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What do clients look for in a wellness retreat?

As the winter creeps in, a spa can provide a welcomed vacation from the cold weather and an immersion in health and wellness. For spa owners and staff, this season is a great time of year to market a healthy getaway at a destination spa. As the wellness tourism trend continues to surge, the number of health retreats increases, too. It can be hard to stand out amid the many offerings. Knowing what your clients are looking for in a wellness retreat can help you better meet their needs and rise above the competition. 

Of course, priorities vary depending on the client and his or her specific needs, says Marie-Eve Perron, manager of Le Monastere des Augustines in Quebec City. “But overall, we can say that our guests are looking for a place and services that help them rest, recharge their batteries and achieve specific health goals,” she says. Those goals may be stress management, sleep management, a quest for meaning or changing life habits. “They are also looking for quality healthy food and quality treatments,” Perron says. “The atmosphere of the place must lead to relaxation, disconnection and reflection.”

Let’s look at those desires a little more closely. Here are five things that people are seeking in a wellness retreat.

1. A Unique Destination
Travelers love to combine items on their wish list to get more bang for their buck. Savvy travelers want a location for their wellness retreat that is also a great place to visit — even if there wasn’t a retreat there at all. The kind of place you would already have on your vacation bucket list. The wellness programming is the cherry on top. Old Quebec City is a great example of this type of place. Ask yourself, would people travel to your city whether or not there was a retreat? This detail will set you apart. If you are looking for a new location for a spa, put this at the forefront of your business plan. If you’re already in a less-than-desirable location and can’t change that, make sure you excel at the other four features people want in a wellness retreat.

2. Unique Activity Locations 
Incorporate unique features into your spa, things you can’t get anywhere else. Visitors will love the exciting novelty and the exclusivity. Instead of doing a massage in a traditional massage room, ask yourself, are there other elements in my environment I could include? Changing up the scenery is a guaranteed way to totally transform the experience. For example, at the Le Monastère des Augustines, the activity program is held in an actual room in the monastery where the nuns used to hold prayer services. The unique location adds depth and intrigue. Plus, the atmosphere in this boutique hotel, located on a Unesco World Heritage site, sets the stage for plenty of zen (and sleep). Another unique location many resort spas use for wellness activities is the roof. An outdoor rooftop fitness area allows their guests to experience sunset yoga, boot camp and many other types of classes, while overlooking the beautiful azure sky. It’s sweat with a view.

3. New Takes On Old Classes
Be an innovator and creative leader. Take an old concept and make it fresh to show clients you are at the cutting edge of health knowledge and always seeking to challenge them. For example, a day spa can partner with a local fitness boutique to offer combined wellness programs. Look to partner with a barre3® or other type of low impact fitness boutique. This provides a challenging yet low-impact option to create a mini staycation wellness retreat for your customers of all fitness levels.

4. A Medical Analysis 
If you truly want to help your clients, it’s crucial to provide them a health baseline to determine where they are and where they want to go. Spa clients want a spa that will give them a medical analysis and spend some extra time helping them better understand their bodies. Many European health spas offer an informative, personalized medical analysis as a common start to every program. Oetker Collection’s Brenners Park in Baden-Baden, Germany, offers this on its destination spa menu at Villa Stephanie. The resort’s experts can provide a body analysis to determine a client’s composition, establish their health and nutritional status and then create the perfect wellness retreat plan to gain the results they desire.
Brenners Park also offers a list of preventative health care programs and specialty treatments clients can choose from, all administered amid the peaceful, healing environment of the park-surrounded hotel. Villa Stephanie directly connects to “Haus Julius”, a 1,700-square-metre mansion designed to offer guests exclusive access to medical care. These kinds of services elevate wellness offerings — and results — for clients.

5. An Escape 
Whatever reasons people are seeking a wellness retreat, you can bet among them is to escape. The escape might be from a not-so-healthy lifestyle, stress or just day-to-day, normal life. Take this into consideration when planning your spa’s environment and offerings. How can you transport your clients and make them forget all about their regular life? 
For inspiration, the Mandarin Oriental, in Atlanta, Georgia, offers a digital detox escape, as part of its wellness retreat package. People power down their phones, get free of all technological distractions and lose themselves in an 80-minute spa treatment. They trade their iPhones for a wellness bath in Shungite-charged water to ease fatigue, a massage focusing on the body parts we tend to strain with technology, a paraffin hand treatment, and a meditation class with a psychotherapist. The spa incorporates purifying Shungite crystals, which are said to help neutralize radiation and energy related to mobile devices. 

Bonus: Clients leave with tips to take home and a VitaJuwel water bottle, designed to provide homemade gem water. So the escape doesn’t end when they walk out the spa door. 

Another spa that excels at this is the Le Monastere des St. Augustines, where guests are invited to leave their technology, such as cell phones and tablets, at the front desk for safekeeping and thought-clearing. 
What will work at your wellness retreat depends on the client and objectives, as well as their condition and willingness to change their lifestyle, says Perron, of Le Monastere. Tools that work for one person may not be fitting for another. “However, we can say that most guests feel better after a stay and [leave] in a wellness condition that they did not have when they arrived,” she says. “This is due largely to being in a place that promotes relaxation and reflection, far from the stimuli of the everyday life.” No matter the services, the more clients detach from TV, their cell phone, work and the news, the more open-minded they’ll be, and the more they’ll benefit, Perron says. “The challenge is always to return home and insert the new tools into everyday life,” she says.

Ava Roxanne Stritt

Ava Roxanne Stritt is a freelance travel writer, founder of the Spa Travel Gal blog, travel editor for Hope for Women magazine, and luxury spa lover.

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