Beyond the stars

With luxury reimagined in post-recession leisure travel, we have seen an increasing number of properties’ designs, locations, services and experiences defy superlatives sufficient to describe them. And for the luxe, over-the-top hotels, spas and wellness retreats, five stars just aren’t enough and traditional criteria used by the ratings organisations like accommodation, location, dining and service are possibly too limited now that more is at play.

We predict a social shift that relies less on star rankings (albeit credible, and often audited data points) as the only measure of quality. Curated recommendations, reviews by astute travel editors and the proliferation of online consumer reviews on websites from Yelp to TripAdvisor are creating new definitions of luxury. And with this shift, the luxury travel industry will be challenged to top itself with even more spectacular offerings and experiences. We see a future where five stars becomes the new baseline, as consumers redefine the stars in their eyes.

Forest bathing

With forest bathing (and the increasingly expert-led ‘forest therapy’ or shinrin-ryoho), mindfulness meets nature, and the goal is to ‘bathe’ every physical cell and your entire psyche in the forest’s essence. No power hiking needed here; you just wander slowly, breathe deeply and mindfully, and stop and experience whatever catches your soul – whether drinking in the fragrance of that little wild flower, or really feeling the texture of that birch bark.

Forest-therapy studies have been led by Japan; the government of which funded $4 million in research in 2004-13. The most provocative of these conclude that exposure to phytoncides, the airborne, aromatic chemicals/oils emitted by many trees, have a long-lasting impact on people’s immune system markers, boosting natural killer (NK) cells and anticancer proteins by 40%.

It is research like this that has made forest bathing a pillar of preventative medicine in Japan, and increasingly common in places like Korea, Taiwan and Finland.

The Islamic world

There is no more powerful consumer trend across the developed world than the hunger for all things authentic and indigenous. It’s why the spa/wellness scene is increasingly a global village, with approaches like Indian ayurveda and yoga, and traditional Chinese medicine embraced worldwide.

Given this massive authentic-experiential trend, it’s puzzling that the world has been unable to see just how much the wellness traditions of the wide Islamic world offer – with 1,000-plus years of sophisticated, nature-based traditional medical systems, and countless beauty solutions and body treatments across a vast wellness map.

Many people are only familiar with a handful of traditions, but we predict that more of the world will experience nutritional, preventative health, beauty and spa traditions central to Islamic worlds in 2015 and beyond. Wellness practices of the wide Islamic world do represent one of the last, lost, great bodies of traditional health knowledge, and we predict that slowly, but surely, they will be discovered by the world – and travellers will increasingly head to the Middle East, Africa, Central Asia and South-East Asia, hungry for authentic everything.

Spa on arrival

It used to be that while travelling for business or pleasure, spa treatments were a luxurious add-on, something fit in between a meeting and dinner. Now, however, spa treatments and other wellness offerings are being prioritised en route and on arrival – either to get a head start on relaxation or to kick-start productivity by shaking off travel fatigue. For growing numbers of travellers, a workout or spa experience is becoming the final entry on the travel itinerary – an indispensable post-flight ritual.

In the latest twist on this trend, more travellers are seeking rejuvenation the moment they reach their destination, whether it’s a self-directed activity (a brisk walk or online yoga class); a specialised workout or spa treatment delivered on arrival either in the room, the hotel spa or another property in the destination city; and/or a quick post-flight detox with juices and nutritious foods. It’s all about nipping jet lag in the bud and hitting the ground feeling alert, energised and relaxed.

Hyper-personalised beauty

In 2015, we will see a shift from "this colour looks good on me" to "this colour was made for me".

We are not just consumers, we are collaborators; we may like the premade products offered to us, but we may just feel more connected to the ones we help make ourselves. We predict that this trend will not just be a passing fancy. It has the potential to disrupt the beauty industry and inspire skin care, make-up and beauty product companies to rethink everything.

In every corner of beauty care – from make-up to skincare, to fragrance at home and in the spa – we’ll have an increasing opportunity to control and customise our beautifying and self-care experience. In 2015, we’ll see how the beauty and spa industry work even harder to respond to this shift, with the next phase likely emphasising young entrepreneurs bringing even more cutting-edge technology right into our homes and spas.

Trust your gut

There will be a huge focus on the science of the gut and proving that by altering the make-up of our digestion system, we can take our health and wellness to a new level, improving our immunity and resilience, fighting off serious diseases, reducing our chances of obesity, and even facilitating a happy and healthy mind.

All of this represents a great opportunity for spa and wellness businesses. We are predicting that cultivating gut health (not to mention the microbiomes in other parts of our bodies – like the skin, the mouth and even the vagina) will become a mainstream wellness endeavour, and there will be significant opportunities for spa and wellness businesses to be a part of this revolution by providing treatments and services or partnering with experts in microbiome health. The R-word of choice in the spa industry is no longer renew; it’s resilience – and it looks like our guts might hold the key.

Wellness homes, communities and cities

Euro Disney and developer Pierre & Vacances have just broken ground on a mixed-use ‘organic city’ outside Paris, France, called Villages Natures. For tourists and residents it will be about interacting with nature, with vast green space and a geothermal lagoon, hanging gardens, horseback riding, hiking and an organic farm.

The wellness living trend finally has real momentum. New WELL Building standards will make healthy-for-humans building more understandable and achievable worldwide – further spurring growth.

Research on how building elements and community designs actually impact human health will drive growth in the right, science-backed directions. We’re really just starting to understand the ways that interior spaces and communities could be made more ‘well’.

New technologies and scientific evidence will drive innovation and growth. Spa and fitness amenities are still very much part of the picture, but the new wellness residences are thinking far beyond amenities, and tackling not just planetary but human health in design and construction.

Spafinder’s other wellness trends for 2015

Cannabis, new spa and wellness connections: incorporation of marijuana into wellness amid a climate of decriminalisation. Industrial revolution, blue-collar wellness: growth of affordable wellness offerings targeting low-income individuals. My fitness. My tribe. My life: the further blurring of lines between health and social pursuits.