Fitness-focused vacations are on the rise this year, challenging ‘fat farm’ stereotypes that have become typical for cruises and retreats.
According to the Global Wellness Tourism Economy report of 2013, wellness tourism – which includes travel paired with activities such as yoga retreats, boot camps, fitness centers, cycling, gyms and other activities – is about a $500 billion global market.
Fitness-inspired travelers are now looking to combine their excursions with exercise, whether that be yoga among the sea turtles, scuba diving, or the increasingly popular zumba cruise.
The report also said wellness tourism represents 14 percent of global tourism revenues overall, and is expected to rise another 2 percent by 2017.
This trend seems almost counterintuitive when considering the four course dinners, endless cocktails, wine and massive buffets that are typical of most cruises. According to a survey of more than 1,500 British cruisers, conducted by the British online cruise agency, the average British cruise passenger gains 12 to 14 pounds on a two week cruise. More than half of those surveyed said they dieted before going on their cruise, and 31 percent said they did this so they could indulge while on their trip.
“Fitness retreat used to mean go away and lose weight,” said Melisse Gelula, co-founder of the wellness media company Well+Good. “Now it’s just working fitness into a schedule that might also include lavish dinners, beach time, cocktail hours, nights out dancing.”
Many cruises are now nestling the fee for exercise classes into the overall cruise cost. Norwegian Cruise Line and Princess Cruises both now offer body sculpting boot camp-type classes, even providing customized workout programs for participants to follow back home. These lines have also introduced TRX classes, a suspension bodyweight program developed by the Navy Seals.
Norwegian Getaway is now featuring low-impact ‘Pure-Form’ Pilates, as well as a Chi Ball Yoga class, combining yoga, tai chi and meditation. Crystal Serenity also offers yoga classes (even for a men-only group), and Disney Cruise Lines provides a sunrise yoga session at Castaway Cay, the line’s private island.
Maria Walker, founder of Getaway Fitness in Florida which offers workout vacations in Florida and California, refers to the growing industry as fitness adventure.
“When I started, there were spa resorts and fat camps but not much in the middle,” said Walker.
Now, cruise and vacation package activities range from yoga and rock climbing to kayaking, and intend to focus more heavily on exercise and nutrition than on losing weight.