Alta Thoughts (September 2023)
By Rakesh Patel
It was great to be part of the PHIST (Phuket Hotels Island Sustaining Tourism) event and to share a panel on Sustainable Wellness. The event does an important job of keeping the discussion live around sustainability in the hospitality industry. Some of the takeaways:
The pandemic accelerated people’s awareness of their physical and mental vulnerability. This has impacted travellers purpose for travel. For example, 29% of those surveyed by Virtuoso/YouGov want to travel for wellness.
As NatGeo notes this can take multiple forms, beyond just a spa. Personalised programmes focused on specific areas like sleep, nutrition, mental health are in demand.
Expedia’s points to 46% of customers being open to “No Normal” experiences like sylvotherapy (forest bathing), food bootcamps, chakra sessions.
And there is a boom in “endorphin tourism” with travellers seeking activity trips that give them a natural high, whether it be hiking, biking or surfing.
As the World Tourism Association concludes, wellness travel allows the traveller “to maintain, enhance or kick-start a healthy lifestyle, and support or increase one’s sense of wellbeing. What constitutes a wellbeing holiday is subjective”.
Insightful to read what large travel businesses say in their Q2 numbers, especially the forward looking statements based on their broad footprint and deep data banks.
There is a healthy debate in the US between the FDA and food companies, over guidelines for “healthy” food products.
To promote better health, the FDA has proposed to cap levels of saturated fat, sodium and sugar in foods labelled “healthy”. The Consumer Brands Association (CBA), representing the food companies, argues that the rules are overly stringent and not backed by scientific evidence, linking these foods with diet-related disease. Interestingly, they claim a first amendment right to use the word “healthy”.
Surely everyone can agree that what is needed is more transparency around the food we eat, alongside thorough scientific research of food consumption cause and effect. Easier said than done though, with the current mis-aligned interests and incentives.