Accepted paper:

Wellness tourism: marketing counter culture?


Rebecca Buchanan (School of Oriental and African Studies)

Paper short abstract:

A content analysis comparing the online marketing of lifestyle resorts to spiritual retreats to illustrate the counter cultural potential of spiritual retreats through a Foucauldian technology of the self as a resistance to neoliberalism.

Paper long abstract:

This paper compares the online marketing of two types of wellness tourism: lifestyle resorts and spiritual retreats. Drawing on case studies from the UK and Spain, the paper examines the neoliberal context within which the destination provider organisations create demand for their products. Through content analysis of website images and text I find evidence of a transformative Foucauldian 'technology of the self' on offer for the spiritual retreat visitors. I argue that - as part of these spiritual retreats - the individual follows a personalised wellbeing 'journey' that equips them with the skills needed to live outside of the intrusion of bureaucratic societal institutions upon their lives. I also note the existence of a new-age Orientalism in the commodification of the complementary and alternative medical therapies practised there. This process of self-care is positioned as 'counter cultural' to commoditised and consumerist values, however paradoxically the restrictive price of the holiday product ensures that this form of self-care remains a luxury. My work lends empirical weight to the potential of alternative medicine as a resistance tool to neoliberalism and recent inter disciplinary attempts to theorise the implications of transformational tourism for wellbeing.

panel P51
Mobilities of wellbeing