Billed as a time to “renew you, in Saint Lucia”, the second annual Health and Wellness Retreat was held here October 4 – 7, 2012 under the guide of the Saint Lucia Tourist Board.
Although the numbers attending were not very high as in many new marketing events, the opportunities within this new niche market is said to be endless. Additionally, the island received more than EC$2 million in international exposure for the event, which is described as “low cost” in comparison to other undertakings by the SLTB.
The four-day retreat brought together local experts with international counterparts in various spheres of health and wellness. Among them, Dr Stephen Brewer, a medical director at Canyon Ranch Health Resorts in Tucson, AZ, who did a seminar on ‘Optimal Wellness,’ actress and best-selling author Lindsay Wagner whose meditation exercises were quite popular and Today Show nutrition and health expert Joy Bauer.
Local experts included Tai Chi master Jimmy James and Dani Devaux, creator of Blood, Sweat and Tears fitness program. It also offered local spa treatment providers like Touch Therapies who set up special outdoor day beds on the beach. The Health and Wellness retreat exposed participants to wellness seminars, beachside fitness clinics, healthy cooking demonstrations, yoga and sunrise mediations among other aspects.
Deputy Director of Tourism Tracey Warner Arnold says the event was well received by those who attended as she gave a glimpse as to how the event ran.
“We had a number of seminars, fitness clinics and meditation sessions throughout. Persons could pay for a day and do a spa treatment for example, take in the beach or they could go see Joy Bauer or Tai Chi with Jimmy James,” Arnold told the STAR. “So each day was kind of different and participants got to put together their personalized schedules and decide what aspects of the retreat they wanted to be a part of.”
Activities were held mainly at the Pigeon Island Park, with seminars at the Interpretation Center there.
“Pigeon Island has the right landscape for that kind of activity,” Arnold explained. “You are looking for a quiet space and you don’t want an over run activity where there’s just people everywhere. It was really rejuvenation and relaxation.”
The retreat included activities at Cotton Bay, East Winds as well as tours to Soufriere where the mud baths were an added feature.
According to the Deputy Director of Tourism, the Health and Wellness retreat focused on niche markets in the US, the UK and Canada.
“This is a new event,” Arnold stated. “Last year there was little marketing and this year we started marketing toward the end of July, which was kind of late particularly for this type of event. What we are discovering is that persons who attend health and wellness retreats plan very far out. We are also discovering that it is a really huge market.”
Yoga, she says is a significant component.
“Yoga is a whole segment within health and wellness that has a traveling public year round,” she said adding, “So this is helping drive our marketing plans for the future.”
Arnold, while admitting the attendance this year was not as “robust,” says the potential is great.
“Speakers and participants who came down said to us what a gold mine we are sitting on,” she reveals.
The event also got the island some much-needed PR overseas particularly through the ‘Better Show’ an offshoot of ‘Better Homes and Magazines.’ The show, which is syndicated in 150 cities across the United States, promoted the event using prize trips to the island as incentives for viewers. A crew from the show also filmed the hosts in the island’s mud baths, climbing the pitons and in other scenic locations.
Marketing for next year’s Health and Wellness Retreat will start earlier the SLTB says. The aim is to have a month of activities in November and to use the event to promote the island as a Health and Wellness destination.
“So you don’t have to come for the retreat but if you think of Saint Lucia as a health and wellness destination and you see the imagery of mud baths you can book and come experience that at any time of the year,” Tracey Warner Arnold says.