‘Blue zones’: Here’s what your hotel can learn from them

In the wake of the festive season’s indulgent revelry, the new year unfolds with a resolute shift towards wellness, underscored by the burgeoning popularity of trends such as Dry January and Veganuary. 

Our pursuit of improved health is reflected not just in the meals we eat and the exercise we undertake, but increasingly in the adventures we embark on. In fact, the market for wellness tourism is expected to hit $1.3tn by 2025, while half of all travellers planned holidays with the primary goal of improving their wellbeing last year. A noteworthy highlight emerges from Holland & Barrett’s Wellness Trend Report 2024, revealing a staggering 2000% increase in bookings for online wellbeing consultations in 2023.

This surge not only attests to a growing health-conscious ethos but also signals a discernible societal inclination toward proactive self-care. For hotels surrounded by tranquillity, this is an excellent opportunity to cater to those seeking escape from the stress and anxiety of everyday life with much-needed retreat.

Secrets of fulfilment

If you wish to make your establishment the epicentre of wellbeing, where should you look to for inspiration? ‘Blue zones’, regions where residents typically outlive the average person, popularised by Netflix’s Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones

The most famous example of these longevity hotspots is Sardinia, which has the highest percentage of centenarians globally. There, residents are 60% more likely to reach their 100th birthday than those in the UK. Other examples include Okinawa in Japan, Nicoya in Costa Rica, Ikaria in Greece, and Loma Linda in California.

Your hotel might not be based in one of these locations, with locals putting their long lives down to factors such as diet, exercise, rest, and clean air, creating a blue zone of your own isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

Working out a wellness plan

Exercise is one of the most notable methods recommended for living a happy, healthy lifestyle. Many blue zone communities are located in rural areas, and regular movement is one of the aspects that help these communities live so long. But hoteliers need not rip out the dining area to make room for a state-of-the-art gym. Rather, find space in the courtyard or on the roof terrace for daily yoga classes. In fact, even encouraging the use of stairs instead of lifts can help to elevate guests’ mental wellbeing.

With rucking—walking with a weighted backpack—tipped to become a top health trend in 2024, establishments should also encourage patrons to throw on their hiking gear and partake in guided outdoor walks that will expose them to plenty of stress-busting fresh air. The destination? For guests staying on Burgh Island, it’s a trip to the tranquil waters in our natural mermaid pool; the Southwest Coast Path, England’s longest National Trail; or the hiding spots of the various animals, insects, and flora that share our idyllic home. Rolling exercise and exploration into one itinerary, guests gain the reward of both improved health and unforgettable experiences.

Sleep it off

After all that exercise, your guests will have earned a siesta—a common trait of a thriving blue zone, but less so across the bleary-eyed United Kingdom. Worryingly, almost half of Brits do not get the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep each night, which is crucial to mental wellbeing and longevity. With quality sleep thought to add up to five years on to the life expectancy of the average male and two years on the average female, it’s no wonder weary travellers are turning to hotels to rest and rejuvenate. With sleep tourism on the rise, over a third of holidaymakers listed sleep as their favourite holiday activity, according to Skyscanner’s UK Travel Trends 2024 report.

Plush beds are crucial to quality sleep, but to provide an environment fit for a blue zone, hotels must help guests to tune out in a world dominated by blue light. With the light emitted by screens disruptive to the chemicals that help us fall asleep, at Burgh Island we’ve taken the decision to remove all digital devices from our rooms unless requested. After a day spent exploring our unspoiled shores and a night free from the distraction of modern technology, here a good night’s sleep is guaranteed.

Fresh food fare

A varied, healthy diet is not only vital to keeping us mobile, but does wonders in boosting one’s memory, concentration and even warding away depression. It’s no surprise that all blue zones rely on a similar diet: grains, fruits, vegetables, seafood, beans, nuts, and seeds—with a glass or two of wine to wash it down. Rich in nutrients and fibre, which promote better physical and mental wellbeing, these are unmissable ingredients on the health-conscious hotel’s menu. 

However, quality can make or break the meal. Fresh ingredients are free of preservatives, flavourings, and additives, which make them easier for the body to break down, fill us with energy and keep us from consuming harmful chemicals. This is why Burgh Island sources over 80% of its kitchen’s ingredients from within a 30-mile radius, which allows our guests to indulge in truly local cuisine and exquisite flavour while improving their health. Furthermore, fresh ingredients reduce carbon in the air by minimising food miles and strengthen the local economy, enabling locals to live healthier lifestyles—and taking you one step closer to establishing a true blue zone.

Playing host

What will make the exhilarating experiences and exquisite meals your hotel provides a notch above your competition? Good company for your guests to share them with! Whether it’s family, friends, or religion, locals in blue zones form tight-knit communities. The hotel, packed with guests from all walks of life, provides the perfect environment to replicate this sociable lifestyle. 

Not all travellers want to keep to themselves, so make sure there are plenty of group activities available—yoga and workout classes, cooking lessons, and guided walks, or as Burgh Island does, foraging and fishing along Devon’s rugged coastline, art lessons with the island’s resident artist and murder mystery nights that play out in the grounds once walked by Agatha Christie herself. With the wellness traveller seeking a long and fulfilling life, such activities that make your hotel more lively, unique, and convivial will ensure they look back on their stay as time well spent in the years ahead.

In an increasingly overwhelming world, we’re not all fortunate enough to live in a longevity hotspot. But it’s not the location that’s important; it’s the lifestyle, and as hoteliers, we have an opportunity to create blue establishments that offer all an escape from the stresses of modern life.

Contributor: Penny Brown, MD of Burgh Island Hotel