As Brits look to spend their holidays at home, rural businesses are being encouraged to tap in to the growth in wellbeing tourism, writes JULENA DRUMI
Scotland’s rural businesses are poised to cash in on a digital detox this summer as staycationers look to make the most of a growing trend in health and wellness tourism in the great outdoors. Emerging trends such as ice baths, forest yoga and ‘walk and talk’ breaks could form the basis of this year’s holidays, according to an Calum Johnston who advises rural businesses on diversification.
Mr Johnston, of SAC Consulting, part of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), says it is the ideal time for rural tourism and farming businesses to start planning how they can profit from new pursuits.
“Consumers are increasingly looking for more than just visiting the countryside,” he said. “The pandemic has fuelled recognition of the importance of personal health, nutrition, relaxation and finding new ways to switch off from digital devices, and this is extending to their holiday decisions.
“It doesn’t need to be luxury and may not need major investment or dramatic change to your current business. It’s how you market it and thinking creatively and laterally about the facilities and assets you have and how they could be translated into a compelling offering for visitors.”
East Lothian businesswoman Cassie Bouverie runs online booking site Private House Stays and she has altered her approach to concentrate on visitors’ wellbeing as her forward plan.
The company lists hotels, B&Bs, glamping sites and private and self-catering houses with rooms to let all over Scotland and Ms Bouverie is looking to partner with pilates and yoga studios, masseurs, reiki and mental health practitioners.
“There is no doubt the nation is in need of nurturing after suffering through the pandemic,” she said.
“When people book to stay in certain places, the plan is to have partnerships with facilities offering the likes of yoga and counselling in the area so that visitors can get the most out of their break.”
Wellbeing tourism has been identified as one of the top new farm diversification trends and Mr Johnston says Scotland’s rural businesses can be part of this growth market by offering varied and exciting escapes in the countryside.
“Our clients are constantly looking to see how they can enhance their offering,” he said. “Sensory gardens, forest bathing, organic skincare products, yoga on a paddleboard, thermal pools and wild swimming are all driving interest.
“Digital detox is high on the agenda, as is social connection. Those booking rural breaks in the UK also want good local food and drink with nutritional benefits. The Scottish countryside, with its scenery, secluded spaces and homegrown produce is primed to provide these ‘natural’ pursuits.
“While it may or may not be something you can charge a premium for, what you can offer visitors could be the difference between booking your rural retreat and another.”
Eco-therapy is another growing market with the acute rise in mental health concerns, exacerbated by the pandemic.
Dr Adrian James, President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, predicts that Covid-19 poses the greatest threat to mental health since the Second World War and Forbes top 10 wellness trends for 2021 include eco and ‘walk and talk’ therapy.
Different to rural recreation, eco-therapy involves a trained practitioner who tailors structured sessions in the natural environment, integrating activities in a farm, garden, or woodland setting to improve mental, emotional and physical balance.