The wellness travel trends: hotels, treatments and technology

Anna Prendergast

31 January 2020

Forget New Year’s resolutions – February (whose name comes from the Latin for ‘purification’) offers a second chance at self-care. Here are 2020’s top treatments across the world

31 January 2020 | Anna Prendergast

1. New (and improved)

A gradual move away from ruthless exercise routines and calorie-counting has seen space open up in the wellness world. From crystal therapy at Four Seasons Hotel Bangkok opening this month (top of its game is the Quartz Massage, based on channelling the earth’s energy to ground the body and mind) to the highly personalised healing programmes at Shou Sugi Ban House in the Hamptons and Borgo Egnazia’s Blue Zones programme (inspired by five regions around the world where people live long, full lives), a holistic approach is taking over. In Paris, two big names are opening on the Seine – The Dior Spa at Cheval Blanc lands later this spring, and Bulgari’s first crashpad in the French capital arrives nearby in the Triangle d’Or (where, surely, it will include its 24-carat gold facial). South of the city, get the royal treatment at Airelles Château de Versailles, which gives guests the chance to stay on the grounds of the Palace of Versailles for the first time, with a spa by Valmont that harnesses the natural power of Swiss glaciers. The most talked about opening this year, though, is the giant floating ice bath at Arctic Bath in Swedish Lapland, where certified therapists help guests connect with nature on a truly elemental level, and everything down to the locavore menu is designed to instill an instinctive sense of health. In warmer climes, book into the Oberoi Marrakech for its signature Ayurveda dhara treatment – it opened last December, and just in time, too, as the iconic La Mamounia will close between May and September for its own revival. Thailand’s biggest news is Chiva-Som’s £20million renovation, which has seen regulars returning for pioneering wellness treatments devised by the industry’s most revered experts.

Shou Sugi Ban House in the Hamptons; Arctic Bath in Swedish Lapland;;;;;;

2. Home turf

Last year’s big UK opening, Monkey Island Estate, is a country-house-turned-riverside-inn-turned-private-hotel in Bray, a village with seven Michelin stars on the Thames. A pretty blue barge rests under the willow trees by the water, with The Floating Spa in its hull and an apothecary inspired by 12th Century Augustinian monks. In London, Lanserhof’s medically-driven, tailored service arrived at The Arts Club in Mayfair, the cutting-edge concept’s first opening in the UK, and the Zedwell opens this month in Piccadilly, the city’s first ever sleep-centred hotel with sound-proofed, mood-lit, Egyptian-cotton-clad ‘cocoons’ that are calm-inducing and clutter-free. Grayshott Spa in Surrey has also introduced the Mayr method (an intensive fasting plan not for the faint-hearted); head there around May, when the redbrick country retreat is cloaked in wisteria.

Monkey Island Estate in Berkshire, Grayshott Spa in Surrey, The Arts Club in Mayfair;;;

3. Eco spas

There’s no excuse for single-use, and this year guests will continue to drive the demand for alternatives to disposable slippers and plastic bottles. Hotel bedrooms have been fairly quick to adapt, adopting muslin cloths in place of cotton pads, biodegradable bamboo toothbrushes and solid bars of shampoo and conditioner, and now leading industry names are setting the standard for spas, too. Look for lotions and potions by brands like Kerstin Florian and Bamford, who use natural ingredients and take an ethical approach to skincare, and check out credentials like LEED certification and Green Key awards. The idea of wellness should extend to the environment in which it’s practised, an ethos upheld by eco-pioneer Six Senses, which opens two new hotels in Manhattan and Israel later this year. The latter, set in the Negev desert, has a signature Alchemy Bar where guests can create bespoke treatments using local ingredients. Also drawing on its natural surroundings, Islas Secas opened in December on Panama’s Pacific Coast with open-air treatment tents in the jungle and organic, native remedies such as ylang ylang and jasmine (the tents are designed for couples, so surprise your better half on the 14th with a trip). There’s something romantic about being castaway on an island retreat, too, at Bawah Reserve’s new sister property Bawah Elang. On an untouched scrap of the same Indonesian archipelago, treatments go above and beyond with life-coaching sessions, jade stone facials, one-to-one training and an implicit immersion in nature. The irony, of course, is that these places are only accessible by air – offset your flights with a donation to Tree Sisters, whose mission is tropical reforestation.

Islas Secas in Panama, Six Senses Shaharut in Israel, Bawah Reserve in Indonesia;;;

4. Trends and tech

With a new decade comes the chance to both reflect on age-old rituals and look forward to new ones, including those that incorporate staggering technology such as Brain Photobiomodulation Therapy (phew), available at SHA Wellness Clinic in Spain. Developed with NASA & Harvard University and overseen by neurologist Dr Bruno Ribeiro, it uses an infrared technique to improve cognitive performance. If you want to switch off, rather than on, Esqapes in LA uses virtual reality paired with a leisurely massage to transport users to a courtyard filled with cherry blossoms or a palm tree-trimmed sandy beach, offering a sense of seclusion in the middle of the city. In Botswana, traditional but Tesla-powered safari lodge Jack’s Camp is expanding with a new wellness tent; meanwhile in Mozambique, Kisawa Sanctuary opens this summer on Benguerra Island as the first hotel to patent 3D sandprinting technology, used to create the components of the wellness centre. The spa itself will specialise in Chinese medicine, but you can also meditate upon the surrounding wildlife such as humpback whales and sea turtles. Kisawa’s not the only one inspired by the East: Tibetan sound bowls are a key offering for 2020, and will be available at Hacienda de San Rafael in Andalucia, Royal Mansour in Marrakech, Marbella Club in Spain and Mandarin Oriental in Miami. The ancient healing method is thought to restore harmony through generating healing energy and tuning into the frequency of our brainwaves, allowing for a deepened meditation and the restoration of balance. In a sleepy corner of Seville, Malabar Retreats also incorporates Tibetan Healing Yoga into their four-day Lu Jong retreats, a practice developed by monks over 8,000 years ago.


Jack's Camp in Botswana, Kisawa Sanctuary in Mozambique (renders by The Boundary), SHA Wellness Clinic in Spain;;;;;;;