Belly dancing, yoga in the forest, traditional Chinese medicine and meetings with a nutritionist.
These are some of the activities that can be found at menopause retreats, a wellness trend carving a new niche in the tourism industry.
Menopause retreats are tailored to help women navigate the different stages of perimenopause and menopause, and the array of symptoms that come with them — from hot flashes and night sweats to achy joints.
Wellness retreats aren’t new, of course, but ever since the pandemic, more resorts are promoting menopause-focused vacations — and more women are signing up for them.
“Consumers realized they need to take care of themselves. Their health is their own responsibility. So instead of just going on a spa retreat, people started going on very specific purpose-driven retreats,” Lisa Starr, a spa business consultant at Wynne Business Consulting and Education told CNBC Travel.
Plus, “there’s so many women that are menopausal,” she said.
According to the Global Wellness Summit, the menopause market will be worth $600 billion by 2025, with more than one billion women reaching perimenopause between now and then.
“Women have [gone] to the spa, we got a facial massage, and body treatments. We said, that’s nice. But now we want more. And I think this was accelerated by Covid,” said Starr.
One of them is 53-year-old Emily, who signed up for Combe Grove’s metabolic health retreat for menopause six weeks ago in Bath, England.
Emily spent six days at Combe Grove’s manor house estate, talking with a nutritionist, learning how to belly dance, practicing yoga, and meditating in the woods, alongside seven other women.
A happiness teacher, coach and alternative practitioner of psychotherapy meditating with a client.
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“Menopause had happened for me coinciding with Covid and lockdown. That was a pretty challenging combination,” Emily, who declined to give her last name, told CNBC.
“It’s quite liberating actually that suddenly people are beginning to actually speak about menopause,” she added. Her retreat, which cost around $2,400, also included treatments like reflexology and cranial osteopathy.
Amilla Maldives’ menopause-focused ‘Pause Retreat’ allows guests to opt-in for guided reef snorkeling tours, cycling and mixology classes. Five-night packages start from $8,610 for single rooms.
Another resort, Ananda in the Himalayas introduced an age-related retreat in 2022 that caters to women and men.
The retreat at the luxury spa resort in India, titled the “Rebalance Program,” features traditional Chinese medicine therapies, such as cupping and acupuncture. Diet and meditation guidance are also on the cards. Prices start from $990 per night for an entry level deluxe room, and go up to $4,250 per night for a two-bedroom villa.
Mahesh Natarajan, the company’s COO, said the program has seen a 73% increase in sign-ups in 2023 compared to last year — mostly from women in their mid-40s.
One guest signed up for an 11-night program, spending $16,675 for the stay, he said.
The hefty price tags that can come with these retreats beg the question — do they work? And why are people willing to shelve out so much?
Guests can bring back cognitive behavioral techniques like meditation, breathing and lifestyle changes that can help with their symptoms, said Dr. Heather Hirsch, who specializes in women’s health and menopause treatment.
But the benefit may be more psychological, said Hirsch, who built the menopause and midlife clinic at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital before founding her own private practice.
“As women in midlife, we are conditioned to take care of everyone else. That’s what I see as one of the most positive aspects about these trips is the idea of self care,” Hirsch said.
“People ask me all the time, you know, what about the treatment or the mask that they’re putting on? Or the massages that they’re getting? Is that going to last a lifetime? No, maybe not,” she said.
Women wearing traditional Maharashtrian Nauvari (nine yard) sarees performing yoga exercise at Gateway of India on the occasion of International Yoga Day in Mumbai.
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“The one step forward in celebrating this milestone is spending time and resources on yourself,” Hirsch affirmed. “Spending time and money on yourself, where you leave your family, and you go meet other women in the same age bracket, who are maybe also struggling with similar types of things. I think that’s fabulous.”
Menopause can last for years, sometimes even longer than a decade. And symptoms can take a heavy toll, which may be why women are willing to spend their money on these retreats.
“You’ve got hot flashes, you’ve got brain fatigue, brain fog, and you don’t have energy, and you want to do something about it,” said Starr, who cautioned against programs that include extreme diets or lifestyle changes.
“So I think that that makes people more willing to spend, because they feel they will [come back with] skills to cope with it,” she added.
A menopause retreat is no “cure,” she said.
“No one thinks they are going to go on a menopause retreat and come back and not have menopause, right?,” she said. “But it’s going to teach you strategies for how to manage better.”