A recent study by American Express Travel reveals 72% of American travelers say they’re more focused on self-care than a year ago, and 57% plan to take an extended wellness-focused vacation within a year.
After becoming one of the hottest trends in travel following the pandemic, wellness travel shows no signs of slowing down in 2024. But while high-end wellness experiences explode — with sky-high price tags to match — is the wellness travel experience getting out of reach for the average traveler?
Wellness-focused travelers are starting to skip world-famous wellness spots for more wallet-friendly experiences. They’re finding an even more nuanced definition of wellness in the process.
Wild for Wellness
While wellness travel has been steadily increasing for years, especially in the wake of travelers escaping the stresses of the pandemic, data compiled by the Global Wellness Institute shows how rapidly it has taken off.
In the organization’s 2023 Global Wellness Economy Monitor report, wellness spending is projected to continue to increase rapidly, with a particularly strong emphasis on wellness travel and tourism. Wellness tourism has had a 36% annual growth rate since 2020, with the entire wellness economy growing at a yearly rate of 8.6%. That industry is predicted to reach $7.4 trillion in value by the end of the year.
Travel is increasingly seen as a part of emotional and mental health, leading those from younger generations to invest in transformative travel experiences as their own form of wellness.
Many impressive destinations are taking up the mantle of being particularly wellness-focused when branding their destination for potential visitors. From U.S. locations that draw locals looking for more frequent wellness experiences to far-off bucket list attractions, it’s a can’t-lose way to market destinations, and there are plenty of ways to do it.
“Wellness doesn’t have to be expensive, and it doesn’t have to look the same for everyone,” says Sandra Felix of Visit Baja California Sur. “Experiencing wellness while traveling is about finding your own definition of wellness, whether it means taking a sunrise hike, going diving or doing any other adventurous activity, or enjoying a massage and a yoga class.”
The nuance of defining such a nebulous term as “wellness” is part of why Baja California Sur is doing an impressive job of marketing itself as a wellness destination. The southern half of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula, Baja California Sur, somehow does every definition of wellness well.
The small beach town of Loreto on the Sea of Cortez is a prime example of the region’s appeal for wellness-focused travelers. There’s nothing too fancy, oversized, or busy about laid-back Loreto, which is all part of the appeal. The mountainous islands of Loreto, part of the region’s UNESCO World Heritage designation for their immense biodiversity, punch through the Sea of Cortez just offshore, making this seafront spot even more magical.
Adventurous travelers count sailing to the islands and snorkeling at empty, white-sand beaches among the best things to do during a stay in Loreto. It’s also a haven for whale-watching, diving, sport fishing, and more, making it a dream for those with an active definition of wellness traveler. Desert canyons and richly preserved natural areas make it a haven for hikers. Even when the town is booked out with visitors watching the prestigious annual Baja 1000 off-road race that passes through town, Loreto feels perfectly peaceful and far from busy.
Travelers looking for rest and relaxation find that in Loreto, too. A burgeoning community of wellness gurus means there are plenty of ways to unwind while connecting to the higher self. From sound baths and cacao ceremonies on the beach to temazcal ceremonies that call upon ancient Mesoamerican wisdom, the options are diverse.
For those looking for a less “new age” experience, more traditional spa services like massages and facials cost just a fraction of what they would in the U.S. Couple the experience with a sunrise paddleboard (SUP) yoga session on the beach and a stroll on the oceanfront promenade before ending the night with freshly baked chocolate clams — a Loreto specialty — and it’s hard to imagine not coming away relaxed and restored.
“Loreto is a destination that naturally encourages relaxation,” says Felix. “You don’t have to plan a wellness-focused vacation to Loreto to feel that. It’s part of what makes it such a great choice for both wellness beginners and those looking for a little more structure and focus to a wellness itinerary.”
Costly Los Cabos
Travelers familiar with the world-class destination of Los Cabos may be surprised to learn that other parts of Mexico have an increasing array of things to offer the wellness traveler.
Los Cabos has had many wellness experiences to offer and is home to some of the most exclusive resorts in Mexico. Outposts of internationally acclaimed, exclusive wellness brands like The WELL at Chileno Bay Resort & Residences, Auberge Resorts Collection, are open, making Los Cabos a haven for Californians needing an escape. While the buzziest spa and wellness treatments are just one way to experience Los Cabos, they’re priced out of reach for most average travelers.
Flights to Los Cabos are a prime access point for travelers to the rest of Baja California Sur. However, increasingly well-served airports in the region’s smaller cities mean travelers can now more easily bypass the city entirely. American Airlines offers daily direct flights from Phoenix to Loreto and two weekly flights from Dallas, while Alaska Airlines connects San Francisco and Los Angeles to the city.
Even more flight options out of the region’s capital of La Paz, about four hours south of Loreto, help keep costs low and the travel experience hassle-free.
This article was produced by Media Decision and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.