Wellbeing Tourism – Creating a sense of unity in a destination

CultSense has invited Edgar Tarrés to share his insights on Mindful Travel, which is also the title of his most recent book (in Spanish). 

Edgar Tarrés is a Lecturer of Wellbeing & Happiness, Faculty of Tourism, University of Girona. He is also a Mindful Hacker, who designs and organizes wellbeing and mindful experiences for different people. Find out more at https://www.edgartarres.com/  or @edgartarresfalco.

Wellbeing Tourism – Creating a sense of unity in a destination

We are entering a new era in which most of our beliefs are not useful anymore. Concepts like uncertainty, stress, burnout, anxiety, depression are rather trendy in our everyday lifestyle, because we cannot deal with personal and professional duties in a balanced way. Apart from that, global economic and social issues, which are becoming a great challenge for our wellbeing, also influence how we feel. And we must not forget that our perception of reality depends in great measure of our feelings.

In this context, it is not strange that an increasing number of people start to practice different wellbeing techniques and philosophies which are useful for body-mind health. Though the Covid-19 pandemic also increased it, the tendency was doing so before the lockdown. The number of retreats, books, websites and posts in social media, experiences, venues, teambuilding experiences, number of sold books, etc. relating mental and also spiritual care shows this trend.

A clear example is when just one month ago, I traveled 800 kilometers to design and organize a wellbeing talk and experience in a bank for executives, workers and also clients. I could never imagine that I would be meditating in a bank! The world is changing so fast, and we have to deal with it.

Tourism is a reflection of our society. Sooner or later, interests, needs, and tendencies become a product, an experience or activity, and because of what we have just seen in the paragraphs above, we understand why Wellness and also Wellbeing Tourism is becoming more well-known and practiced. This is a great opportunity to introduce wellbeing into lifestyle and improve our personal and professional horizons, which as a result, might be a potential tool to grow in quality our lives.

This kind of tourism has interesting characteristics when we think of sensitizing to some singular needs and pressures that different destinations may suffer. The CultSense project aims to create tools to help decrease such tensions, problems or singularities that locals and visitors live sometimes. Let’s see how these characteristics, related to wellbeing tourism, are able to offer ideas and actions in order to contribute for solutions.

Everybody wants to be well and happy. When a destination organizes wellbeing experiences, you can attend them whether you are a visitor or a local. Both local and visitors share the ideal to live well. Sometimes I find myself imparting mindfulness sessions both in Catalan and English, and that’s beautiful. However, the real value is when, sometimes, locals and visitors meet later, after the experience, because they share common interests. Therefore, tourists make deeper relationships with people and let to know deeper more aspects of the destination.

Attention increase. When you are visiting singular spots in a destination which include mindfulness activities, your attention increases. That is very valuable for different reasons. First, it has many health benefits for your mind. Second, the memories of this experience increase, so you remember more than usual what you feel linked to positive sensations (very valuable, also, for marketing reasons). And third, your perception of time changes, and you feel more here and now, on the spot, as if your life expands, so the sensation is also very positive.

Awareness expands. When you feel like what we are explaining above, you become more aware of what you are feeling at that moment in time. You can listen deeply to your body, your mind and what surrounds you. You get more into details, but at the same time, a holistic view of the moment. Your point of view changes, and you become capable to understand things in another way – this is a beautiful manner to increase new perspectives in life and open up to new realities like the one of the destination.

Creating new synergies. Wellbeing becomes a great value in tourism when goes beyond its activity for itself. Having a hot bath in a thermal spa or resort is great, however, when you create something more, for instance, mindfulness and enology, and can make something like Winefulness, people enjoy it more deeply. In this example, you are taking care of yourself, while enjoying wine tasting. This is a way to innovate. In my experience, I have seen people for whom mindfulness means nothing to them, and yet, in this way, they really get to enjoy it. And some, even started to practice mindfulness regularly. Using our creativity to create new products or experiences by mixing different types of tourism with wellbeing, increasing the innovation in this field, and also providing some tools to enrich the lifestyle of people; may it be visitor or local.

As we have just seen, wellbeing tourism is a great opportunity to offer new experiences, as well as to innovate and get closer visitors and locals. And, of course, it can make our life better and with more awareness. Whatever the project is, this is something to be considered. CultSense is a way to promote a better understanding in a destination, and that’s for a reason: to facilitate people to live better. When awareness arises and we realize the consequences of our thoughts, beliefs, and emotions, we are then able to start making changes. In this context, we need more tools which help us to go in that direction – to promote a sense of unity, and to create mindful destinations in which we can enjoy, learn and share with the people that live and visit it.

Edgar Tarrés

University of Girona