ANGUILLA — A 14-year-old women’s tour operation is shepherding its groups onto the grounds of private resorts in Sri Lanka and Thailand next month for a series of surf and yoga retreats that run through the end of year.
The wellness retreat organizer, SwellWomen, has in the past booked accommodation for its small groups in enclaves of larger properties, but is now charting a new course for even more exclusivity with Ani Villas, an expanding private resort operator that was founded in Anguilla in 2011 and opened new properties in Thailand and Sri Lanka last year. A fourth resort opens this summer on the Dominican Republic.
SwellWomen’s move to Ani taps two accelerating trends in travel: togethering and wellness or experiential travel.
“Wellness travel is becoming more popular because people are steering away from holidays where they simply sip cocktails and read a book on a beach,” said Lulu Agan, owner of SwellWomen. “People still desire that cocktail but prefer it after they have tried something new and worked their bodies.”
Indeed travel connoisseurs from National Geographic to Virtuoso have identified ‘experience-over-ownership’ and ‘active journeys’ among the top-five leading trends in travel for 2017. Agan said wellness is now a $439 billion industry, and that 17% of these dollars are spent on travel. The women who show up on her doorstop often do so after searching the Internet for wellness travel, experiential holidays, women’s surfing, retreats and yoga holidays.
SwellWomen gathers up to 15 women for seven-day retreats that cost from $2,995 to $6,495.
SwellWomen isn’t the first operator to cultivate Ani Villas’ private resorts as a venue for retreats. Hong Kong-based Pure Fitness started leading personal training retreats at Ani last year.
“More and more we’re getting calls from groups of like-minded travelers, who come together ad hoc or as part of an activity-based retreat because that’s the way the trend line is moving,” said Ani Villas CEO Ira Bloom. “People want to be together, and they want to say they actually did something on vacation.”
This summer, Ani Villas Thailand plans to host its own retreat — its first — with an action / adventure theme that includes muay thai kickboxing, rock-climbing, yoga, elephant bathing, cycling and cooking classes. The Action / Adventure Retreat takes place from July 14 to 21.