The pandemic has altered the way we travel, from COVID testing to mobile check-ins at hotels to using QR codes in restaurants. While some recent changes may prove temporary, others are part of longer-term trends, from purposely built wellness sanctuaries to epic bucket-list getaways.
Here are Forbes Travel Guide’s four top luxury travel trends to spot this year:
Searching for Wellness
People are looking for wellness outside of the home. In a September 2021 American Express survey, 76% of respondents said they wanted to spend more on travel to improve their well-being, and 55% said they’d pay extra for wellness activities on future vacations. This trend should continue to expand: Wellness tourism will see a 21% annual growth rate from 2020 to 2025, according to a December 2021 report from the Global Wellness Institute.
Taking note of this demand, hotels have made sure that finding wellness on vacation means more than simply hitting the spa. Instead, a new crop of getaways caters to every aspect of your well-being. On the Hawaiian island of Lanai, Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort uses a scientific approach to help you on a path to all-encompassing wellness. After your sensei (a health expert who oversees your stay) tests everything from your blood pressure to functional movements, you get a personalized itinerary of classes and activities that could include a full-body strength circuit, a lakefront meditation session and a treatment in the indoor-outdoor hales (individual spa villas), all of which take place on lush, tropical grounds dotted with sculptures. You may also enjoy off-site activities, such as an e-bike ride through the red mountains. Building on the wellness trend’s momentum, the new brand is set to open another hotel, Sensei Porcupine Creek, this year in Palm Springs.
Over in the Maldives, at JOALI BEING, which debuted last November, you undergo an integrative lifestyle assessment whose results help you choose a personalized journey that includes workouts (everything from yoga to muay thai), nourishing food (subtle suggestions might include adding ginger and turmeric to your meals to improve digestion), targeted spa services and individualized blends at the herbology center (it’s like an inviting tea lounge, where an herbalist will prepare a soothing cup to help what ails you). At the end of the day, your wellness journey continues, retiring to a breathtaking overwater villa with its own infinity pool and swing, proving that one of the best treatments is traveling to tranquil locales away from everyday stresses.
Crossing Off the Bucket List
Given the recent wider health crises, travelers are no longer relegating their bucket lists to the file labeled “one day”—they are taking their dream trips now. They’re seeking once-in-a-lifetime experiences like Shangri-La Hotel, Vancouver’s ice cave adventure. The Vancouver hotel sends you in a private helicopter to Whistler’s untouched snow-covered mountaintops. From there, a guide will lead you down into a real-life Fortress of Solitude, with gleaming walls that resemble white marble and archways strung with powder-blue icicles, along with a photographer on hand throughout to capture every icy Instagrammable moment. After wandering through the caves and learning about their origins, a five-course meal awaits in the snow.
If you want to explore the wonders of the ocean, learn freediving—the extreme sport where you descend into the deep with only a snorkel, fins and one inhale of breath—at the recently revamped Four Seasons Resort Hualalai. Your teacher will be former national freediving champion and national spearfishing champion Kimi Werner. Get the basics in the hotel’s newly renovated King’s Pond—a 1.8 million-gallon aquarium pool—before moving on to the Big Island’s pristine waters, where Werner’s photographer husband will document your daring underwater exploits.
Getting Better Sleep
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a third of U.S. adults report getting less than the recommended seven or more hours of sleep nightly. A lack of rest can lead to health issues like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity and depression, the CDC says.
One way people are battling sleepless nights is turning to hotels as places to recharge or practice better nighttime habits. Equinox Hotel Hudson Yards enlisted a sleep psychologist who has optimized its rooms for snoozing with dark spaces that have sound-canceling walls, blackout windows and Lutron temperature control systems for the perfect rest environment, and the New York City hotel offers sleep kits in the minibar, a bedtime ritual to ease you into slumber and a sleep coach. Mandarin Oriental, Geneva has developed its own Check-up with CENAS Sleep Clinic package that includes an overnight study that records your bodily rhythms, movements and other parameters to identify possible sleep disorders.
Downtown L.A.’s Hotel Figueroa has created its new Rest & Recovery Suite with the help of some fitness brands: preorder a Pluto Pillow—customized to your napping preferences—so it’s waiting in the suite and then sprawl out on an Eight Sleep mattress that uses smart technology to adjust the temperature on each side of the bed. The next day, work out with the suite’s FORME personal strength fitness mirror, and then use Normatec recovery tools from Hyperice.
Some hotel brands are making sleep a company-wide initiative. The Langham Hotels & Resorts has partnered with the World Sleep Society for its new Sleep Matters program, which includes a turndown kit (stocked with herbal tea, earplugs, an eye mask, sleep tip cards and an all-natural sleep aid beverage), a wellness menu (including white noise machines, pillow options and weighted blankets) and a snooze-inducing Spotify playlist. Rosewood Hotels & Resorts recently introduced its Alchemy of Sleep offerings designed to promote rest. They’re unique in each destination, like Rosewood Little Dix Bay’s Acu Doze acupuncture; Hôtel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel’s sleep naturopathy consultations; and Rosewood Baha Mar’s bush tea sleep sessions with an herbalist.
Eighty-six percent of travelers want to travel more sustainably, but only half of that number manage to do so often, according to Accenture. However, that likely will change as more hotels adopt leading-edge sustainability measures.
There are independent properties that have long established themselves as eco trailblazers, like Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort, Aruba—the Caribbean’s first carbon-neutral resort, it banned single-use plastics in the 1980s. French Polynesia’s The Brando, which is close to being carbon neutral, was the first resort in the world to obtain LEED Platinum, the highest certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. The Ranch at Laguna Beach has devised a system that uses reclaimed water to irrigate its grounds, which saves more than 21.2 million gallons of water each year in drought-prone California, and every glass bottle on the property is crushed into sand and repurposed to fill golf course bunkers, pavement repairs and pool filtration.
However, bigger brands are joining in. Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group established an executive advisory panel for sustainability in 2018, which has been working since to push forward reform like eliminating single-use plastics throughout all properties. The brand has set its sights on food procurement, pledging to remove all endangered seafood species from hotel menus and only buying responsibly sourced coffee, tea, vanilla and cocoa by the end of 2022.
In 2018, Hilton set goals to double its investment in social impact and cut its environmental footprint in half by 2030. It’s making progress at the company-wide level with 88% of its portfolio participating in soap recycling and with initiatives at its individual properties: Conrad Washington, DC, for example, employs a stormwater management system that captures 97% of rainfall to irrigate the terraces and to cool its air-conditioning towers.