Remember when holidays were all about partying and drinking until the early hours of the morning? In the past five years, something has shifted. More people are swapping mojitos for green smoothies and nights clubbing in Ibiza for yoga retreats in Turkey. But why is this?
We live fast-paced busy lives where the greatest luxury is simply having time to indulge yourself. Twenty years ago, this might have been splashing out on a luxury party yacht in Ibiza, but nowadays people are taking a more holistic approach and investing money in improving their health on holiday.
Wellness tourism is now worth £2.3 trillion ($3.4 trillion USD), according to the Global Wellness Institute – and it is continuing to rise. The number of British holidaymakers looking for a fitness holiday has doubled in the past few years. 47 per cent of people want an active holiday break, according to a poll by Travelex.
One of three of these people want to 'tone up' on holiday and nearly a quarter said they would like to lose weight. 17 per cent said they wanted to concentrate purely on their wellbeing while others were interested in eating more healthily and improving their mental health.
"47 per cent of people want an active holiday break compared to 5 per cent looking for a boozy group trip"
This is a big contrast to boozy group trips, which appealed to only five per cent of the 2,000 people involved in the study.
“Consumers are more interested in wellness, more knowledgeable about wellness, and more holistic in their approach to wellness than they have ever been in the past," says Jeremy McCarthy, expert and author of The Psychology of Spas and Wellbeing.
“This generation is not content to just carve out small pockets of wellness in an otherwise, unhealthy lifestyle. People want wellness to follow them wherever they go: at home, at work and when they travel." But why this sudden shift?
Jeremy believes it is because we are busier than ever before. Our digital devices allow us to fill every waking moment with productive time. Carrying work phones means we are in contact with our employers and clients 24/7 – and rarely get time for a break.
“We need to schedule moments of downtime to allow for mental recuperation or our performance [at work] starts to decline," says Jeremy.
Studies have shown that continuously asking your brain to work eventually drains your focus and physical and emotional resources. These resources need to be replenished with rest – or it becomes harder to stay on-task and solve problems.
Stress relief is a huge reason people are turning towards healthy breaks from their daily life. But Jeremy argues it's not so much about stress relief. “You can find “stress relief" at a bar or on a dance floor. It's more about energy management," he says.
“People are seeking opportunities to recuperate from the busyness of their lives. They want to spend time together in ways that are more restorative rather than draining."
Yoga retreats, for example, have been booming since the 1980s - but even more so in the last five years. Yoga is a huge part of the wellness industry, raking in an estimated £790 million in the UK alone, according to IBISWorld.
Over the last five years, the Robinson Club Quinta da Ria in Portugal has seen a huge rise in bookings. People want to see a change in their habits and lifestyle and often practicing yoga and pilates for a week is symbolic of that.
Club style holidays like Robinson - where the resort is focused around sports, fitness and wellbeing activities - mean you don't even have to step outside the grounds to find a healthy escape.
But what is attracting the younger generation to booking onto healthy holiday over party breaks? Is it just a natural part of growing older? Or is there a new movement among Generation Y towards a healthier way of living?
“Social media has had a huge role to play in the rise of health and fitness," says Carly Peart, personal trainer and fitness blogger with a hugely successful YouTube channel called CarlyRowena. She built her fitness career using social media – and now has over 81,000 Instagram followers and 270,000 YouTube subscribers.
“Gorgeous healthy bodies, deliciously colourful meals, beautiful retreats are all over our feeds - and we all want in," she says.
Whether it is friends bragging about their latest 10K run on Facebook or a picture of those new technical leggings on Instagram, social media lends itself to aspirational lifestyles - and people love it.
“My Instagram feed is made up of 80 per cent fitness accounts," says Emily Morgan, 31 from Leeds. “Everything is more accessible. You can pick up your phone and with one click see what the latest workout is, what you should be wearing and where you should be doing it."
Emily grew up swimming and dancing competitively while at school. At university, she got a job in a bar as a shot girl and her sporty lifestyle had become a thing of the past. “I spent most weekends existing on two hours sleep. My diet went out of the window."
Her early 20s holidays consisted of heavy drinking on Greek Islands and partying at Glastonbury. “I pretty much ruined myself. I felt like I needed a holiday to get over my holiday."
Long gone are the days when the gaunt rock 'n' roll look was in style. “It's now 'cool' to be healthy and naturally beautiful," as Paula Viidu, 26 from London, put it.
People want to come back from their holidays looking strong, toned and tanned – rather than hiding the shadows under their eyes from a week-long party. The best way to do this is to book onto a holiday where fitness and healthy eating is a key part of the agenda.
Since reaching her late 20s and meeting her partner Sam, things have shifted for Emily. “We go on holiday now to 'do things' rather than spending all day recovering from the night before."
"We go on holiday now to 'do things' rather than spending all day recovering from the night before"
Emily has discovered a passion for cycling and yoga. “I bumped into a friend last week who was going on a yoga retreat, I felt envious so I started researching them as soon as I got home."
But yoga retreats and taking on a healthy lifestyle come at a price. With green smoothies now costing £7 per a bottle, £20 for a spinning class and £120+ for a personal trainer in London, wellbeing has become a luxury commodity.
As one Vogue writer put it: “It’s like the only acceptable lifestyle brag. You are a douche if you brag about your car or how much money you make, but bragging about how much you spin is normal."
Luckily, there are ways to stay healthy and fit without spending a fortune. Holidays with yoga and wellbeing packages - which invite people to “take more time for themselves" - are becoming more affordable than ever before.
Ultimately, people are cottoning on to how good being healthy makes them feel. After moving to London, Sophie Everard, 29, threw herself into the city party scene. Holidays were spent at music festivals and on boozy snowboarding trips abroad.
The turning point came when she looked in the mirror and couldn't see the strong, healthy girl she used be at school anymore.
“I was reminded of all the things I loved doing the most – snowboarding, surfing and being in the outdoors. Partying wasn't conducive to that. I wanted to feel the same energy I did as a teenager."
Sophie she signed up to a local gym, reignited her passion for fitness and healthy eating and became a fitness instructor. “I'm now more fulfilled by a sweaty hour long cycle or three hour surf than a booze-fuelled expensive night out." She is now working on setting up her own fitness retreats for adventurous women.
Whether it was the influence of social media or escapism from today's constant work-drive, more people are putting themselves and their health and wellbeing first than ever before.
As Carly Peart says, “we are all looking for ways to prolong our lives and look good for longer."
If a longer, better quality of life means tipping that red wine down the sink, stocking your fridge full of chia seed breakfast jars and booking on to a yoga retreat, then maybe we should all be giving it a try.