Want to enjoy a healthy, lengthy life? Head for the Sardinian hills – or, failing that, choose hotels that keep your wellbeing in mind, says Derek Picot.
How long do business travellers live in comparison with Sardinian shepherds? Perhaps not a question that pops into your head that often, but an enlightening one nonetheless that National Geographic fellow and author Dan Buettner addressed when speaking about wellness at the International Luxury Travel Market in Cannes in late 2018.
He and his team had spent three years analysing the world’s Blue Zones – regions where people live much longer than average (so he claims). The term first appeared in the 2005 National Geographic cover story “The secrets of a long life” and was used to describe areas where homo sapiens were outliving their neighbours.
According to his research, stressed business people can potentially add up to ten years to their predicted life span if they begin to adopt certain practices.
Keys to long life
So what are these practices? What is the elixir for the road-weary traveller? And why am I giving away this secret without first getting your bank details? Well, the key lies in three distinct areas that unsurprisingly include diet and exercise but also include fellowship – or, rather, with whom and how you choose to live your life.
The only Blue Zone in the US that Buettner identified is Loma Linda, California, where a group of Seventh-day Adventists live. Their creed ensures that they eat a diet as suggested in Genesis – fruit, seeds, plants and perhaps a little fish. They have a full day of rest on the Sabbath that might involve a healthy family activity such as hill walking, and they are socially engaged with their community.
Similarly, those shepherds in Sardinia who make it past 100 live in hillside villages and eat a vegetable-based Mediterranean diet with little meat. They focus on family and village life ahead of ambition. So lots of exercise walking up the hills and plenty of fibre. These centenarians acknowledge that stress-free lives may not have made them rich, but they are outliving global capitalists.
Anna Bjurstam, founding board member of the Global Wellness Summit, agrees, advocating a lifestyle that prioritises sleep, fitness and good diet. She is imploring hoteliers to embrace what is described as “emotional hospitality”. She would like proprietors who are interested in the wellbeing of business travellers to sell that proposition to make sure there is a clear message right from check-in to check-out.
What does that mean, exactly? Use the stairs and not the lift? Avoid the burgers? Don’t amble in the corridor, run? Apparently not. It’s a call to those in the hospitality industry to consider what more and more of its clientele want – namely, to live longer. And to help them achieve this, management should provide the right backdrop for customers – offering vegan choices, a decent gym and a guide to the best walks in the vicinity, for example.
Check in, chill out
But how do you find the missing ingredient? A community of like-minded people who share your values? There are several hotels and resorts that are encouraging travellers to believe that they will meet others who share their wellness values if they visit. Six Senses is one such brand, while individual properties include Samujana Villas in Koh Samui, which takes particular care to note guest preferences for diet, exercise and the desire to reconnect with themselves.
According to Mia Kyricos, senior-vice president and global head of wellbeing at Hyatt, her company has grasped the challenge and developed a wellbeing mantra that is truly global: Feel, Fuel, Function. The “feel” is your emotional equilibrium; “fuel” is what it proposes you eat through its programme “Food. Thoughtfully Sourced. Carefully Served”; and “function” relates to how you move or behave at work or leisure. This is being rolled out wherever a property can deliver these components effectively.
Kyricos reckons the wellbeing economy is worth US$4.2 trillion. She says research recently released by the Global Wellness Institute shows that “wellness tourism” is growing twice as fast as global tourism, and that wellness tourists spend 50-180 per cent more per trip than the average guest.
So there we have it – business travellers who want to live longer will have to spend more to do it. When you’re out and about, make sure you stop off to buy ethically sourced local food, before perhaps attending a spinning class or buying a course of meditative yoga with like-minded people. Or maybe just throw away your career, invest in a mountainside flock of sheep and lead a more peaceful, stress-free life.
Derek Picot has been a hotelier for more than 30 years, and is author of Hotel Reservations.