June 04, 2019 | By Lodha Group | Health and wellness becoming the new luxury?

Health and wellness becoming the new luxury?

June 04, 2019 | By LODHA

Aware of the changes, hotels, resorts & online platforms are working to cater to the demand for healthier diets & rejuvenation treatments. 

When work gets too overwhelming or stressful, Bengaluru-based dentist Ann Sales hops on to the earliest flight to Kozhikode, a coastal town in Kerala state, for a much-needed spa session. To wind down, she opts for treatments that help cleanse her completely. 

"Rejuvenation and detoxification are the two reasons to blindly indulge in luxury wellness centres for me. I visit Kerala every four months to get aromatherapy sessions, weeklong vegan diets and healing methods that do me good physically and mentally," she said. She frequently visits the Jiva Spa at Bekal in Kozhikode district, which offers experiences inspired by India's ancient wellness heritage. 

Destressing this way can be expensive – Sales usually goes for treatments that cost between Rs 4,000 and Rs 10,000. "It's all about the experience for me. These experiences of holistic healing make me feel good and as a customer, I am promised luxury treatment," Sales said.

Sales belongs to a group of people in India who are increasingly restricting their spending on materialistic goods and choosing instead to pay for mind and body-enhancing experiences. Some head for spa sessions, while others are changing their food-consumption patterns so that they can feel and look good2. 

Aware of the changes in customer preferences, hotels, resorts and online platforms are working to cater to the demand for healthier diets and rejuvenation treatments. 

Experiences that Indians look for include the elaborate spa sessions offered at exotic Ayurvedic villages nestled deep in the forests of Wayanad in Kerala or the Ashtanga yoga weeks in Rishikesh in Uttarakhand — places where consumers are treated like royalty. 

To build on the opportunity, yoga centres and spas are changing the way they operate, adopting tailor-made menus for customers. They also throw in personal yoga gurus and aromatic massage sessions at the end of each day. The Jiva spa, located in the midst of a rustic environment in the Taj Vivanta resort on the banks of the Kappil River in Bekal, offers nature in the lap of luxury to customers. 

People care more about how they look, eat and behave and it's become a trend, said Akshita, a Jiva spokesperson, stressing the importance of this change in the habits of consumers. "What's the point of owning expensive clothes when you can't fit into them? It is holistic wellness that people want to spend big bucks on," the spokesperson said. 

According to Virtuoso, an international luxury travel network, the niche of wellness travel is growing rapidly and is expected to reach $680 billion in 2017, which is about 15 per cent of the global tourism industry. Although wellness travel has been popular overseas and spas have been around in India, the business now looks set for growth. 

To draw customers, hotels are endorsing methods like cryotherapy – the use of low temperatures to heal tissue damage or increase metabolism – to combat the fatigue of tough workouts and the effects of aging.

Centres such as the new Canyon Ranch Wellness Resort at Kaplankaya in Turkey and the Carillon Miami Beach Resort have igloos in their spas. Canyon Ranch has been in the wellness business since 1979. The Dolder Grand Spa in Zurich includes a Snow Paradise Room, where guests are invited to swap body lotions for snow. 

In India, the Vana Malsi Estate, a spa resort at the foot of the Himalayas, provides Tibetan healing therapies espoused by the Dalai Lama. Visitors can rejuvenate themselves through acupressure massages and water baths. Amanbagh in Rajasthan recently introduced fully immersive Ayurvedic practices that last almost two weeks. India has always been a sought-after destination for health and wellness seekers around the world, said Rohit Makhija, head of reservations at Amanbagh. 

The resort's clientele has increased by almost 40 per cent this past year. According to Roma Basumatary, manager at the Oberoi Udaivilas in Udaipur, demand for internal and external healing has grown. Complete contentment, lavish luxury and exclusivity are the key factors that contribute to the popularity of wellness. 

"This is a new wave of materialism for the rich in India," said Basumatary. "It's no longer an indulgence – it's a necessity for many." The Oberoi treatments start at Rs 15,000 and go up to Rs 40,000. Spa treatments at the Leela Group of Hotels in India range from fitness focus, customised treatments for men and women and beautyenhancing spas that cost a minimum of Rs 10,000 and go up to Rs 40,000. 

Along with the spa treatments and massages, there's another trend: a change in food consumption, as reflected in the growing popularity of organic diets and personalised mealplans. This trend is perhaps best exemplified by actresses Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston, who maintain gluten-free, vegan diets and swear by them. The regimen includes the consumption of pills that are a blend of grown organic yellow-pea protein, fibre, amino acids and spinach juice powder or L-Glutamine capsules to so satisfy sugar cravings.

Paltrow owns Goop, a luxury lifestyle website with offline pop-up stores that cater to people looking for luxury beauty and health treatments inside cosmetic bottles. Her brand boasts of a niche clientele in Hollywood.

In India, too, celebrities are making efforts to maintain holistic lifestyles—they choose to go vegan with customised diets to maintain their figures and to defy aging.

Jacqueline Fernandez endorses tobehealthy. me, a portal that specialises in organic ingredients to create cold-pressed fruit and nut juices and a variety of superfoods. The brand claims to be exclusive, catering only to those who want to keep a check on their bodies with the satisfaction of knowing that the ingredients are rare to find in your neighbourhood market.

This shift towards the importance and understanding of wellness in India can be attributed to younger consumers who value health more than the habit of hoarding material goods.

People use these products so that they can boast about being able to take care of their bodies and health, according to some psychologists. 

"Feeling good is the new looking good," said Deepa Singh, a Mumbai-based psychologist. The West has come to embrace practices like the consumption of DNA-personalised meals. Although India is yet to reach that level, the country has its own chia puddings, with alkaline water, green pumpkin seeds, pecan nuts and macadamia nuts in breakfast cereal and detox juice boxes. 

A regular consumer of health drinks said she'd rather spend on things that benefited her. "It helps me stay healthy and I'm happy indulging in these than a Ferragamo Tote bag," she said. 

Customers in India want to spend money on things that make them feel and look good. This shift in focus to experiences from material goods shows the change in the Indian consumer's mind set. It may be slow, but it is catching on, especially among luxury consumers. 

ET Panache

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