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In ancient times, Hawaii’s people considered Waikiki to be a place of healing. Today, travelers can reap the same restorative rewards in the south Oahu visitor mecca — and around the entire island — when their travel agents build customized health and wellness activities into their itineraries.
Of course, clients can still feel refreshed by simply vegging out on the beach. The point, says the Oahu Visitors Bureau, is to also expose them to the destination’s limitless variety of feel good pastimes, such as spa treatments and programs, outdoor activities, fresh sustainable dining, fitness-oriented events and traditional healing arts.“Of all of the Hawaiian Islands, Oahu has the most options for travelers looking for a health-and-wellness destination, and we want to ensure that visitors are aware of them,” said Oahu Visitors Bureau director of travel industry sales, Stacey Alford.
The most obvious source of a traveler’s relaxation is the spa, and Oahu’s myriad facilities — each with its own special focus — are constantly changing to keep creative and competitive. For instance, Hilton Hawaiian Village’s Mandara Spa just added a Body, Face, Feet package devoting 25 minutes each to a back massage, facial and foot massage. Moana Lani Spa at the Moana Surfrider recently dedicated one month to mango wellness, showcasing the nutritional and healing benefits of the tropical fruit.
Additional spas stand ready to pamper and empower their guests with groundbreaking treatments. At SpaHalekulani, a new three-and-one-half-hour Pure Renewal detoxification ritual takes clients from foot reflexology and full body massage to an espresso limon body wrap. In October 2010, the Kahala Spa will launch a first-of-its-kind facial using the Japanese skin care line Rice Force.
Rivaling Oahu’s man-made spas are Mother Nature’s opportunities for stimulation and rejuvenation in the great outdoors. Visitors can enjoy sunrise yoga and surfing in Waikiki, stand-up paddleboarding, jogging on the beach and hiking in Manoa Valley as well as kayaking across the pristine waters of Kailua Beach.
Food plays an equally integral role in the bureau’s health-and-wellness initiatives. Oahu restaurants are placing a growing emphasis on farm-to-table cuisine, which means that visitors can enjoy delicious dishes made from island-grown ingredients. With the increase in popularity of farmer’s markets around the island, visitors have greater access to fresh local products. Meanwhile, cooking classes teach them how to create meals that are nutritious, sustainable and mouthwatering.
Adding to the mix are health and wellness opportunities available to clients courtesy of Oahu’s annual sports events, from the Great Aloha Run each February to the venerable Honolulu Marathon in December. In between are such popular draws as the North Shore Marathon in May, an off-road triathlon called Freedom Fest in July and, in September, the Hawaiian Healing Garden Festival in Haleiwa and the Honolulu Century Bike Ride.
To help agents tap into the island’s extensive resources for health-and-wellness travel, the Oahu Visitors Bureau hosted its first cultural wellness travel agent fam in May 2010. During the trip — which included a segment on traditional Hawaiian healing arts like lomilomi massage, herbal medicine and spiritual healing — agents discovered how the island’s therapeutic qualities last long after the vacation has ended.
“The Hawaiian culture can help us change our daily lives and feel at peace with ourselves,” said participant Susan Tanzman of Martin’s Travel in Los Angeles. “I am indebted to the Oahu Visitors Bureau for the opportunity to learn new ways to face life’s challenges.”
Fam attendee Jo Keita of Nubian Tours in Culver City, Calif., believes the market is ripe for meaningful wellness vacations to Oahu.
“As a result of the fam, I know that I can link healthy cooking, ancient Hawaiian healing and the spa circuit together to create an Oahu package that people will scramble for,” said Keita.
Equally enthusiastic was fam participant Marilyn Clark of Lighthouse Travel, based in Huntington Beach, Calif. “If a day at the spa can help clients relax and de-stress, just think of what a wellness vacation would do for them,” Clark said. “The people, culture, physical environment and spiritual energy of a destination can all contribute to your well-being.”
The Oahu Visitors Bureau is scheduling similar cultural wellness fams for October 2010 and March 2011. Interested agents can e-mail Alford at [email protected] for more information. They can also learn more about selling this type of travel by participating in the bureau’s upcoming cultural wellness Webinar series.
It’s a forward-looking way to capitalize on one of Oahu’s oldest gifts: the power to heal.