A growing desire for wellness at home and at work is resulting in healthy solutions being woven into more corporate event programmes. Destination specialists in Japan and Sri Lanka, two destinations loved for their traditional wellness retreats, tells how demand is shaping up
A growing appreciation for a healthy body and mind among consumers has led to similar expectations when they are travelling for business.
Corporate events are no longer satisfied with simply incorporating low-sugar meals crafted to keep delegatesâ€™ mind alert during meetings, or utilising venues with natural light or fun layouts to encourage lively interaction.
Some planners and hoteliers are observing a growing demand for wellness programmes to be incorporated into meetings, incentive and teambuilding events.
In Japan, a land famed for its mineral-rich onsens, wellness-themed incentive and teambuilding events are on the rise and evolving.
â€śWe are seeing an increase in demand for wellness programmes from corporate groups recently, with our zazen meditation and yoga sessions the most frequently requested,â€ť said Yayoi Awashima, director of sales for Suiran, a Luxury Collection Hotel on the banks of the Hozu River in Kyotoâ€™s Arashiyama district.
â€śBut we are also finding increasing interest in indigenous wellness programmes â€“ something that is different from what is available elsewhere and unique to the location,â€ť she said, adding that groups in the past have generally been made up of women in their 40s and 50s from companies in the luxury fashion and cosmetics sectors. An ideal group size is between 20 and 30 people.
As well as onsen bathing, Suiran can arrange moonlit or early-morning yoga in its leafy gardens, zazen meditation within a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site or forest bathing in a bamboo grove.
The monks at Shunko-in Temple, Kyoto also provide lodging and wellness programmes for visitors to the ancient Japanese capital, with demand rising sharply in the last three years, said reverend Taka Kawakami.
The venue benefits from its location in the heart of a city rich in religious, imperial and traditional accents at every turn.
â€śA year ago, people really only wanted mindfulness programmes to meditate and reduce stress.
â€śNow, the most popular course examines emotions and biases, with participants learning how emotions can influence their attention, behaviour and ways of thinking. If people can identify their biases, then they can adapt to new conditions in diverse office environments quickly,â€ť Kawakami said.
The templeâ€™s courses are popular among high-tech companies and venture businesses, as well as among business schools such as Harvard, Wharton and INSEAD, to develop mental wellness and broader well-being.
Shunko-in Templeâ€™s courses are ideal for people in their mid-20s to 40s, opined Kawakami, with typically a 50-50 gender ratio in groups of between 20 and 40.
Some 6,000km away, in Sri Lanka, the same wellness trend in the business events space is taking hold.
The destination is seen as a relatively new contender for teambuilding and wellness programmes but the market is growing, found destination experts.
This is a market that can grow exponentially, believes Jetwing Travelsâ€™ managing director, Shiromal Cooray. The company is part of Jetwing Group whose subsidiary Jetwing Adventures specialises in adventure travel and corporate wellness programmes, apart from others.
Since moving into this niche 19 months ago, Jetwing Adventures has completed about six programmes for clients mostly from Europe, with the largest group being 18 executives.
While Sri Lanka has an assortment of yoga and Ayurvedic treatment providers, most hotels and resorts do not specialise in corporate wellness programmes. Instead, it is often companies like Ayurva Traveller â€“ a wellness travel specialist â€“ that support overseas planners.
Ayurva Travels got its first big client in December 2017, when a Singapore-based multinational company flew 40 executives from different parts of the world into Sri Lanka.
Nilusha Kodituwakku, Ayurva Travelsâ€™ founder, opined that Sri Lanka could well be the next Bali, a destination also renowned for its wellness restreats, should it be promoted right and have proper guidelines in place to ensure â€śthat the right people get into the (wellness) businessâ€ť.
In Sri Lanka, popular wellness treatments include sound baths (an ancient sound-healing practice using a special gong), meditation, and acro-yoga (a combination of yoga and acrobatics). These would be worked into a programme that includes teambuilding games.
– Additional reporting by Feizal Samath
This story was first published in TTGmice May 2018 issue, as part of the cover feature. Access TTGmice electronic magazines by clicking here.