Spafinder’s Jackie Burns Brisman on Spa and Wellness Travel

Spa and Wellness travel has been growing strongly in popularity over the past couple years. To find out why and to get the very latest tips and trends for you to incorporate into your own travels, I went straight to the expert for Travel Maestro’s July interview. Jackie Burns Brisman is the Senior Editor of Spafinder 365, the most comprehensive source for wellness-related products and services. I’m sure you’ll find new spa insight and travel inspiration in Jackie’s words.

spa and wellness travel

Lanserhof Tegernsee in Germany is one of Europe’s most modern health resorts. Photo credit: Spafinder

The way I understand it Destination Spas are immersion environments where all activities are focused on personal growth and getting healthy in body and mind. Can you share some tips for choosing a destination spa and recommend any favorites? Destination Spas offer personalized programming in which guests become fully immersed in their spa and wellness experiences. Often times the package includes everything from beautifully appointed accommodations, healthy spa cuisine, spa treatments, educational lectures, and unique fitness classes touching all areas of your mind, body, and soul. A large part of a Destination Spa experience lies in being mindful, so to me, selecting the right Destination Spa takes a bit of mindfulness prior to starting said experience. Sit and set your intention for your trip – what do you hope to get out of it? A little R&R? A slimmer waistline? A sense of healing? From there I would look at the offerings and find experiences that intrigue you and then look to locations that speak to you.


spa and wellness travel

Walking meditation on a labyrinth is good for relaxation, self-discovery and physical health.
Photo credit: Spafinder

Are Destination Spas analogous with ‘Wellness Travel’ or is that a separate category of spa travel? What kinds of services fall into ‘Wellness Travel? All Destination Spas fall under the category of Wellness Travel, but that’s not where Wellness Travel ends. According to recent research conducted for the Global Wellness Institute, wellness tourism is one of the fastest-growing travel categories and, thanks in large part to travelers seeking out ways to keep well even when they are away, that growth is both for business and pleasure. This runs the gamut from choosing a property that features nutritious cuisine and fitness classes, to being sure to spend some time relaxing your body and mind at the spa. While it certainly qualifies, wellness travel doesn’t always have to mean going to a retreat; keeping well while traveling isn’t a luxury, it’s an accessible option for everyone.

What is Wellness Travel? from SpaFinder Wellness on Vimeo.

Resort spas, on the other hand, have a wider appeal, offering a range of activities that include spa and wellness services. What traveler types enjoy Resort Spas? Going back to my previous answer, a Resort Spa could be a great Wellness Travel destination option, depending on the nature of your trip. There are times where you want to indulge and go for that extra glass of wine, decadent dessert, or spend their morning sleeping in and skipping the gym but that doesn’t mean that the same resort doesn’t have guests that are taking advantage of their fitness amenities, the lighter fare–and any trip to the spa qualifies as keeping up with your overall well-being. To me, wellness means feeling good on the inside and looking good on the outside. SpaEvidence is a great site to showcase the medical evidence behind the benefits of many of our favorite spa treatments.

Spa and Wellness Travel

Canyon Spa reception area on Celebrity Equinox. Photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

Cruise lines and hotels are investing in their spa facilities in a big way. What are some trends in cruise spa offerings? One big piece of news in the cruising world is the new Celebrity Cruises/Canyon Ranch partnership to bring Canyon Ranch SpaClubŸ at Sea facilities aboard a fleet of 10 Celebrity cruise ships.

I think the cruises are most definitely noticing travelers’ desires to “sail well,” if you will. Offering more fitness classes and lighter fare to accommodate the guests that aren’t “on board” for the all-you-can-eat decadence.


spa and wellness travel

Select an aromatherapy that best matches your intentions for the experience. Photo credit: Spafinder

It seems that one thing all types of spas incorporate is something called “mindful living.” Can you explain to us what that means and in what ways it is incorporated into spa services? Being mindful means being present in the moment, in the here and now – and in today’s day and age it’s a practice that is paramount to our overall sense of well-being. With email chains, deadlines, being connected 24/7, often times these days our minds are everywhere but in the present moment so mindfulness whether practiced on your own through meditation or within a spa treatment is key to mental health. Many spas are incorporating mindfulness in pre-treatment rituals, whether it’s as simple as selecting an aromatherapy that best matches your intentions for the experience or starting your experience with a foot bath. Many other treatments incorporate mindfulness throughout the experience. And of course there are spa services that aren’t “treatments” at all, but rather genuine experiences which teach mindfulness; ones that try to help you to find your true self, that inner voice that often times gets drowned out by all the technology and noise and allows you to better connect with you.


spa and wellness travel

Aerial yoga is a gravity-defying approach to wellness. Photo credit: Spafinder

I’m intrigued by the recent popularity of “suspending gravity” for stress relief. Tell us about some of these new anti-gravity activities. The popularity of Suspending Gravity is definitely linked to the desire to disconnect from the world we are so hyper-connected to at all times, in all ways. Leading back to mindfulness, going “weightless” and practicing Aerial Yoga, going to an in-water spinning class, or going to float in a floatation tank at a spa that offers such services allows you to leave everything but the present moment behind, the “weight” of the world melts away and you are able to de-stress the mind and body.


spa and wellness travel

Hot springs in Hakone, Japan. Photo credit: Spafinder

“Taking the waters” in natural hot springs has been a healing experience for centuries. What’s so great about it and why are more people suddenly searching out this ancient spa experience? Hot Springs are really heating up as we showcased in our 2014 Global Spa and Wellness Trends Forecast, and that’s mainly due to the amazing benefits of taking the waters. A soak will help you achieve The 7 “Rs” as we like to say at Spafinder: to relax, release endorphins, reduce stress, raise body temperature (which helps to detoxify), reinvigorate blood circulation, relieve aches and pains, and reopen nasal passages. 

Hot springs also offer world travelers a unique and authentic experience at their destination. And, with hot springs existing in virtually every corner of the world, governments and developers alike have taken notice and are funding hundreds of new, exciting projects around the globe.

Jackie, thank you for sharing your vast knowledge of wellness destinations and services with us!

If you are inspired to take a spa vacation, contact our travel experts at Covington Travel for help customizing the perfect trip.


Jackie Burns Brisman, Senior Editor, Spafinder 365

Jackie Burns Brisman, Senior Editor of Spafinder Wellness 365 offers readers useful, inspiring, and healthful information on all aspects of how to live a wellness focused life. She covers a wide range of topics including travel, fitness, beauty, spa, and healthy eating. She regularly shares the latest news about workplace wellness, cutting edge products, spa destinations, wellness trends, and exciting getaways. Prior to joining the organization, Jackie spent time at Women’s Health Magazine. She has been featured on The Couch on WLNY-TV in New York and Good Day Baltimore on WBFF Fox Baltimore.



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