Work, sleep and recuperation: The newest themes in tourism

Published: Sunday, January 21, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 20, 2007 at 10:38 p.m.
Women have their spa vacations, their retreats, their girls nights out. But what about guys?
One of the more popular forms of travel this year is expected to be "mancations" - trips for men only, where buddies can bond over a six-pack and enjoy a few days away from home.
Travel experts say it's going to be one of 2007's more popular new travel trends, along with medical tourism, volunteer vacations and spa programs for the sleep-deprived.
"I think a lot of people that have 'been there, done that' are looking for something else to do," said Sandra Hughes, vice president of travel for AAA. "They're looking for different types of vacations, like taking trips with their buddies or volunteer vacations."
"There's no way that this type of trendy travel is as big as traditional travel, but it's growing at a much faster rate."
If you're one of those consumers looking for interesting new ways to spend your travel dollars, here's a look at four vacation trends: 'Mancations'
What it's all about: A golf weekend with buddies. A poker trip to Vegas. You can plan your own or use a travel agent. If you're on a budget, a weekend fishing getaway can be quick and inexpensive. If price is no object, consider a golf outing to Scotland or a trip to Miami to watch the Super Bowl, including tickets.
Why it's hot: No real man would dare use the word "mancation" - it's so metrosexual - but the concept has taken off as guys look for opportunities to hang out, drink some beer and bond. Sort of like girls night out, only longer.
"Women can do the spa thing, the retreats," said Michael Sprifke, founder of the Web site. "Guys are missing the boat on that. Now they want to start taking short trips themselves." Finding/booking trips: Personality Hotels in San Francisco ( offers a mancation package that includes a list of nightclubs and tattoo parlors, a six-pack of beer and late checkout, starting at $139. Another option is "Speed Meets Spa," available from the Jim Russell Racing School in Sonoma, Calif. ( and the Fairmont Mission Inn; the package combines a three-day race course and hotel stay, plus spa treatments and dinner, starting at $4,995.
Find other trip ideas and links to travel packages at
Medical tourism What it's all about: Thinking about getting your teeth whitened? Bigger breasts? An angioplasty? Anything you can have done in this country can be done in another country. And you can extend your stay to visit tourist sites or work on your tan.
Why it's hot: Given the rising cost of U.S. health insurance, medical visits to such destinations as India, Thailand, Malaysia, Brazil and Costa Rica are a bargain, even with air travel and hotel thrown in. Patients can recover in 4- or 5-star hotels, visit their doctors for required post-op visits and return home when they're fit to travel.
Although still popular for tummy tucks and face-lifts, overseas medical vacations now offer cheaper alternatives to necessary procedures such as hip replacements and heart bypasses. The savings can be substantial - anywhere from 30 percent to 80 percent, depending on the treatment.
Although there are no figures available to chart the industry's growth, MedRetreat (, which has been booking trips since July 2003, sent more than 350 clients overseas for treatment in 2006. By 2008, it expects to book trips for some 5,600 patients, said Patrick Marsek, managing director.
"We downplay the tourism part," said Marsek, whose agency books treatments in eight countries and about 20 hospitals. "As far as excursions, we don't book them upfront. The most important thing is getting a good-quality medical procedure."
Finding/booking trips: Tourism agencies do it all - book travel and lodging, work with doctors and hospitals, arrange dates for surgery. They also do on-site inspections to make sure hospital standards are high. Besides MedRetreat, based in Vernon Hills, Ill., other agencies that specialize in medical tourism include Medical Tours International ( in Cold Spring, N.Y.; and PlanetHospital ( in Calabasas.
Spa sleep What it's all about: Spas aren't just about massages, facials and long soaks in hot tubs. Many have introduced programs focusing on exercise, nutrition and stress management. Now comes sleep, which experts believe can be linked to weight, appearance, health and aging.
Programs can include consultations, seminars and workshops that diagnose and treat such conditions as sleep apnea and insomnia. Canyon Ranch in Tucson ( has a team of sleep specialists who work with guests on sleep management and offer overnight studies performed in the resort's sleep lab.
Chiva-Som (, a health resort in Thailand, has an insomnia treatment component in its anti-aging program that teaches sleep hygiene and causes of insomnia. The WellMax Center for Preventive Medicine ( has partnered with La Quinta Resort near Palm Springs and will assist guests in evaluating their sleep patterns, including overnight monitoring.
"Consumer demand is high for this," said Michelle Kleist, executive director of the Destination Spa Group. "It's going to be a part of the programs at these facilities, especially at destination spas."
Why it's hot: Although only a handful of spa resorts are currently offering sleep programs, many more are expected to jump in because of their growing popularity, said Sue Ellis, president of
"This trend is just beginning," she said. "So many people can identify with sleep deprivation that learning how to sleep well has become something they want to learn how to do, and a spa is the perfect place to do it."
Ellis said her site has seen a spike in interest - user requests for information on spas with sleep programs tripled in 2006 over the previous year. Finding/booking trips: has a comprehensive list of spas, but you'll have to type in the word "sleep" in the search box to find those with programs. Also, the Destination Spa Group,, has listings for 24 member destination spa resorts.
Volunteer travel What it's all about: Volunteering feels good. "People typically come back very excited that they've seen another part of the world and been able to make a difference in the lives of people while they're vacationing," said Amy Kaplan, spokeswoman for Denver-based i-to-i (, which sends volunteers to some 500 projects in 23 countries.
Although these types of trips can be labor-intensive - repairing roofs or digging wells - many cater to a volunteer's interests, such as studying elephant behavior in Africa or teaching English in Thailand.
Why it's hot: "I think there's a quest for a different type of vacation," Suzanne Cook, senior vice president of research for the Travel Industry Association, said. "It's the changing demographic of the population. Baby boomers get older and start looking for other things to do. There's less emphasis on buying material goods and more on putting money into experiences."
Travel professionals say they're seeing a continued and growing interest in volunteer vacations - travelers spending their dollars and free time to clear hiking trails, save sea turtles, build houses or work with children in Third World countries. Jeffrey Glueck, Travelocity's chief marketing officer, said he and his wife, Amy, spent the first part of their honeymoon to Africa last year volunteering at an orphanage in Rwanda. Afterward, they enjoyed a safari in the Serengeti and visited Zanzibar and the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge.
"People said it was a funny way to spend a honeymoon, but we loved it," Glueck said.
Finding/booking trips: Internet travel agency has partnered with four volunteer organizations: GlobeAware, Earthwatch, Cross-Cultural Solutions and Take Pride in America. Travelocity has links to each on its Web site. (Travelocity does not book volunteer trips or receive payment.) Find the link at
Other organizations to check out include Global Service Corps, a San Francisco nonprofit organization (; Global Volunteers (; and Boston-based United Planet (

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top