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Spa Business
2023 issue 4

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Leisure Management - Escape route

Finishing Touch

Escape route

Destination spas fund one of the world’s first published studies examining the experiences of more than 2,500 health retreat guests in multiple locations

Relaxation is still the main reason people seek out spa retreats photo: shutterstock/Perfect Wave

Despite the popularity of health retreats globally, little to no research explores who goes to them, why and for what benefits.

With this in mind, a new study in the International Journal of Spa and Wellness* looked at the demographics and motivations of 2,600 retreat-goers from more than 60 countries.

The research was supported by destination spa operators worldwide including Lapinha in Brazil, Bodyholiday in St Lucia, Danubius in Europe, Sheenjoy in China and Elysia (previously Golden Door) in Australia. Industry figure Marc Cohen was also a co-author.

Retreat motivations
One of the main reasons for going on a retreat is relaxation and a holiday (30 per cent), according to the findings, followed by improving general health and learning coping mechanisms (18 per cent) and reducing stress and improving mental health (also 18 per cent).

Nearly all respondents felt better (74 per cent) or somewhat better (22 per cent) after a retreat stay. In addition, the vast majority felt so happy that they would return or recommend the stay (71 per cent) or were satisfied that it was worth the time and money (25 per cent).

Managing disease
Forty-one per cent of respondents had one or more medical conditions and of those, 45 per cent experienced considerable relief from symptoms and another 26 per cent said it helped slightly. The greatest relief was most commonly experienced by those suffering from stress (64 per cent), fatigue (61 per cent), back pain (57 per cent) and arthritis (50 per cent).

Yet longitudinal and randomised controlled studies are still needed to prove the efficacy of programmes.

Self-funding majority
Other findings confirm the importance of local source markets, with 64 per cent living less than 5 hours away from retreats.

The ongoing need to strengthen ties with medical institutions was also highlighted. Despite the potential for retreats to help with escalating healthcare costs, very few participants were referred by practitioners. Instead, they visited retreats following recommendations (50 per cent) or online searches (37 per cent). What’s more, a mere 3 per cent of people received either health insurance or government funding, with an overwhelming majority valuing their health so much that they paid for themselves.

*Source. Naidoo, D et al. Vacation or therapy? Demographics, motivations and experiences of wellness retreat guests around the world. Intl Journal of Spa and Wellness. July 2023

Originally published in Spa Business 2023 issue 4

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