Wellness tourism: retreat visitor motivations and experiences

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper presents an analysis of visitors who engage with retreat tourism, a specialty subsector of wellness tourism. Retreats are usually centres or venues with a pre-prescribed aim of providing a combination of activities, practices and treatments aimed to balance body, mind and spirit in calming, supportive contexts. Wider research has been conducted in recent years on health and wellness tourism, which usefully gives an overview of product and tourist typologies. More in-depth research is presented here, beyond the spa and medical sectors, whcih have gained the most attention to date. The aim of this work follows on from the author?s previous work on retreat operators, to give insight this time to the retreat visitor. Analyses of visitor profiles, characteristics, motivations and behaviours are presented. Methodologically, interviews, questionnaires, participant observation and secondary content analysis are all used to survey retreat participants in different countries. A combination of purpose-built, temporary venues and multi-location retreat companies were sampled to give a breadth of touristic experience. Visitor perspectives on preferred activities, operational issues, regulation and feedback about their experiences are presented within their own right and also within the context of wider wellness tourism, for comparative purposes. Research findings indicate important differences between retreat visitors and general tourists in terms of the often very personal experiences encountered, and therefore the concomitant responsibility of the sector to provide quality instructors and adequate care. The dearth of prior research on this specific special interest tourism niche allows for this work to fill an existing gap in the research literature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-213
Number of pages9
JournalTourism Recreation Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2012


  • retreat
  • visitor
  • wellness tourism
  • health
  • spiritual
  • yoga
  • holistic


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