Globetrender speaks to Paul Joseph, co-founder of Health and Fitness Travel, about wellness travel trends, getting back to nature and the merits of genetic profiling.

What’s the story behind Health and Fitness Travel?

I’ve always loved to travel and had an interest in the health and fitness industry. I was never one for fly and flop holidays – I always wanted an active and healthy break while away. When I used to search on the internet for these types of breaks I’d always find hippy-style yoga retreats and fitness holidays run from someone’s villa, which didn’t appeal to me.

I’d also find lots of spa holiday websites that would list general spa resorts. I created Health and Fitness Travel for someone like myself who wants a bit of luxury and the right type of wellness holiday with a bespoke experience. I wanted to create a travel company that would appeal to both women and men.

When did you launch?

Health and Fitness Travel was created in 2010 by myself and Adam Heathcote. Since opening our Australia office in 2014, Health and Fitness Travel has continued to grow, with clients booking across six continents – from solo-friendly fitness holidays in Europe to family sports escapes in the Caribbean.

With wellness tourism growing twice as fast as any other sector in the travel industry, there are no signs that it will slow down, as everyone from ageing Baby Boomers to Millennials focus on embracing a healthier lifestyle. Our bookings have doubled this year.

Two years ago, the Global Spa and Wellness Summit estimated that wellness tourism was worth almost US$439 billion – by 2017, it is projected to rise to US$679 billion.

Which parts of the world are emerging as wellness destinations?

Costa Rica is one of the go-to destinations for 2016, with British Airways set to launch the first direct flights from London Gatwick to the country’s capital of San Jose in May 2016.

This is an emerging destination for coastal wellness retreats where you can combine yoga classes with surfing lessons, before unwinding with a  spa treatment, for example.

Costa Rica is also a world leader in its eco-friendly approach to tourism, making it a popular destination among green-conscious travellers in search of a health retreat.

What are your most popular trips?

Weight management, detox and yoga retreats are a firm favourite among our female clients, while fitness, sports and activity holidays are popular among men.

Fitness holidays offering packages where clients can be flexible and choose exactly what they want are particularly popular, which is why we created our “Fusion Fitness” holidays.

Clients can choose daily activities, lessons or spa treatments from “Cardio”, “Strength and Sport”, “Mind and Body”, or “Renewal” categories. These tailor-made trips have been extremely popular since we launched them in January 2013, because clients have the holiday designed for them, incorporating cycling, boot-camp training and hiking, for example.

Why is health and fitness such a big trend these days?

The health and fitness travel market is being fuelled by older people wanting to hold on to their looks and prolong their lifestyle, and is a trend that’s set to continue growing.

It doesn’t end there though. Holidays have also become popular with honeymooners, with more couples looking to begin married life with a yoga retreat in India or an adventure in South East Asia, for instance.

Who is your demographic?

Our healthy holidays appeal to 30-plus professionals who lead busy lives. They work hard but have little time to focus on their health and fitness, so seek a holiday to rejuvenate and get back in shape.

A high proportion of our clients are single travellers and they see our holidays as a necessary part of their lives and an investment in their health and well-being.

Like any machine used on a daily basis, our bodies need care and attention to ensure they stay in good working order, so these types of healthy holidays are perfect for a body MOT.

What new types of fitness packages/health holidays are you seeing emerging?

We are seeing a rise in fitness holidays that focus on getting back to nature and working out in the great outdoors. Making the most of  stunning natural surroundings, these trips offer everything from jungle gyms to beach boot-camp workouts and guided coastal swimming.

Healthy foodie holidays are also on the rise, with more wellness retreats offering healthy cooking classes and cuisine harvested from their on-site organic farms or gardens.

With a range of healthy dietary and nutrition options at retreats around the world, clients can choose whether they want to pursue an alkaline, an Ayurvedic, a macrobiotic or raw food meal plan, for example.

We have also seen a rise in clients looking to combine cultural discovery with wellness recovery when they visit a new country, which is why we designed our “Discover Recover” excursions.

What’s the point of a wellness holiday? Can it actually make a difference?

A wellness holiday can make a difference. You not only have the chance to escape from the stresses of daily life, but can stimulate your mind with a new culture and learn healthier habits. It’s a great chance to not just relax, but also to improve your physical and emotional well-being.

With tailor-made wellness programmes designed to address health targets, clients can choose a healthy holiday to suit their personal goals.

Whether to kick-start weight-loss, increase their fitness, learn to manage stress or banish insomnia, we offer guidance through personal consultations, educational seminars and workshops.

What other trends do you predict for the wellness travel industry in coming years?

Pre-arrival DNA fitness testing will be an added-value service offered to help clients understand their genetic profile, so fitness programmes can then be more tailored to their specific physical ability and nutritional needs.

Determining factors of a client’s physical DNA, such as whether someone is highly prone to injury, the decision can then be made whether it is better to push the body with an intense workout or take things easier with low impact activities such as yoga or walking.

Mindfulness continues to be a hot topic but “active meditation”, which relates to everyday activities such as walking, working and eating, is also going to play more of a part in wellness programmes.

What kinds of prices do people pay for your holidays?

As a luxury healthy holiday specialist, prices tend to average between £1,500-£3,000 per person for a seven-night stay. However, we do have a variety of affordable options.

Whichever end of the spectrum, the majority of our wellness holidays will include a health and fitness programme, return flights and transfers.

For those who want to blow the budget and have six or 12 months to spare, our “Ultimate Luxury Around the World Wellness Trip“, which starts from £156,000 with business class flights, is an investment in becoming the master of your health and fitness.

What are the weirdest trend-setting treatments we can try?

A rising trend within the wellness spa industry is “hypoxic training”, which uses supplemental oxygen to encourage the natural oxygenation process.

This can improve the efficiency with which our respiratory system can supply oxygen, helping to lessen the effects of exhaustion, lack of focus and vitality caused by a lack of cellular oxygenation.

Oxygenated fitness training is also on the rise, with oxygen-boosted workouts allowing the body to perform to its peak in a constant aerobic state.

Click here to learn more about hotels that charge for oxygen.

Click here to discover a quit-smoking retreat in Spain.

Click here to read about Mandarin Oriental’s partnership with the Mayo Clinic.