Journeys of the self

The need to retreat

Authored by: Catherine Kelly , Melanie Kay Smith

The Routledge Handbook of Health Tourism

Print publication date:  November  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138909830
eBook ISBN: 9781315693774
Adobe ISBN: 9781317437505


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In 2006, the authors of this chapter wrote a paper about holistic tourism and edited a special edition of a tourism journal (Smith and Kelly, 2006) to collate research on an emerging sector now well known as ‘wellness tourism’. At the time, the authors chose to focus on the term ‘holistic tourism’ to reflect a preference for exploring tourism spaces that tried to engage with the whole self and the balance of body, mind and spirit. A distinction was made between those forms of tourism that take place in thermal or healing waters (e.g. hot springs and spas) and those that usually take place in (holistic) retreats and are generally not water-based. The former (i.e. health tourism using water) tends to be based more on curative treatments for the body, whereas the latter (i.e. retreat tourism) tends to be based more on preventive therapies for the mind and spirit. Self-development is also a major focus of this form of tourism. Subsequent publications (e.g. Bushell and Sheldon, 2009; Erfurt-Cooper and Cooper, 2009; Smith and Puczkó, 2009, 2013; Kelly, 2012; Voigt and Pforr, 2013) have made this distinction much clearer. For example, Voigt, Brown and Howat’s (2011) wellness tourism research makes the distinction between beauty spas, lifestyle resorts and spiritual retreats, but there have still been relatively few publications that have focused exclusively on retreat-based tourism (with the exception of Lea, 2008; Heintzmann, 2013; Fu, Tanyatanaboon and Lehto, 2015). Along with Dina Glouberman and Josée-Ann Cloutier’s contribution to this handbook (Chapter 13), this chapter provides a re-visitation of retreat-based tourism. However, as a complement to Glouberman and Cloutier’s chapter, which focuses on the importance of communities for holistic wellbeing, this chapter explores the idea of how individual selves negotiate their everyday lives in conjunction with the idea of retreating for various purposes at different stages in their lives.

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