The Global Wellness Institute recently revealed that consumer spending on wellness continues to grow, with the global wellness economy projected to expand at an annual rate of 8.6%. By 2027, it is expected to reach $8.5 trillion with wellness tourism leading the charge. And this sector is outpacing general tourism growth, according to GWI. Wellness trips make up 7.8% of all tourism, yet they contribute a substantial 18.7% to total tourism expenditures — nearly one in every five travel dollars.
Africa, with its rich natural landscapes, unique stargazing opportunities and nutritious cuisine, is ideally suited to capture a significant share of this wellness market. “Being in Africa lends itself to the concept of wellness unlike any other destination in the world,” said Wendy Walker, travel advisor and owner of Quintess Vacations, an affiliate of The Affluent Traveler Collection.
Here are five African tourism wellness trends I expect to be very popular in 2024:
1.Slow safaris: There is still no equivalent to “silence” on a safari, according to Jim Holden, the president of Holden Safaris. He said clients really resonate with the experience of being out on a game drive and stopping in the middle of nowhere, switching off the jeep’s engine, and just listening and reconnecting with nature.
“Similarly, when I describe the sundowner tradition in Africa — of stopping at a stunning view or water hole to watch the sun set on another day and to relax with a favorite beverage, and to sit and reflect on life and the day’s activities — again, I see clients longing for such an experience,” he said. According to Holden, there seems to be a longing to just stop for a minute, stop the world spinning, stop endless conversation, stop the endless stimulation of social media. Just stop!
2.Star bathing: This trend that has gained traction in the past year and is expected to grow in 2024. It began as a wellness technique to help insomniacs, allowing people to immerse themselves in the night sky in pursuit of a better headspace.
The clear air and minimal artificial light found within the remote African wild spaces make for an ideal stargazing and star-bathing location, according to Rob More, founder and CEO of the More Family Collection. He said travelers are looking for those rare experiences to be part of the untouched wilderness, and a treehouse stay is as close as it gets. “Just you, the animals below, and the stars above,” he said.
Sarah Jackson, Jacada’s Africa product manager, agreed, saying sleep-outs under the stars are a great way for travelers to become totally immersed in nature, allowing for utter relaxation and a sense of rejuvenation.
3. Sound healing: An increasingly popular form of treatment, it combines different healing
sounds and music to trigger a relaxation response, reduce chronic stress
and balance the whole being.
According to Michael Liffmann, group operations director for Newmark Hotels & Reserves, sound healing is a non-invasive way to restore the natural frequencies within the body.
“Travelers today are looking for experiences that will allow them to return home feeling replenished — physically, emotionally, and spiritually,” Liffman said.
Singita has included sound healing in its holistic wellness offerings. Adrian Kaplan, executive head of marketing, said its properties have started using crystals along with African instruments and sound therapy as well as massages using body scrubs made from local ingredients.
“In lodges such as Singita Sabora Tented Camp and Singita Mara River Tented Camp, we have included crystals and meditation decks/pillows as well as sleep rituals and yoga mats,” Kaplan said. “We also offer wellness treatments in the open to let in the sounds of nature and the breeze; and add sound therapy of Tibetan bowls or rain sticks. We can do a sound bath on the lawns of Singita Castleton, on a blanket under the trees.”
4. Mindful immersion: Travelers in 2024 will be increasingly looking for “off time,” as John Addison, director of Wild Frontiers, likes to call it. They don’t want to just go on game drives anymore, they want to take a step back and really immerse themselves in the destination and relax. This translates into stats, according to Jack Ezon, the founder of Embark Beyond, who said nature trips from the U.S. have grown 42% since 2019. He explains people want to connect to themselves and reset their minds.
“We are seeing our guests have a better appreciation for journeys that not only open their eyes to new perspectives and cultures but restore their entire being — body, spirit, and mind,” said Singita’s Kaplan.
Jacada’s Jackson adds travelers are increasingly looking for quiet and peace away from vehicles and engines you get from different safaris like a mokoro (canoe) safari. Or they want to gain a better understanding of the world they’re visiting through conservation programs.
5. Ecofriendly dining in Africa: According to Newmark’s Liffmann, meals today center around the inclusion of fresh, organic produce where many of the ingredients include vegetables, fruit and honey that have been grown on the property. He has noticed a growing interest in culinary journeys and food experiences. “South Africa’s reputation as a fine dining destination has grown, as has the quality of our wine and the variety of our gins,” he said, adding there’s also a lot of focus on sustainable eating principles.
Africa has exciting wellness experiences for travelers to explore. However, ultimately, Addison sums up the appeal of Africa for the wellness traveler when he says: “There is a call for an experience rather than a room. You can get a good meal anywhere, and a good bed and a hot shower. You cannot get the milky way and a good lion roar.”
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