More travelers are focusing their trips around these three themes, rather than traditional sights.
It seems business or pleasure are the only options travelers are given when defining the reasoning behind their trips, but motivations for travel aren’t always so crystal clear.
In fact, more and more travelers are going on pilgrimages to very specific destinations for reasons that don’t fall into the classic brackets of beach-laying, sight-seeing or work-trip. Here are three booming forms of tourism.
Pop quiz time! Have you obsessively documented a trip by dutifully Instagramming every beautifully presented quince tart tatin, honey-drizzled fried-chicken platter or salty-egg-topped papaya salad you’ve encountered?
Have you ever decided where to vacation based, at least partially, on the area’s local cuisine, or eateries and nightlife?
Then you might just be part of the growing sector of travelers known as “food tourists.” When deciding where to go for their next trip, travelers are increasingly factoring in a potential destination’s food and drink scene — whether it’s the local restaurants, food trucks and bars, or the nearby farms and markets, food artisans, vineyards and breweries. Hard-core food and vino lovers are often more interested in exploring a city or region’s gastronomic offerings than they are in the area’s natural or non-food-based cultural attractions.
Travelers on food sabbaticals might be set on sampling Sazeracs and muffelatas in New Orleans, going on a mission to find the best Key lime pie in Southern Florida or navigating backwoods highways in Quebec to come across a classic Canadian roadside sugar shack.
According to a 2015 report published by the Ontario Culinary Tourism Alliance (OCTA) and Skift, a travel news site, “In 2012, it was estimated that tourism expenditures on food services in the U.S. topped $201 billion, nearly a quarter of all travel income.” Because, honestly, show us the traveler who doesn’t want to eat and drink their way through a vacation.
Yoga retreats, spa getaways and other healing-focused trips may sound like a New Age fad, but humans have been going on health-driven vacations for millennia (think ancient Romans traveling to mineral baths, or sun-starved Victorians flocking to Mediterranean climes on doctors’ orders).
These days, wellness tourism is a nearly $500-billion-a-year industry, and it’s estimated to grow to $680 billion by 2017. “Wellness travel is one of the fastest growing — if not the fastest growing — tourism categories today,” says Beth McGroarty, research director at the Global Wellness Institute. GWI defines wellness tourism as “all travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal well-being, whether physical, mental, environmental or spiritual.” It’s a definition that McGroarty says is “willfully broad, because it spans many kinds of travel: destination spas, health and wellness resorts, fitness- or adventure-focused travel (like hiking, water sports and cycling), hot springs and wellness cruises. Even mainstream hotels — almost all the big brands from Westin to the Four Seasons — are adding more health and fitness programming.”
Tracey Welch, general manager at Red Mountain Resort in Ivins, Utah, says that most of the luxury retreat’s guests are in search of “healthy stress reduction, through reconnecting with nature and increased physical activity.” Many of Red Mountain’s guests want to immerse themselves in the stunning American Southwest surroundings, so the resort offers hiking and biking treks through Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks.
On the more extreme end of the fitness spectrum is The Ashram, a Calabasas, Calif., wellness resort with pre-dawn wake-up calls and required 10- to 15-mile morning hikes. It’s not “ten-hut!” all the time: Guests get a daily massage before diving into an afternoon agenda of pool, weight and barre classes. Meals are totally organic, gluten-free and vegetarian (and alcohol-less!), with many ingredients coming from the Ashram’s own garden. Definitely not a cushy, mai-tai-by-the-pool experience — but there’s a six-month waiting list.
“Most of our guests come here to stop the clock and reset their body, mind and soul,” says director Catharina Hedburg.
While these well-being-centric resorts are certainly in line with the healthy living movement, McGroarty is positive that “wellness tourism is far more than a passing trend. In the coming years, the concept will increasingly reshape tourism — and how people perceive what they want to get out of travel — as we’ve known it.”
Cannabis vacay, anyone? (All in favor, say “high!” Sorry, couldn’t resist.) In recent years, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Alaska have legalized recreational marijuana and, as a result, these states are seeing a blaze of pot tourism.
Grass fanatics from all over the country are heading west to visit marijuana dispensaries and other cannabusinesses, go on canna “bus” tours to see local grow operations and other 420 facilities, take edibles cooking classes and even stay in “bud and breakfasts,” which are weed-friendly inns and hotels that allow smoking on the premises.
Those looking to combine wellness and marijuana tourism could consider Kush Tourism, a Seattle-based cannabis tour operator that offers tours in several states, including those that include cannabis massages and biking.
A warning, though, to hash-happy travelers: While recreational marijuana in these states is legal, public consumption of it is not. Here’s to your next — yes — trip.