Experience Radar: Psychedelic Experience Trend Mushrooms, And The Future Of Retail Is Here

At The WXO, we want to connect the dots across the Experience Economy and across the globe – so each month, we’ll be bringing you our round-up of the news and trends that we think reveal something interesting, relevant or transferrable about the Experience Economy.

Welcome to the latest Experience Radar, where we’re having our mind opened by bufo in the Mexican town of Tepoztlán, getting the lowdown on Universal Studios’ UK project,and enjoying some quiet time at a silent retreat.

1. Psychedelic Experience Trend Mushrooms

Headline and above imagel My Own Summer by Daniel Faro; Beckley Retreats, Jamaica, US

The number of people travelling the world in search of transformative psychedelic experiences is mushrooming according to Condé Nast Traveller. This is due to a growing global understanding of the therapeutic benefits of various psychedelic compounds, helping to remove any stigma surrounding them. Travellers are attending legal psychedelic retreats in a quest to find spiritual enlightenment through ego-shattering substances such as ayahuasca, peyote and psilocybin. Ayahuasca – a plant containing the powerful psychoactive DMT – is considered an indigenous medicine in South America, with the likes of RythmiaReunion and the Soltara Healing Center offering ayahuasca experiences in Costa Rica, Peru and the Amazon.

Firms such as ONE Retreats by Rose Hill and MycoMeditations offer hallucinogenic mushroom experiences in South America, Jamaica and the Netherlands, where the drug is legal, while bufo – a substance derived from the parotoid glands of the Bufo Alvarius toad and regarded as the most powerful psychedelic in the world – is legal in Mexico and can be taken at Tandava Retreats in Tepoztlán, an hour from Mexico City. There are no countries where LSD- and MDMA-assisted therapeutic retreats are legal, but according to the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, this may soon change. Opening the doors to perception needs to be done with caution and in the company of a trained expert, so it’s worth doing your research.

2. The Future Of Retail Is Here

BreathLab for Nike House of Innovation by Random Studio, France

The retail landscape is shape-shifting at lightning speed according to trend forecaster VML, and brands need to be plugged into the zeitgeist if they want to remain relevant. In its Tomorrow’s Commerce 2024 report, VML highlights the key trends that are shaping the customer experience as commerce hurtles towards an omni-channel future where the physical and digital shopping worlds seamlessly combine. The power is in shoppers’ hands, and it’s consumers who are deciding on the rules of engagement. Competition for spend is fierce and buyer expectations are high, so brands that don’t offer a smooth IRL to URL experience are in danger of getting left behind.

VML believes we’re living through ‘the age of experimentation’ when it comes to commerce, with novelty being placed at a premium among channel-hopping consumers. “Serendipity has become a sought-after part of the shopping experience. It poses challenges to retailers and brands, and the key lies in turning unexpected moments into shoppable moments,” VML says. People are seeking entertainment from their shopping experiences in a trend VML has dubbed ‘creative commerce’, meaning brands will have to re-write the rules of discovery, replacing the obvious with the surprising through the gamification of retail and savvy collaborations within the entertainment space.

3. Universal Studios Is Heading To Bedford

Universal Studios, Bedford, UK

In somewhat surprising news, Universal Destinations and Experiences, which has successful sites in Hollywood, Osaka and Beijing, has its sights set on Bedfordshire for its next theme park. According to the BBC, the entertainment giant has bought a 480-acre plot of land south of Bedford with a view to building a theme park and resort experience there. Universal says the land is flat enough to build a “large-scale theme park resort” on close to Luton Airport and 60 miles north of London, making it well connected for travel from across the UK. If built, it would become Universal’s sixth resort and its sole site in Europe.

Universal has also acquired the option to buy another parcel of land to the south west of the main plot, which, if the project moves forward, would allow a direct link with the A421. Little is known at this stage as to what attractions and rides would be on offer at the park, but they would likely follow the Universal format of rides based on films such as Minions, Harry Potter and Jurassic World, and themed ‘lands’ such as Super Nintendo World and Transformers Metrobase. The BBC reports that four zones are planned for the site, including a ‘core zone’ boasting a hotel, a ‘lake zone’, and two gateway zones to the east and west.

4. Quiet Travel Is (Whisper It) On The Rise

Redwood National Park, California, Black Tomato

As we increasingly seek to nourish our minds as well as our bodies, the trend for silent travel is (whisper it) on the rise around the globe, with Condé Nast Traveller dubbing it the hottest travel trend of 2024. Keen to escape the noise and stress of city life, travellers are going to ever greater lengths to enjoy the sound of silence, be it on a silent retreat at a Buddhist monastery or via solo pilgrimages across Spain on the Camino de Santiago. From serene nature retreats to silent walking, the quest for quiet has become the modern travellers’ Holy Grail, allowing for deeper connection not only with nature but ourselves.

As reported by AP News, the silent travel trend is being fuelled by the wellness boom sweeping the planet. “Transformative travel is a trend we’re tracking for growth as it taps into a desire for self-reflective tourism experiences,” says Alex Hawkins, editor at trend forecaster The Future Laboratory. Dark Retreats Oregon offers a five-day retreat in Tidewater that includes controlled periods of darkness and a digital detox, while BookRetreats offers silent meditation retreats in Bali, Portugal, Mexico, the Netherlands and the US. In Finland you can sleep among the pines at Utula Nature’s silent retreat on Lake Saimaa, while Ecuador’s Zabalo River Park is the world’s first designated Quiet Park.

5. Europe Gears Up For Summer Of Experiences

My Own Summer by Daniel Faro

In cheering news for the Experience Economy, new research from Mastercard polling over 16,000 Europeans has found that nine in ten are set to spend the same or more on experiences this year compared to last year. The global thirst for IRL events shows no sign of slowing and, according to Mastercard, Europe is gearing up for a mega summer. Regularly topping the charts as the region with the highest number of international tourists worldwide, Europe attracted 700 million foreign visitors in 2023 and is preparing for a record-breaking summer of events such as the UEFA Champions League Final, The Cannes Film Festival, The Open Championship and hundreds of Live Nation concerts.

The share of spending on experiences such as travel and dining out across Europe increased last year to 22% of total spending, from 19% in 2019, while the share of spend on material goods remained stable. In Britain, 80% of those surveyed said spending money on experiences was worth it. “Consumers have faced challenging choices in prioritising their spending over the past few years. Despite this, the desire for meaningful experiences remains resilient. Excitement driven by global sporting competitions, music tours and film festivals coming to Europe this year will keep the spend on experiences high,” said Natalia Lechmanova, chief economist, Europe at the Mastercard Economics Institute.

6. Sports Tourism Trend Gathers Speed

Sweat by Maresa Smith

Amex’s 2024 Global Travel Trends Report has uncovered a number of interesting trends shaping the travel sector this year, including a boom in sports tourism. From the Olympics in Paris to the Super Bowl in the US, sports fans are planning trips around major athletic events, whether it involves a favourite sport, a beloved team, or an international multi-sport competition. According to Amex, the driving forces behind the rise in sports tourism include watching a favourite sports team in person (35%), witnessing a big sports or cultural event (34%), and seeing a favourite athlete in the flesh (20%).

Another trend highlighted in the report was the growing thirst for transformational travel via big budget, life-changing trips as the desire for immersive, off-grid adventures in remote parts of the world heats up. According to Amex, “the transformative potential of these trips makes them worth the cost and planning”, with most planned at least 3-6 months in advance. Solo adventures are also on the rise, as frazzled travellers seek to recharge and unwind on their own, often through weekend getaways in city, beach and island destinations that can be tailored to their specific needs.

7. Wellness Real Estate Is Big Business

Elysium Fields, Melbourne, Australia

It may sound like pie in the sky, but purpose-built wellness utopias are popping up with increasing regularity around the globe. As reported by Well To Do Global, the latest wellness Mecca to hit the headlines is Elysium Fields, an ‘anti-ageing utopia’ planned for Melbourne’s waterside Docklands area. A futuristic biosphere-like dome covering 27,000 sq m, project planner Gurner Group wants to build 1,700 homes optimised for sleep, sunlight, movement, nutrition and social connection. If it comes to light Elysium Fields will boast green spaces and hospitality and retail offerings, alongside exercise- and longevity-focused facilities including private members’ club club Saint Haven.

The site’s reverse-ageing clinic will offer treatments spanning cryotherapy, IV infusions and infrared saunas, while a ‘path of life’ encourages running, yoga and meditation. Wellness real estate is booming, and the sector is slated to be worth $887B by 2027. As wellness tourism grows and concepts like Life Time’s fitness villages scale up, wellness cities such as Saudi Arabia’s ambitious NEOM project – a mega-city conceptualised around health and wellness – will be the next big thing. Bhutan is also in on the act, and is busy building a 1,000 sq km ‘Mindfulness City prioritising economic growth and wellbeing through Eastern and Western healthcare clinics and spiritual centres.