Why does one travel? Many have attempted to answer the question. Travelling, on its own, can be therapeutic for many. Travelling to seek out newer experiences, being amidst of nature, or even meeting new people can be powerful enough to change one’s life. At the very least, it is a rejuvenating experience that helps you unwind and relax.
When it comes to travelling for wellness, individuals seek out a wholesome experience, that not only revives your body but your mind and spirit as well. Holistic travel isn’t merely yoga and/or spa therapy programmes. It is a more complete experience that involves your body, mind and soul.
While wellness centres across India adhered to many yoga and ayurvedic programmes, it is only recently that luxury hotels and resorts have adhered to the demands of a weary population. One of the largest hospitality chains in India, CGH Earth has a total of 20 properties, divided into CGH Earth – experience hotels and CGH Earth – experience wellness. These include sixteen holiday experiences, three healthcare facilities and one well-being retreat. Other luxury hotels like The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts, and Taj Hotels introduced programmes like Aujasya by Leela and Innergise respectively, which catered to individuals looking for a health-focused wellness getaway.
LuxeBook spoke to Ritesh Sharma – General Manager, The Taj Mahal Palace Mumbai, Anuraag Bhatnagar – COO, The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts, and Mridula Jose – Vice President, Product Development & Marketing at CGH Earth to understand how wellness and luxury hospitality have come together to offer a newer kind of experience.
The emergence of holistic travel
Holistic getaways ideally are a one-stop solution to rejuvenating one’s body, mind and soul. “Your mind has time to unwind and rejuvenate, helping you become more conscious of your lifestyle, or what you eat. A regular holiday might be a culmination of activities that guests can indulge in, whereas a holistic getaway solely focuses on aspects like sleep and creativity, nutrition and immunity, vitality and movement, serenity and mindfulness, and purpose and solidarity,” said Ritesh Sharma of The Taj Palace Mumbai.
Holistic getaways have gained popularity over the years with Covid being heavily credited for the health scare. Additionally, these getaways encourage people to prioritize their health, whether it be a lifestyle change or an occasional getaway. CGH Earth’s Mridula Jose believes that wellness tourism was rampant for years before Covid, with a larger international audience, primarily from Europe and CIS market, and a smaller percentage from India. “During Covid, international travel reduced considerably, and we started to see an increase in Indian audience. Through Covid, there was an increase in awareness about the importance of fortifying and strengthening one’s body to fight viruses and diseases, especially using medical sciences that are more natural and chemical free,” Jose says.
Adding to this, Ritesh Sharma spoke about the wellness industry being one of the fastest growing segments in the global tourism market with an increased interest in transformative experiences — digital detox, outdoor activities and sleep enhancement. He added, “Following the pandemic, individuals are more concerned about their health and are reinforcing the notion of ‘health is wealth’. The need to preserve one’s physical, spiritual, and emotional well-being has therefore led people to seek holistic approaches to health in the post-pandemic era. The transient nature of life has allowed people to think beyond vacations, divulging into a holistic approach to treatment that involves boosting mental, spiritual, and physical health.”
But it wasn’t just the Covid scare, Jose said that CGH Earth has always promoted and stressed on the importance of wellness travel instead of a leisure vacation, which benefits the individual in a more wholesome manner. She added, “…we tell India to invest in a health sabbatical with CGH Earth. If you can spend the time and money every year for a foreign holiday, why not consider one year to be your healing journey that is beneficial and transformative for the self – body, mind and spirit.”
Travelling in itself is extremely beneficial for one’s health, add to this the aspect of holistic travel, and you have a remedy for the ailments of the mind as well. Holistic travel focuses on the tools you need to live a more balanced lifestyle over the long term, which may be restorative for your physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health. People usually tend to become so engrossed in their everyday routines that they could occasionally cause more harm to themselves. And so, taking a “health sabbatical”, a wellness trip or a holistic getaway is sometimes the best way to cater to one’s own needs.
Look up any holistic destination, and the first thing you notice is the beautiful surroundings — lush greenery, hills, mountains, and occasionally a pristine water body. The beautiful surroundings, our experts believe, aren’t a coincidence but rather an important part of the holistic treatment. “We believe in staying close to nature because of the philosophy that the negative ions available in nature also aid in one’s healing process. And so, when you are in these kinds of environments, it helps in the healing journey. A happy space of mind is important in your healing process,” Jose added.
Each of CGH’S properties are carefully located in some of the most breathtaking destinations. For CGH Earth Wellness, areas surrounded by undisturbed and pristine naturescapes were chosen to enhance the environment and also harness the concentration of negative ions present in such locations to aid the healing process.
The Leela’s Aujasya by Leela offerings are present at each of their lush properties, giving each guest the opportunity to choose their own private sanctuary for a wellness break. As do the properties at Taj Hotels which include locations like sacred temples and religious pilgrimages to yoga ashrams and more. “Usually, the people who are in dire need of a holistic retreat are the ones working the 9 to 5 schedule. And the kind of break they are looking for can only be found in close to nature. With specially curated holiday itineraries by Taj Holidays, one can journey through India and explore the vibrant cultures and pristine natural wonders it has to offer, giving visitors the opportunity to experience spirituality, healing, wellness, and the chance to forge a deeper connection with their inner self,” said Sharma.
Just like location, diet is another very important aspect of holistic travel, and in some places, it has only recently begun being sincerely incorporated into wellness packages. When one imagines a diet on a wellness program, one instantly jump to the conclusion that it might just be bland, boring food. However, experts associated with the Aujasya by Leela programme assure a meal plan that is far from boring. “Healthy food can look good too,” said Anuraag Bhatnagar. “One of the primary areas of focus for us while developing the Aujasya by Leela programme was to balance great taste and presentation with nutritional value, breaking the myth around healthy food.” The menu included in the Aujasya by The Leela program was leveraged in, in collaboration with nutritionist and food consultant Dr Ankita Jalori, which was combined with the creativity of expert chefs —Executive Chef Simran Singh Thapar at The Leela Palace Udaipur and Chef Rishabh Anand at The Leela Palace New Delhi, to balance taste and health.
Diet plays an important role in the treatment process and overall healing journey. At CGH Earth Ayurveda’s centres- Kalari Kovilakom and Kalari Rasayana, the doctors will prescribe a sattvic diet based on each person’s Doshas or bio-energies and the specific medical conditions they suffer from. Using both the Ahara principles of Ayurveda and Sattvic cooking practices, the
centre integrates a culinary experience which focuses on healing. Similarly, at Prakriti Shakti, where the treatment is naturopathy based, the doctor prescribes a diet that is executed in its plant-based, raw food kitchen. “Here everything you eat aids in speeding up your healing process, including a raw Kerala Sadhya. For a sustained health goal, the clinics also teach the patients how to cook healthy and tasty food,” adds Jose.
Just like the others, Taj’s Innergise programme also includes a set of curated meals meant specifically for those looking for a healing programme. Sharma said, “ “You are what you eat” is a saying that probably finds resonance today like never before. The concept of holistic rejuvenation connotes the inclusion of all the aspects of one’s life, and that includes food. In line with this, Indian Hotels Company (IHCL) recently introduced INNERgise, a range of curated meals with a renewed focus on strengthening your immunity. The menu features fresh and home-grown ingredients packed with antioxidants and immunity-boosting superfoods.”
Leela Hotel’s Aujasya by The Leela is a signature wellness programme, aimed at redefining the road to holistic well-being. A unique blend inspired by traditional and modern practices, Aujasya is built around the two Rs of well-being – Restore (Food) and Renew (Mindfulness). It encompasses a collection of authentic experiences that build vivacity and promote the vigour of life. Taking origin from the Sanskrit word, Aujasya – translated as beneficial to strengthening vitality or energy, allows guests to embrace an enriching and healthy lifestyle while on the road.
“Healing and treatments here are likely to create an edge,” said Bhatnagar. “Nature therapies, rejuvenation activities like Yoga and Ayurveda etc. will be integrated into the programme as people have begun looking out for physical and mental well-being in every aspect of their life. The next generation of luxury and upscale hotels and resorts should build on and enhance experiential programming and lifestyle activities as well.”
Aujasya by The Leela is said to continue to develop the wellness initiative to be a visible and essential offering in all aspects of service, from wellness experiences at the spa to fitness, mindfulness and beyond.
INNERgise on the other hand is designed specifically for enhancing one’s immunity through curated stays, rejuvenating spa treatments, immersive experiences and nourishing meals. The thoughtfully customized, three-, five- and seven-day itineraries begin with a consultation with a wellness coach, followed by a range of spa therapies and treatments at Taj’s all-natural Jiva Spas. Guests can indulge in guided yoga and meditation sessions to invigorate themselves in peaceful surroundings at some of the most breathtaking locations across India. Each destination offers guests an opportunity to immerse themselves in authentic local experiences, be it the Ganga Aarti in Rishikesh, Homam in Bekal or the Nature Trail in Coorg.
CGH Earth started off as a small port hotel in 1954, diversifying into wellness in 2005 with the start of Kalari Kovilakom, followed by SwaSwara in 2006 and Kalari Rasayana in 2018. Jose said, “We realised that Ayurveda became something that our audiences enjoyed, this was purely in terms of a resort. We began to understand the benefits of Ayurveda, the demand for it and the objective that people were looking for.”
Both Kalari Kovilakom and Kalari Rasayana are NABH-accredited healthcare facilities with a minimum duration of fourteen days. These centres adhere to the strict tenets of Ayurveda, where the treatments’ main focus is to treat the root cause of the condition or disease and not just the symptoms that manifest.
It was a palace which was converted into a high-end clinic for Ayurveda. The minimum stay is 14-days, and each patient is treated according to their condition. Said Jose, “We have only about 19 rooms there. So, there’s a lot of attention on each. This became more focused on individual care.”
All the programmes have been designed to transform lifestyles, if so be the requirement, and to jumpstart an individual’s wellness and mindfulness journey, body and soul.