released its Global Wellness Trends Report.

In short, Clausing writes, transformative means “experiences that wrap people up in a dramatic story or sense of theater, that can incite, using the powerful mechanisms of narrative and fantasy, that elusive, perspective-changing, interior journey.”

As an example, Clausing cites how Six Senses Travels, a specialty tour company, has launched a multi-lodge wellness circuit in Bhutan that takes guests to one of five resorts to focus on Bhutan happiness principles including culture, community and physical and mental well-being.

A similar mission is growing in the travel industry. Of many examples, SwellWomen.com appears quickly when you search “experiential wellness.” It is a wellness and travel community that “fosters life-transforming connections, education and experiences in beautiful, welcoming environments both online and in retreats all over the globe.  SwellWomen inspires women to seek a life of bliss through a focus on health, happiness, and discovery of the authentic self.”

A customer review from Theresa says: “The retreats seem to have this magical way of helping me to re-center and be mindful of how important it is to take care of and to challenge yourself outside of that comfort zone. …  I left with experiences I won’t soon forget, but most importantly, left feeling confident and determined.”

Where Do We Go From Here?

Back at home, businesses across the United States are clamoring for their share of the wellness industry. Even when their product isn’t necessarily about wellness. Take, for example, Michelob’s participation in the 2019 South by Southwest (SXSW) film and music festival, where vendors focused on wellness.

Michelob’s “experiential director,” (yes many companies have them,) told the media: “We are about creating an unforgettable experience here at SXSW and to be thought of as synonymous with what modern wellness looks like. To be interested in wellness is for anyone who cares about their bodies, which is pretty much everyone these days.”

So, the lines have blurred. Even traditional festivals focus on wellness, and 15% of those in the MINDBODY survey said they would attend a wellness event in 2020. But these respondents are not trying to find a low-calorie, low-carb beer like Michelob Ultra.

This brings up another notable finding of the MINDBODY survey. 68% of respondents said that integrative medicine was a good complement to modern medicine. They expressed eagerness to try or continue to use alternative therapies, acupuncture, acupressure, meditation, visualization and guided imagery in 2020.

No surprises here. Stay tuned for more updates on the continued wellness trend in 2020!

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