57% of UK adults would rather add health/wellness activities to a regular holiday than go on a holiday specifically for wellness. This illustrates the high potential for offering wellness add-ons to mainstream holidays, meaning brands from across the entire travel market can capitalise on growing demand.

Rural areas and outdoor activities will be favoured by those needing to de-stress and reconnect with the real world. By contrast, indoor activities, group holidays and escorted wellness tours will recover slower from the COVID-19 pandemic. Demand is expected to bounce back as the virus threat clears and the economy recovers.

The expensive image of wellness holidays poses a threat to this sector in the current economic uncertain climate, as more people show caution when making high value purchases.

However, the long-term outlook is promising. The increasing focus on mental health, which has been accelerated as a result of COVID-19, is expected to continue driving demand for wellness travel in the future. Critical levels of stress, excessive technology use and unprecedented time spent at home will all boost the appeal of holidays that specifically aim to improve mental or emotional wellbeing. This is paving the way for growth in many niche types of wellness holidays, such as retreats.

Key issues covered in this Report

  • The impact of COVID-19 on the wellness travel market.

  • Motivations for taking a wellness holiday.

  • Future opportunities in the wellness travel market.

  • Company innovations in the wellness travel market.

  • Interest and preferences for combining holidaying with working.

Products covered in this Report

For the purposes of this Report, Mintel included holidays taken to pursue wellness actively in the UK and abroad, in which:

  • Wellness is defined as the state of being in good health.

  • Wellness travel/holidays refers to holidays specifically taken to improve consumers’ health and/or wellness, but is not limited to specialist or dedicated wellness breaks.

The Report also explores the emerging trend of working holidays. As more companies announced permanent options to work from home/away from the office, workers are considering new ways to live and work, creating new work-life balance combinations, including the opportunity to take a ‘working holiday’ (eg combining holidaying with work).

COVID-19: market context (created 6 October 2020)

The first COVID-19 cases were confirmed in the UK at the end of January, with a small number of cases in February. The government focused on the ‘contain’ stage of its strategy, with the country continuing to operate much as normal. As the case level rose, the government ordered the closure of non-essential stores on 20 March.

A wider lockdown requiring people to stay at home except for essential shopping, exercise and work ‘if absolutely necessary’ followed on 23 March. On 10 May 2020, the Prime Minister announced revised guidance, recommending that people who could not work from home should return to the workplace, and giving people more scope to spend time out of the home. Further relaxations to lockdown rules were announced in the week of 23 May, including the gradual re-opening of non-essential retailers, and increased opportunities for social interaction across households.

On 23 June 2020, the Prime Minister announced that pubs, restaurants, accommodation and most leisure facilities and tourist attractions would be allowed to re-open on 4 July 2020. Businesses are allowed to reduce the social distancing rule to one metre where it is not possible to keep two metres apart. Meanwhile, travellers can stay overnight with no more than two households together.

Initially, all international arrivals except from Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands had been required to self-isolate in their accommodation for 14 days on arrival into the UK from 8 June 2020 onwards. At the start of July, the UK government announced so-called travel corridors, which allow travellers from the UK to travel to over 70 countries or territories without having to self-isolate upon arrival in the UK from 10 July onwards. UK. Although several countries have been added to the list of travel corridors, some have been removed, including Spain, France, Portugal and a number of Greek islands. Meanwhile, several countries listed by the UK government still impose entry requirements for UK visitors (eg quarantine rules, undertake a COVID-19 test) or have closed their borders to UK travellers (eg Australia, New Zealand).

In September 2020, with infections beginning to rise again, the government introduced the ‘rule of six’, limiting household social gatherings to a maximum of six people, which affected some holidays such as domestic cottage rentals. Local lockdowns were enforced across parts of the UK, introducing further restrictions, including on social gatherings, travel and hospitality.

Economic and other assumptions

Mintel’s economic assumptions are based on the Office for Budget Responsibility’s central scenario included in its July 2020 Fiscal Sustainability Report. The scenario suggests that UK GDP could fall by 12.4% in 2020, recovering by 8.7% in 2021, and that unemployment will reach 11.9% by the end of 2020, falling to 8.8% by the end of 2021. The current uncertainty, however, means there is wide variation on the range of forecasts, which is reflected in the OBR’s own scenarios. In its upside scenario, economic activity returns to pre-COVID-19 levels by Q1 2021. The OBR's more negative scenario, by contrast, would mean that GDP doesn’t recover until Q3 2024.

We are working on the assumption that a vaccine will be available by mid-2021, but that there will be continued disruption to both domestic and global markets for much of 2021. We are assuming, as of 1 October 2020, that there will not be a second full UK national lockdown on the scale of March 2020. However continuing restrictions and local lockdowns are expected, and social distancing will remain the norm in the UK and abroad until the health threat has abated. Travel to overseas destinations will continue to be subject to changing rules, restrictions and quarantine requirements.

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