If waking to birds chirping and being handed a glass of green detox juice on your way to the first yoga class of the day is your idea of a great trip, you just may be a wellness traveler.
Wellness travel is a multi-faceted term that’s recently come into vogue in the travel industry. It essentially refers to trips taken by people who are seeking to make healthy lifestyle changes.
Reportedly, India is the fastest-growing wellness travel destination with a projected 22% annual growth rate. Several upscale destination spas in India have become very popular among wellness travelers, and more are cropping up across the country to accommodate the growing demand for holistic health-based travel.
Wellness tourism has even created a new niche for travel agents who want to expand their business.
Wellness travel means different things to different travelers. For some travelers it means disconnecting from their electronics and reconnecting with themselves, for others, it means taking a retreat filled with healthy activities and food in an attempt to detox their lives.
As you may have guessed, what constitutes wellness travel is subjective.
When you come right down to it, however, wellness travel is still traveling and just like any other trip, the traveler is exposed to risks that they may or may not be prepared to handle. Insuring your wellness travel – especially a trip to a foreign country – is essential.
According to the US State Department, the quality of medical care in India varies considerably and it’s limited or unavailable in many areas. Ambulances are typically not equipped with life-saving medical equipment and traffic does not yield to emergency vehicles.
Injured or seriously ill travelers may prefer to take a taxi or private vehicle to the nearest major hospital rather than wait for an ambulance.
Most hospitals in India require advance payment or confirmation of insurance prior to treatment. Payment practices vary and credit cards are not usually accepted for medical care.
A traveler with travel health insurance has options that the uninsured traveler does not, including the ability to:
Something as simple as a severe case of ‘travelers tummy’ can lead to dehydration and the need for qualified medical treatment, but without travel health insurance you could be exposed to inadequate medical care.
When it comes to wellness retreats the options can be overwhelming: yoga, silent meditation, spa packages, detox retreats, and more, but all of this pre-planning for pampering and adventure has to be paid for upfront ahead of time.
As an example, a week-long yoga and fitness retreat in Costa Rica that claims it will “take the stress out of planning for you” has a per-person price of $2,325 (single suite) plus the retreat cost of $900. The terms for the retreat indicate the fees must be paid for in advance.
Your deposit is fully refundable if your cancellation is received 30 days prior to your arrival date; after 30 days, it can be used toward a future stay. These terms are common for most retreat packages.
If you have to cancel your wellness trip, there are likely to be costs in addition to the retreat payments – airfare and other transportation being the biggest ones.
If the entire pre-paid wellness trip costs for the stay, the retreat, and airfare cost $3,925 a U.S. traveler from California could cover this trip for cancellation, emergency medical care, evacuations, and hazardous sports (for the water sports) for between $180 and $241 (see the image below).
With trip cancellation coverage, a traveler also has access to trip interruption protection in case they must end their trip and return home to handle an emergency.
While cancellations and the need for medical care are the most expensive risks for a traveler taking a wellness trip, travel insurance delivers a number of additional benefits that can be useful to the wellness traveler:
Medical tourism – specifically, the act of taking a trip to another country where a patient can receive medical care that is not available or too expensive in their own country – is different from wellness travel.
The travel health coverage included in travel insurance plans is intended for unexpected emergency medical treatment and the treatment of sudden illnesses and injuries and not for medical treatment the traveler expects to receive.
Medical tourism is excluded from nearly all travel insurance plans although one travel insurance company: Seven Corners, offers a medical tourism insurance plan to cover travelers who are traveling to get a medical procedure.
Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.