From forest bathing to sound baths, Balance Holidays designs life-enhancing wellbeing retreats that go beyond massages and yoga. Globetrender speaks with founder Livia Manca di Villahermosa, who reveals why paying in installments is an emerging trend for 2020, how spending time in nature can improve mental health and why divorcees are a growing client base.

What is Balance Holidays?

Balance Holidays is a curator, designer and booking platform for exclusive, high-quality wellbeing retreats in Europe, with a focus on Italy, as that is where we are from. We believe that the Italian natural environment, food and culture is naturally conducive to wellbeing.

Our life-enhancing group retreats (at set times throughout the year) offer a variety of physical, mindful, creative and nature-based activities, workshops and classes designed to nourish and fortify the body and mind. We work with learned experts deeply respected in their field and bespoke luxury properties anchored in beautiful environments committed to eco-sustainability.

All of our retreats are designed as short-breaks from our daily lives – a withdrawal from the stress, demands and distractions. They offer the time and space to create, think, exercise, connect, go deep, whatever needed to recapture a bit more of ourselves. They arm our guests with tools for re-learning, self-care, mindfulness and cleaner, healthier living.

When did you launch and what inspired you to set it up?

We launched in January 2019. When I moved to London at the end of 2016, I wanted to start spending regular downtime and attend high-end wellbeing retreats without having to travel too far from Europe, or take too much time off from work. However, I was unable to find a bespoke marketplace offering what I was looking for and got frustrated.

Coming from a luxury digital background, I concluded that although online searches for wellbeing tourism have been increasing exponentially, several potential clients like myself often find themselves lost on the web due to strong fragmented information and end up seeking referrals from friends.

Separately, I started to talk to a few close friends that own beautiful boutique hotels immersed in nature in the south of Europe to understand better the business-to-business side and why they have never offered wellbeing retreats before. Eventually, I ended up going to an Ayurveda retreat in India and whilst there everything came together. I came back to London with the resolution to create Balance Holidays.

Why is it innovative?

We are the first high-end wellbeing retreat company that has eco-conscious travel woven into its founding values. The environment is a key player in our retreat design and we select partners who have the natural environment at the heart of their offering.

Who is your target audience?

35- to 55-year-old people who now have more freedom and time to turn inwards. They tend to live in urban centres and want to escape hectic city life to reset, swap fast-pace for go-slow. They are well-travelled and now consider well-being a long-term investment. They are experience-seekers and want to invest in opportunities to learn, grow, discover.

They travel alone, with friends or with a significant other, wanting to meet like-minded individuals. They search for the retreat to attend online, on trusted sources. They have a preference for luxurious, eco-conscious – and ethical – travel experiences and are increasingly environmentally conscious.

I am also happy that an unexpectedly high number of men are attending our retreats. They are our most loyal clients and this gives me satisfaction as men’s mental health has for years been overshadowed. Most of them are have very demanding careers and are interested in relaxation and meeting like-minded individuals.

What is motivating them to book a Balance Holiday?

Guests come to us with the need to relax and restore themselves. Often they just need a moment to breathe, to step away from their everyday lives and demands and get themselves back in balance. For some these trips are a part of the fabric of their lifestyle, for others it’s just the first. The driving force is the desire to feel a little healthier and more centred.

What is the typical price of a retreat?

Our holidays start at £1,507 per person, for a four day, three-night retreat. The prices are all-inclusive, except for transportation to get there.

How many different holidays do you offer and in how many locations?

In 2020, we will be working with 12 properties, offering about 15 set dates for wellbeing retreats. We also offer on-demand wellbeing retreats for private groups.

What kinds of activities will be on offer at 2020 retreats?

We will be offering forest bathing outside Paris, creative writing workshops in Morocco, lakeside sound baths in Provence, Jivamukti yoga in Switzerland, foraging in Sicily, and Jiriki classes (also in Sicily), which is a type of Japanese Buddhist movement therapy aimed at preventing and curing chronic disorder and pain.

We will also be running a family creativity and yoga retreat for parents and children. They will sleep high up in beautiful treehouses and practice daily yoga and meditation together. (You can see details of the 2020 retreats here.)

What wellness trends have you observed emerging?

We are observing that divorcees are wanting to rediscover themselves but also learn how to better support their families, especially once the ‘traditional family’ unit has changed. For example, we have single parents who select our retreats based on the cooking workshops on offer – they want to learn new recipes and tools that they can take back home to support family wellbeing.

What will be big in 2020 and beyond?

2020 will be about slowing down and decelerating. Google searches for ‘anxiety’ are at an all-time high and people are desperate to find space from their busy schedules. Connecting with nature is the ideal way to truly unwind.

Fitness will become more inclusive and physiology will be reconsidered. We will celebrate moving our bodies how nature intended, which is likely to see a surge in movement based classes, and nutrition will become very personalised.

What shifts have you noticed in what consumers are asking for?

Paying installments – we want to encourage new routines to be part of people’s lifestyle. Consider it like a gym membership, it’s a non-negotiable investment in personal wellbeing, spread over time.

Gifting – many people are asking to pay for holidays for as gifts to others.

Download Globetrender’s free 2020 Travel Trend Forecast here.