‘Wellness’ is a growing trend in tourism all over the world. But it is so much more extensive than the clichés mentioned above.

This article examines what exactly wellness tourism is about and what in the world it has to do with Greenland.

Wellness tourism, most simply put, is travel focused on health and wellbeing.

What is wellness tourism?

Wellness tourism, most simply put, is travel focused on health and wellbeing. Examples often include spa retreats, fitness holidays, or holidays based around a culture of healthy eating.

Wellness of the mind & body


Many examples of wellness tourism also focus on spiritual wellness, or wellness of the mind as well as the body. So an example of a wellness holiday might also be a meditation retreat that concentrates on expanding the visitor’s spirituality and creativity.


This kind of tourism is often linked to transformational travel, in the sense that those who engage in it are often looking to be in some way transformed, not just physically but spiritually as well. A yoga class, for example, can be a route to heightened self-awareness; a farm tour can be a life-changing introduction to the world of community living.

Beyond personal wellness


By inspiring transformation in people, wellness tourism has begun to move beyond focusing solely on the wellness of an individual, to actually having positive impacts on the destination visited.


As travellers become spiritually enlightened and thereby more aware of their personal impact, they are increasingly looking for experiences which are more meaningful and which have a lasting effect on their wellbeing - and these kinds of experiences go beyond personal wellness to relate to the wellness of the destination and its community.


This supports the notion that the tourism industry can be regenerative — rather than extractive — for local people and environments. In this way, wellness tourism can actually be leveraged for sustainable and responsible tourism initiatives.

A new era for wellness tourism

With this new angle on wellness tourism comes the understanding that wellness is multi-dimensional. It is increasingly understood to pertain to connectivity, community and how people relate to each other. Nowadays, wellness tourism experiences focus on the connection between people - not just between groups of tourists, but between tourists and the local people who live in the destination they visit.
In this way, wellness tourism nowadays goes hand in hand with other forms of tourism such as slow tourism and responsible tourism, to contribute to the sustainability of tourism activities in general.

According to Wellness Tourism Worldwide:


“Wellness Travel is purpose-driven travel encompassing discovery, connectivity, transformation, and fulfillment, by promoting positive engagement between people, cultures and nature.”


This definition of wellness tourism is one which not only connects to Visit Greenland’s current strategy of driving sustainable tourism development, but which also can be used by local tourism operators to develop new and existing tourism products which have a place in the global trend of wellness tourism. Understanding what wellness tourism is and what wellness tourists seek allows us to develop products which can appeal to wellness tourists around the world.

Wellness tourism vs. adventure tourism

But how do we transfer this understanding of wellness tourism to the industry in Greenland? Greenland is overwhelmingly an adventure tourism destination - an active destination - so how do we incorporate activities that require tourists to slow down or sometimes completely stop?


Well, as suggested by the definition above, wellness tourism doesn’t necessarily have to be manifested through the classic examples of meditation retreats or spa holidays. As long as it incorporates engagement with culture or nature and results in some kind of positive transformation within oneself or within others, a product can be an example of wellness tourism.


This actually gives us many more options to grab a piece of the ‘wellness pie’. The new definition frames wellness tourism as an adventure in itself - as a spiritual transformation and a connection to culture and nature, which is what tourism in Greenland already works towards anyway.

 

What are we already doing “well”?

Greenland is by no means a stranger to wellness tourism - in fact we already have a good few examples of wellness tourism in operation.

  • Winter bathing club, Nuuk: Not specifically a tourist activity but certainly open to tourists - Nuuk’s winter bathing club gives the opportunity for a bracing dip in the harbour every Sunday morning.
  • Arctic Nomad’s Kiattua Camp is an entire luxury retreat, complete with isolation, a hot tub, a sauna and exclusive dining.
  • Asimut Tours & Camp, close to Kapisillit, is comprised of 3 huts and promotes silence and isolation but also gives daily access to the settlement of Kapisillit for those in need of a small reminder of civilisation.
  • Hotel Sisimiut has a sauna and ‘Arctic Spa’ that can be used individually or rented exclusively.
  • Ilulissat Guesthouse has recently opened a panoramic sauna with a unique view over the icefjord.
  • Glacier Lodge Eqi and Iliminaq Lodge allow guests to immerse themselves totally in nature while maintaining a high standard of living.
  • The lesser-known hot springs in Aasiaat can be experienced on a tour with Honest Greenland.
  • South Greenland is gaining a reputation as a ‘wellness region’ or ‘one giant spa’, with its natural hot springs and its very own spa.

Get inspired!

1. SuperShe, Finland


SuperShe is a startup that bought an entire island in Finland to transform into a women-only retreat. The result is a private, hidden-away wellness retreat that welcomes women from all over the world to disconnect from everyday life and connect with each other.


The island is home to spa facilities and Finnish saunas, and offers activities such as yoga, meditation, cooking classes and nature activities.


“We want SuperShe Island to be rejuvenating and a safe space where women can reinvent themselves and their desires. A place where you can recalibrate without distractions,” says Kristina Roth, founder of SuperShe. “Sometimes it helps to be at the end of the world to feel like you are removed from everything.”


What can Greenland take from this example?


THE END OF THE WORLD IS A SELLING POINT


SuperShe sells itself on being an island “at the end of the world”, because of its isolated location tucked away in the Baltic Sea. This should be understood in terms of location (rather than having apocalyptic connotations!) - ‘the end of the world’ is a place so distant and cut off that it offers the most perfect example of escapism on the planet.


But this ‘end of the world’ quality is something that is perhaps more characteristic of Greenland than anywhere else in the world. Greenland has ‘end-of-the-worldliness’ in spades: from tiny settlements that are almost cut off by the elements, to rolling, tree-less landscapes that are totally uninhabited as far as the eye can see, to empty islands dotted around the coastline, to fjord systems that seem to burrow endlessly into unexplored terrain.


One could describe any location in Greenland as the ‘end of the world’ and the description would probably fit. Since this quality of escapism is something that wellness tourists are looking for, then Greenland already has a huge advantage. Use this unique characteristic as a selling point when promoting wellness tourism products.


2. The Bands, Norway


The Bands is a seaside sauna built by Oslo architecture students which is designed to merge seamlessly into the landscape on which it stands.




The structure essentially consists of three wooden bands which create the forms of three separate structures and then step down over the rocky landscape to finish at the water’s edge. The resulting construction resembles water cascading lazily over the rocks.


The three structures form a sauna building, a picnic terrace and a sunken hot tub, which all boast views over the Norwegian mountain landscape. At the end of the terrace, all three bands step down to allow direct access to the water's edge, and to create an area that can be used for preparing freshly caught fish.


As one member of the design team explains, “The project is located at the end of the quay, aiming for a sensitive relation with the landscape and a direct contact with the water.”


What can Greenland take from this example?


USE THE LANDSCAPE


The Bands is a simple but inspired example of designers using the local landscape to their advantage. Building on rocky terrain is tricky (as Greenlanders know all too well!), but in this example, the architects have not only dealt with this challenge, but used it to add value to their project.


If part of wellness tourism is about making a connection with nature, then housing your wellness activities in structures which try to integrate with the landscape is a clever way to go.


Greenland has a unique landscape which for many tourists is the primary reason to come - so think about how to incorporate this landscape into the tourism products you develop. Use what nature has already gifted us with.


3. Aurora Retreat, Sweden


Aurora Retreat certainly lives up to its name, in the sense that it is far removed from the everyday world. A trip to this camp promises to be much less relaxing than your typical wellness retreat, however, as visitors are expected to find peace through the rigorous and rugged traditions of life in the far north of Sweden. It is a simple way of living, but encourages mindfulness and wellness through interacting with nature and stripping life back to basics.

Aurora Retreat. Image courtest of auroraretreat.se.png (1)
As well as being able to contribute to the day-to-day operation of the camp, guests have access to equipment for snowshoeing, cross-country skiing and ice-fishing, and the area is abundant with Arctic wildlife, so there are many reasons to venture out into the wilderness.


The isolation of this retreat is underlined by the fact that there are no roads reaching all the way to the camp - the final kilometre to the camp must be travelled on snowshoes.


What can Greenland take from this example?


WELLNESS DOESN’T HAVE TO MEAN LUXURY


This is something that is really important to acknowledge for operators in Greenland who are interested in getting into wellness tourism. Although ‘wellness’ is often associated with luxury, and there are examples of wellness tourism in Greenland that offer a luxury experience, it does not have to be this way.


Greenland’s nature is one of its strengths and tourists love it for its ruggedness and the challenges it presents to the ways of life they know. Remember that wellness tourists are often not afraid to get their hands dirty, and although there are definitely certain standards that must be fulfilled, the connection and the transformation that a wellness tourism experience offers is often much more important than its level of luxury.


Wellness tourists are looking primarily for signature experiences, not luxury experiences - so give them something unique.

Stay in the loop

As we have seen in this article alone, wellness tourism is a constantly evolving industry. However, there are plenty of ways to stay informed and make sure you stay on top of the trend.


Subscribe to Skift’s Wellness newsletter, covering the latest news in the wellness world, from a global business standpoint.


Head to Wellness Tourism Worldwide for tips and discussions about wellness tourism across the world.