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Identity transition process: a study of the holistic wellness retreat experience

Margarita Lyulicheva (Department of Marketing, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)
Sheau Fen Yap (Department of Marketing, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)
Ken Hyde (Department of Marketing, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 22 March 2023

Issue publication date: 4 May 2023




Wellness tourism offers opportunities for consumers to explore the self. This paper aims to explore how identity transitions occur in a liminal tourism space – a holistic wellness retreat.


The authors adopt a qualitative methodology, including in-depth semi-structured interviews supplemented by various projective techniques. Following an interpretivist approach, eight consumers were interviewed at the commencement and the completion of a holistic wellness retreat stay. Participant observation was also undertaken during the retreat programme.


The paper shows an identity transition is facilitated by the liminal space of the holistic wellness retreat and further shaped by self-work during the retreat. As participants gain new knowledge on the self and start living “consciously”, they gain a sense of vision, clarity and direction to a new self, wherein identity transition is a starting point and a process of change rather than an end goal.


While much past research views tourism activities as mainly “play”, the findings reveal the holistic wellness retreat experiences as both identity play and identity work. This paper provides theoretical insights into the process from identity play to identity work and what makes this process effective for identity transition.



The authors gratefully acknowledge the HWR owners who have permitted us to collect data at their retreat centre. Without their support, this research would not have been possible. The authors thank all the informants who participated in this study for entrusting us with their experiences, reflections and insights. The authors are grateful to them for their time and support during the retreat.

The authors’ contribution statement: All authors contributed to the conception and design of this study. ML had major responsibilities in fieldwork and data analysis; SY and KH supervised the data collection and interpretation process. ML and SY contributed to writing the paper, and KH revised it critically for important intellectual content. All authors agreed to contribute to revising the manuscript at the revise and resubmit stage.

Declaration of interest: The authors declare that there is no conflict of interest.

Funding: This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.


Lyulicheva, M., Yap, S.F. and Hyde, K. (2023), "Identity transition process: a study of the holistic wellness retreat experience", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 40 No. 4, pp. 506-520.



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