The benefits of getting outside and re-engaging with the rich natural environment are fundamental to our physical and mental health. Studies from around the world show that simply being outside can improve memory, fight depression and lower blood pressure. The growing recognition of the importance of the natural environment in wellbeing gives rural areas an advantage as ‘wellness tourism’ has emerged as a growth trend in the UK.

Set against a growing appetite to redress imbalances to our wellbeing – to unhook from our ever present devices and to find new ways to immerse ourselves in nature as a means of relaxation, there is an emerging market developing in the countryside for bespoke standalone health and wellness facilities and experiences.


Latest statistics from the Global Wellness Institute (GWI) illustrate the robust nature of the wellness sector, incorporating everything from boutique fitness gyms to day spas and retreats and the prospects for growth.

Growth has been largely fuelled by a growing interest in wellbeing and a rise in health and wellness related consumer spending.

According to the GWI, the UK market is estimated to be worth $23bn (2018) and has been growing at 6% p.a since 2015, just behind the global market at 6.4% p.a. Twice as fast as the global economy, this is forecast to continue for the next three years at least..

European wellness tourism has grown by 8.9% since 2015, and Wellness Tourism Trips to the UK grew by 6.1% between 2015 – 2017.

Wellness Tourism

With a greater propensity to travel to destinations that allow us to ‘get away from it all’, there is arguably nowhere that provides peace, tranquillity and seclusion better than our countryside.

Consumers are increasingly looking for ways to do more than just ‘be’ in the countryside – they are looking for experiences and facilities that enable this connection, coupled with activities and treatments that enhance their wellbeing which are integrated with or set against the backdrop of these landscapes.


Spas can vary greatly in terms of size and function – from individual treatment rooms through to full service spas with their own accommodation and food and beverage offer. Specialist facilities focussing on thermal treatments, medical spas and facilities offering alternative therapies and organic products have all seen increasing demand.
The market is competitive, however creating spaces that enable a connection with the environment and landscape is a differentiator for rural areas with trends such as sensory gardens and forest bathing alongside outdoor wet facilities such as thermal pools, infinity pools taking in rural vistas presenting opportunities for those with an appetite to invest to create some truly special places.

Ripe for Diversification

With a clear consumer want for healthier lifestyles and the recognition of the importance of nature in this, the market is seeking to realign the more traditional health and fitness offers with emerging trends in wellness services to provide diversity and choice through innovative new facilities and experiences.

Increasingly we are seeing projects developed within the rural environment, where the modalities of fitness, wellness and healing sit in perfect alignment against the natural capital.

Creativity in design and form – seeking to integrate buildings and facilities with the landscape, views and natural capital – together with attractive and secluded rural locations are the principal drivers to success within this sector.

Right people

Wellness and the services that support this is a specialist business and requires commitment to create high quality facilities and expertise in the design and operation of them.  An affinity with the subject, and a personal interest in the role of nature in wellness is beneficial, but there are specialists who can help you to understand this market and how your particular assets and location could lend themselves to this opportunity.

Planning considerations

This type of diversification is a great way of reusing existing farm or industrial buildings and with accompanying land there are lots of ways you can incorporate woodland, lakes, meadows and moorland into the experience. With an inspired architect on board, the possibilities are vast. A unique redesign can be just as much a draw as the treatments itself.

Depending on the location, it may be possible to develop bespoke new build facilities. One of our planning consents, The Avalon Health and Wellbeing Centre at Broughton is an impressive example of this.

Here at Rural Solutions we pride ourselves on providing informed diversification advice, set against competitor and locational analysis. Alongside our planning, architecture and landscape design teams we can inspire and support you to achieve exciting change on your land.