An accidental wellness traveler

Before I started to study International Tourism Management, my idea about wellness tourism was somewhat narrow and one-sided. When someone said wellness, I immediately thought about nice-looking young adults showing off their healthy lifestyle on Instagram, posting photos of their bleached teeth smiles, yoga poses and superfood smoothies, or intense fitness bootcamp routines. I thought that it was just another short-lived trend that would die away within a year or two, becoming so mainstream that people would just stop caring about it.

Seeing it merely as a superficial social media trend, I felt that wellness tourism was not my cup of tea, that my interests as a traveler were something else entirely, and that I would never become a wellness tourist myself.

However, the definition of a wellness traveler is much more flexible than I had thought. Whereas the primary wellness tourist category may indeed include some hard-core and very eco-conscious practitioners of yoga and meditation, who travel solely to improve their physical and mental well-being, the secondary wellness tourist category is much more inclusive and less constraining.

Basically, any traveler who takes part into wellness activity during their trip can be categorized as a secondary wellness tourist, which means that wellness is not the reason they decided to travel, but they might be interested in going to a local gym, spa or some other wellness facility during their trip. Now that was something less absolute that I could also relate to.

Reflecting on my past as a traveler, I suddenly started to see several occasions where I had embarked on an unplanned wellness activity during my trip. As going to a spa is among the oldest and the most universal wellness activities, coming across the mention of Japanese onsens and super sentos in the Well-being from Blue Spaces course materials made me reminiscence my trip to Kyushu in 2019.

Me as wellness tourist in Japan

In the summer of 2019, I stayed in the city of Oita and visited its neighboring town Beppu by bicycle. Ironically, although Beppu is perhaps the best known onsen destination in Japan, I had no time to try any of their hot spring baths because of my tight schedule, having to return the rental bike to Oita by the same evening.

The wellness adventure begins
Admiring a hot spring in Beppu

Instead, after returning from the 40-kilometer bike tour, covered in sweat and many layers of sunscreen, I thought of skipping the idea of having a shower in my cramped business hotel bathroom and went to the local train station which housed a large department store, a cinema and a hotel with a spa. City Spa Tenku was located high above the street level, with two floors of bathing space, allowing a panoramic view of the city from the upper bath area. Going there really enhanced my experience, helping my body to recover from all the biking and walking I had done that day.

While I was sitting in a pool filled with warm, carbonated water, watching a layer of small bubbles form on my legs, I felt total relaxation after the day spent outdoors under the scorching sun. After standing up and leaving the pool, I gazed over the nightly city through large panoramic windows, completely nude and refreshed.

A well-earned compromise after the rejuvenating spa visit

Having consumed plenty of manga stories and films about organized crime in Japan, I could kind of imagine some yakuza boss to stand at that very same place, a large tattoo in his back, making plans to expand his territory even further – of course, considering the anti-tattoo policy of most spas in Japan, a scene like that would probably not take place in real life. Still, the majesty of the setting really screamed for a camera and a tripod, even though any photography was, for obvious reasons, prohibited in the bathing area.

Considering all the exercise I got during the day, I felt that one cold beer at the spa bar would be just what I needed after washing and getting dressed up.

So, after that game-changing spa experience, I would now proudly and without any doubt categorize myself as a secondary wellness traveler.

*Disclaimer: This blog post was produced without any sponsorship or financial support from City Spa Tenku*

Text and photos: Olli Riihimäki, third year International Tourism Management student

Using the sea to clear your mind

Have you ever wondered why it feels relaxing to go and have a walk on the beach or what is so spiritual about being alone in or on the sea?

From walking next to the famous canals of Amsterdam, to swimming in the sea and being on a cruise, blue spaces work really calming for me. As a person that has always lived near beautiful beaches and the sea, I have huge interest for blue spaces. I have always been attracted to coastal destinations and the mental impacts that sea has us to offer.

When I had the opportunity of studying the course Well-being from Blue spaces, I could not let this opportunity pass. To learn more about Blue Spaces would help me develop a lot and would give me possibilities for a future profession.

The presence of a person to water, especially the sea, is related with many positive impacts of physical and mental wellbeing, from higher levels of vitamin D to better social connections. Therefore, living near blue spaces, visiting them, or even enjoying the view has a positive effect on a human.

I think there should be more focus on ways to relieve mental stress in the future. With our world becoming busier with the day, mobile phones being an absolute must, people should be encouraged to let go of everything, and enjoy the beautiful nature. It will have a positive impact both physically and mentally.

Text: Sander Keulemans, exchange student from HZ University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands

Wellness tourism after the pandemic

During our online course Well-being from Blue Spaces, we got to learn about the concept of blue gym, how coastal and maritime areas can be used in well-being, and the history behind it. We also had an assignment where we got to plan a seafood tour in our home region. What I found the most interesting was the wellness tourism industry and how fast it has been growing for the past years.

Wellness as a general trend has been gaining popularity over the past years. It can be seen in many aspects all around us. From green juice bars in the malls to the many fitness trends that come and go. Shops providing a bigger variety of healthier food options and people making healthier choices, like cutting the usage of alcohol and sugar. This trend has naturally affected the tourism industry as well. Between the years 2015 and 2017 wellness tourism grew 6,5%. That is very significant growth when considered that regular tourism grew only 3,2% in the same time frame. (Global Wellness Institute 2018, 20.)

We live in very uncertain times. With the ongoing pandemic no one really knows the effects it will have on the tourism industry. We can only speculate and make guesses what tourism in the post-pandemic world will look like, how it will affect the trends, and what are the long-term effects that come from it. Industry specialist and researchers have made their predictions and even those have changed as the pandemic has prolonged the bans on traveling. Of course, there are no wrong or right answers really since this is very new territory for all of us. But it is fun to play with the idea and think about the future and how it will look.

Many industry specialists think that there is a very big possibility that the pandemic will make wellness tourism grow at a faster rate than now. Personally, I think that is a very possible outcome. Seeing how people are already interested in their wellbeing and health this pandemic can have the effect that it will get more heightened. The COVID-19 virus has posed a threat to everyone’s health and people may want to take a more proactive and preventative approach after the pandemic is over.

The past year has been hard on everyone. From self-isolation and quarantines, losing loved ones, the additional stress the pandemic has caused to the financial duress. We have seen and felt a lot and it has not been easy on anyone’s mental health. People will probably desire to take a vacation where they can solely focus on their mental well-being. So, I think that it is very possible that various yoga, ashram, meditation, and mindfulness retreats will get very popular.

Tourists may be keener to choose destinations and places where a healthy lifestyle is promoted or easy to keep up. Many people have started to pay more attention to their health during the pandemic. Following a new specific diet or fitness plan, they may want to keep that going even during their travel so places that offer facilities and services that cater to these needs may get an influx of customers.

The Wellness Tourism Association conducted a survey in the summer of 2020 asking about consumers’ travel plans after the pandemic. Over 4000 people answered from 48 countries. They found that 78% of the people had planned to partake in wellness tourism after the pandemic. In the end, as to how much the wellness tourism industry will grow no one knows yet and only time will tell.

Text: Milla Ruonala, third year International Tourism Management student
Photos: Pixabay

References:

Global Wellness Institute. 2018. Global Wellness Tourism Economy. https://globalwellnessinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/GWI_GlobalWellnessTourismEconomyReport.pdf

Wellnesss Tourism Association. 2020. Nearly 4,000 consumers reveal Wellness Vacation Motivations for Post-Pandemic Travel. https://www.wellnesstourismassociation.org/nearly-4000-consumers-reveal-wellness-vacation-motivations-post-pandemic-travel/

The calming effects of water

How often do you think that the everyday life with all the work, studies, chores etc. is getting all too much for you? How often do you wish for an escape from your everyday life? I bet most of you answered that a break from the everyday life would be much needed as often as possible. So did I. So where should you go when you feel like the stress of the daily routines is getting too much for you? You should definitely find your way to the nearest body of water, whether it is a lake, a river or a sea does not matter, you should find your way to it. Even though you might think that a visit to a nearby shore does really not fit your busy schedule or it doesn’t sound like it would be any help to you, you’d be surprised how big of an effect it might have on your mental and physical health.

You might think that sitting on a shore and doing nothing would be a really boring way of spending your time, but it actually is one of the best ways of relaxing your brain. Just watching the water surface, whether it is calm or rough, can really help you to relax and find that much sought after peace of mind for the short time that you are next to water. Of course, our brains control all the senses of human body, and seeing is not the only thing that can help our brains to relax. Listening to the calming voice of the water as well as smelling the, lets say, ocean air can really make your brains just switch of for a second and you will be able to totally relax just from being near a body of water.

Of course just sitting and admiring the water might not be for everyone, but that is not the only way you can improve your mental and physical health when visiting a body of water. Water enables multiple different activities that are beneficial for both mind and body. Exercises and activities in general are very good for both mental and physical health, but adding the water aspect to the exercises can boost that positive effect even more. Swimming for example is not only a great form of exercise for the muscles of the body, but it also is beneficial for the health of your skin as well as it is beneficial for your mind. The sort of flowing feeling of freedom you get from swimming is ideal for your brains to relax.

Other water activities, such as surfing or wakeboarding for example, are also great ways of escaping the routine and switching of for a second, but all the activities do not have to be physical activities. Going for a boat ride or going fishing might not be a form of exercise, but those type of activities are an ideal way of relaxing. Think about it; you are flowing on the middle of a quiet lake on a boat, there is no one anywhere near and you can just enjoy the sound of nature. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

That is something that we all should seek after, make some room from our busy schedules for finding different ways of relaxing our body and mind, since without those breaks, we really can not manage.

Text: Markus Järvinen, second year International Tourism Management student
Pictures: Unsplash

Wellness travel – a healthier holiday

When you think about holiday, about booking a trip, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? For most of the people nowadays, including me, it means that I will have some fun, visit places, make memories like photos and videos, and forget about work and stress that are present in my life. However, it is not always like that because many travelers come back from their holidays more tired than when they left, wishing for a new holiday.

Why this happens?

We have a misconception that we need to make the most out of our trips, like for example taking long tours that exhaust us, visiting all the places in a destination, and in general overwhelming ourselves by busy schedules, often forgetting about rest and relaxation.

I don’t need to mention the technology and social media platforms that takes a lot of our time even when we are on a holiday. It is very trendy nowadays to share every small thing that happens on our trips on Instagram or Facebook, and we forget that snapping our meals, taking 99 selfies or paying attention to our edits takes time and we end up participating in our activities less then we think, reducing our quality time by stalking the phone.

Photo: Unsplash.com

What can we do about it?

Many studies explain why vacations help us get rid of the stress and increase our sense of well-being. Of course, if we consider well-being when we book our holiday, the first step that we can do is to appreciate the vacation and its meaning.

It is definitely a great idea to visit many places and take many photos, but this can be made by keeping in mind that we just can’t be present in every point on the map. In conclusion, a good solution is to start by reducing the number of visits to those attractions that we are interested in. Getting enough sleep during our holiday is also important to recharge our batteries and planning a lazy day is a great idea.  If we are rested when we come back, it will help us to be motivated and perform better in our lives and work. Some people set their flights back on the day before their work starts and it’s always a good idea to put a gap between, like one day to settle in and catch up with the day-to-day routine. (Website of Life Hack, 2021)

A second step is to educate ourselves more on what wellness tourism means and how to get more from our holidays by paying more attention to well-being. Going on a trip doesn’t mean that we need to skip our gym sessions, or to eat and drink whatever we want without thinking on how it can affect us. Wellness retreats help travelers to nourish their bodies and mind, and boost the level of personal wellness.

Photo: Unsplash.com

Practicing yoga, taking Pilates classes or sport in any form will bring balance to our body and mind and will help us to get rid of the stress (website of Corporate Wellness magazine, 2019). Personally, I am planning my next holiday in a spa resort, where I can benefit from healthier food, massage and spa treatments and why not, a digital detox. Breaking unhealthy habits and meeting like-minded people, who have the same goal will improve our lifestyle and we can come back with a new mindset.

What is wellness tourism?

Wellness travel is a segment of the tourism industry that refers mainly to people who book their holidays in order to reduce their stress, relax and forget about day-to-day problems. Global Wellness Institute has an official definition for it: “travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal wellbeing”

The economy of wellness tourism grows by approximately 6.5% every year and reached $634 billion in 2017. The increasing interest of travelers in a better and healthier lifestyle made wellness tourism to double its growth compared to the entire tourism industry.

Picture: Wellness Corporate Magazine

Europeans present the highest interest in well-being, followed by the Asians and North Americans. Spa tourism is the leading sector representing 48% of the global wellness registering $300 billions in expenditure with over 450 million trips booked.

By 2022 it is estimated that wellness tourism will reach $919 billions in expenditure because hospitality and travel businesses try to develop new strategies daily in order to offer new services, products or experiences for the travelers. (Global Wellness Tourism Economy, 2018)

Text: Bogdan Enacica, second year International Tourism Management student


References:

Global Wellness Tourism Economy. 2018.
Website of Corporate Wellness magazine. 2019. https://www.corporatewellnessmagazine.com/article/wellness-tourism-well-worth-trip
Website of Health Line. 2020. https://www.healthline.com/health/post-vacation-blues
Website of Life Hack. 2021. https://www.lifehack.org/640266/why-do-i-need-a-vacation-from-my-vacation

Are blue spaces cure to feeling blue?

In the wellness tourism industry there is talk about so called blue spaces. What are those exactly? Well, blue spaces are referred as spaces with open water. So, trip to the coastline or riverside would be considered as visiting blue spaces. They also include ponds, springs, waterfalls and even spas.

We live in a highly modernized world with next to no connection to the nature at least in the big cities. No wonder people are stressed and unhappy all the time. Work is hectic and one can’t practise selfcare enough or do it the right way. Sure, eating or drinking your feelings is a way to manage them in a pinch but in a long run it’s only harmful to you and people around you. The last thing you should want is to be a burden to the people you love to an overly exhorted way. But stress can be hard to manage on your own, so it’s human to try to release it which ever way takes it away the fastest.

 So, why don’t we experiment

Imagine you arriving to a remote riverside in search of a way to pause your busy life. This is what you see, take a good look at the picture below.

Source: Pixabay

You can see the clear blue water gently rushing by hugging the land around it. You can hear the calming song of the water as it passes you by welcoming you to its presence, inviting you to take a deep breath. You can smell the fresh water in the air with luscious forest around you.

After taking the mandatory Instagram picture you sit down and gaze at the water and maybe get curious about how cold the water is. By touching it you find out its quite chilly but pleasant. The sight, sound and smell of the environment has called you back to where you once belonged. Taking a few more deep breaths filled with fresh air, you can feel the stress melting away.

How did that make you feel?

According to studies blue spaces have a positive effect on the human psychology and wellbeing and they are linked with health and happiness. Mental health is important especially during this pandemic time and going back to nature could be one of the solutions to increase it. Being around aquatic environments has mood increasing properties such as generally being in a better mood and reducing stress and negative moods. Visibility of blue spaces have a lowering impact on psychological distress. This fact could be used in the future when planning cities or it could be a part of one’s moving criteria. The happiest people are said to be those living near a blue space, especially near the ocean.

All in all blue spaces are worth taking a look at when trying to de-stress or pause for a bit. Mental heath is an important force for people to have the strength to keep going in a world that doesn’t sleep. Remembering to take care of yourself increases happiness and peace of mind.

Text: Kia Aroautero, Tourism student from Haaga-Helia.
Kia took part in SAMK’s online course Well-being from Blue Spaces via CampusOnline.

Inspirational sources:

Hunt, E. 2019. Blue spaces: why time spent near water is the secret of happiness. The Guardian.

Pasanen, T. Mathew P. White, Benedict W. Wheeler, Joanne K. Garrett, Lewis R. Elliott, 2019. Neighbourhood blue space, health and wellbeing: The mediating role of different types of physical activity. Science Direct.

Pawlowski, A. 2016a. Updated 2019. Blue spaces beat green spaces when it comes to mental health, study finds. Today.

Pawlowski, A. 2019b. How does nature affect mental health? Living close to park linked with happiness. Today.