The nature economy is booming. Hotels and spas are taking advantage of their often intrinsically beautiful locations to offer more outdoor programming and marketing it to their guests more creatively. There is a real desire to connect guests to natural surroundings, and this presents an incredible opportunity for destinations around the world.
The power of nature is not new to Global Wellness Summit (GWS) trend-spotters. Forest Bathing was identified as a trend in the 2015 GWS Trends Report. Citing Dr. Qing Li, one of the world’s leading experts on the power of trees and spending time in nature, they presented research and scientific studies conducted since the mid-1980s in Japan. Evidence showed it lowers blood pressure and significantly boosts natural killer (NK) cells and anticancer proteins.
Forest bathing continues to grow in interest and stature, now truly recognised as a healthful pursuit. We read about new forest bathing programs, it seems, every month, whether at the luxe new ski resort Le Massif in the French Alps or at the Oberoi Sukhvilas wellness resort in India.
As you walk in the forest, you’re enveloped by the atmosphere—sounds, colours, scents and more, and the mindfulness that occurs. There are a multitude of benefits in doing this. The art and benefits of Forest Bathing are explained in Dr Li’s book, Forest Bathing: How Trees Can Help You Find Health and Happiness, released in 2018. The book is described as “the definitive guide to the therapeutic Japanese practice of Shinrin-Yoku or the art and science of how trees can promote health and happiness.”
Our world suffers from “nature deficit disorder,” and as time in nature becomes a new luxury, hotels and spas are tapping into what makes their destination unique and offering unique programming.
How Properties Are Adding Forest Bathing to Their Experiences
The Westin Hotel group offers a “RunWESTIN™ Concierge” as part of their new “RunWestin” program. Highly customised programs are developed based on guest preferences and desired levels of activity, in conjunction with the hotel location, natural surroundings and more.
Canyon Ranch’s new Woodside Retreat, coming this summer to a beautiful 16 acres near Silicon Valley, will be an immersive experience in the forest, with miles of sunny trails, rooms that have treehouse decks among the ancient redwoods, and programs that substitute outdoor play for boring, beige workouts.
Nature immersion doesn’t just mean forests. In the Baja Peninsula’s Magdalena Bay, one can spend hours at a time on the water, whale watching. This is an unparalleled opportunity to witness the annual migration of grey whales mating and birthing their young side by side with the occasional blue and humpback whales.
And Borgo Egnazia in Puglia, Italy, has as its tagline, “Nowhere Else.” This speaks to the unique, natural surroundings that offer visitors an opportunity to be immersed in the landscape of Itria Valley and the world-class olive groves. It is about being outdoors in every way along the Adriatic Sea.
The world is unlikely to slow down anytime soon, so individuals must. The evidence is overwhelming. It’s time to do more than just put down your phone, tablet or laptop; it’s time to pick up your walking shoes. The businesses that understand and embrace this, and offer an authentic experience of nature, will see their labor bear fruit for years to come.
Forecasting The Future
- A serious “back-to-nature” shift is happening across the wellness world, from the rise of “green exercise” to the continued surge in bringing nature and biophilic design into our homes, schools, offices and hospitals, to the nonstop growth in forest bathing programs at wellness travel destinations.
- The forest immersion concept will expand. Witness the rise of “forest skating,” where ice skating trails are built to wind through the snowy forest, like those in Canada.
- Just as pop-up shops dot the shopping streets of every major city at the holidays, “pop-up parks” might begin to appear in urban areas that do not have natural resources.