Many wellness retreats have found themselves nestled in nature, although in close proximity to major cities, to provide city-dwellers the perfect escape from the hustle of their everyday lives. Image for representational purpose only. Photo Courtesy: istock
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If the pandemic taught us one thing, it is to not take our health for granted. While the pandemic might have shone the spotlight on wellbeing, the wellness industry (estimated to be $1.5 trillion globally by international consulting firm McKinsey) has been steadily growing for years. Be it fitness, food, or even travel - the desire to be healthier, and consume what nourishes us holistically has permeated all aspects of our being, attracting younger audiences for preventive healthcare. As per Agoda's recent Travel Trend survey, Indian travellers show a desire to embark on trips that allow them to recharge both mentally and physically. As per the survey, wellness ended up in the number two spot in the âreasons to travel' ranking, between reuniting with loved ones (#1) and food, arts and culture travel (#3). It is no wonder that wellness tourism is trending in 2023, and thousands of wellness retreats have cropped up in India.
Many of these retreats have found themselves nestled in nature, although in close proximity to major cities, to provide city-dwellers the perfect escape from the hustle of their everyday lives. From doctor-prescribed diets to Indian Naturopathy, the modern wellness retreat offers a plethora of immersive wellness experiences that claim to offer you a chance to rewire your not-so-healthy routines. We spoke to Dr. Arun Pillai, wellness director of Dharana at Shillim, Sharmilee Kapur, and Nikhil Kapur, co-founders and directors of Atmantan Wellness Centre to trace the rise of wellness tourism, and understand how hospitality establishments are differentiating their offerings to keep their visitors engaged in an increasingly saturated market.
Both Dharana, and Atmantan are nestled in the Sahyadri mountain range. While the former is a two-hour drive from Mumbai, the latter overlooks Mulshi Lake near Pune. Both wellness retreats are spread across acres of peaceful space. Pillai shares, "Our pristine expanse of 320 acres in the UNESCO biodiversity hotspot of the Western Ghats and our easy accessibility to both Pune and Mumbai has further catalysed this trend (wellness travel) for us."
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According to Pillai, travel has increasingly become experiential. "There is a need to create experiential memories through immersive healing experiences. Guests appreciate customisable wellness programs that allow them to choose from a selection of âjourneys' based on their personal goals," he explains.
Kapur agrees, "To suit the specific needs of our guests, all the programmes offered by us are doctor-prescribed which differ in recommended days, varying diets, the natural supplements, the daily activities and the therapies prescribed."
Transformative and holistic
People today are increasingly feeling the need to pursue a sustainable lifestyle that allows them to feel better, and live better. Pillai explains, "Wellness segment has grown exponentially since the pandemic, we have seen a surge in guests looking for wellness experiences, and transformative lifestyle programs."
Elaborating on the holistic approach, he adds, "We focus on providing guests with a holistic transformation of the body, mind, and soul. The goal is to provide a sense of harmony through a synergy of wellness programs and the Dharana Food Philosophy. The wellness cuisine showcased by Dharana at Shillim includes all the elements achieved by modern food research and lessons learned from nutritional philosophies from every corner of the globe. The Dharana Food Philosophy has its firm roots in age-old Ayurvedic traditions. The menus are inspired by fresh, seasonal produce and the slow cooking technique stresses on preserving the natural flavours of the food, working with ingredients known for their curative and nourishing benefits."
The range of experiences offered
While there is no dearth of innovative wellness experiences offered, effectiveness becomes the most trustworthy metric. "The essence of a wellness retreat lies in infusing and building sustainable healthy habits. We assist individuals to become their healthiest-selves through detoxification, therapies, bonding activities and preventive interventions, offering an ideal blend of experiential and sustainable experiences," says Pillai. From programs that assist in sleeping, to weight management, Dharana offers a number of short and long stay programs. One of the most interesting experiences includes the traditional Chinese Cha Dao ceremony which promotes principles of balance, mindfulness, and simplicity. The ceremony proceeds as a form of meditation focused on cherishing and truly experiencing the intricacies of a herbal tea decoction.
The experiences at Atmantan are all doctor-prescribed and personalised, ranging from traditional Ayurveda and Naturopathy to oriental healing sciences and researched western protocols. "The many solutions offered include physiotherapy, rehabilitation, diagnostics, acupuncture, sleep sanctuary retreats, auto-immune reversal programs along with mental wellbeing retreats. Gut detoxes and Ayurveda are some of the most popular choices for guests," informs Kapur.
How to differentiate wellness offerings
A hybrid approach aids Atmantan, Kapur shares, "The key differentiator is our holistic yet medical approach where we look towards setting right the disease pathway, and rectifying a deep rooted condition, rather than superficially working on just a symptom, e.g. Most guests looking for weight loss at Atmantan realise that weight is an external manifestation of an internal imbalance and they then work towards setting this right from the inside out."
No business can run in a vacuum. The demand for wellness travel by city-dwellers is a growing trend which is fuelled by the awareness and curiosity of seasoned travellers. "Thanks to accelerated awareness of health, we have guests coming to us across ages with detox and disease reversal being the most sought after retreats and conditions. Most of our guests are also extremely well-read and aware of the wellness we offer and thus choose to come to us looking for treatment of their chronic conditions and lifestyle ailments," shares Kapur.
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