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In step with Ben Angell: NCL boss talks Walk for Wellness and world record ambitions

Karryon speaks with Norwegian Cruise Line's Managing Director APAC, Ben Angell, for an exclusive insight into their industry initiative: Walk for Wellness.

Karryon speaks with Norwegian Cruise Line‘s Managing Director APAC, Ben Angell, for an exclusive insight into their industry initiative: Walk for Wellness.

Four years on, and no longer just a pandemic response, the NCL Walk for Wellness is a movement — blending industry engagement with wellbeing. Aiming for a world record, this year’s Walk for Wellness isn’t just about steps; it’s about making strides in community and wellness.

The Walk for Wellness is in its fourth year now. How has the event evolved from its inception during the pandemic to the well-known initiative it is today?

Walk for Wellness is a health and wellbeing initiative at heart, started back in 2020 during lockdown. In addition, it has evolved into a social community platform to boost industry engagement and connection – and that’s something I’m particularly proud of. 

We evaluate participant feedback each year, and consider the current industry climate, to ensure we’re making Walk for Wellness fun, inspiring and easy for busy travel professionals to join. From the inclusion of a Mindful Colouring Book during lockdowns to last year’s environmentally focused Take 3 for the Sea clean-up challenge, to striving for a world record, partnering with a mental health charity, and inviting the entire travel industry to join in this year – we’ll continue to change things up to ensure Walk for Wellness remains relevant whilst always focussed on mental and physical health and wellbeing. 

This year’s Walk for Wellness coincides with National Mental Health Month and WHO World Mental Health Day. Can you speak to the significance of aligning with these important observances?

We initially chose to host Walk for Wellness during October in the height of the pandemic, when our industry was experiencing a period of unprecedented challenge and isolation, to encourage our staff and travel partners to not only walk to improve their physical wellbeing, but to walk – and talk – to improve their mental health and wellbeing. And while our industry’s situation has changed, the importance of discussing and nurturing our mental health hasn’t – and with National Mental Health Month and WHO World Mental Health Day shining a spotlight on mental health, we believe October is the ideal time to reinforce the importance, of mental wellbeing for our staff, travel partners, and entire travel community. 

The event aims to bring the entire travel industry together. Why is this still important today?

Our industry has demonstrated that support, strength, and resilience are key elements that unite us. Walk for Wellness is building upon this sense of connection and empowerment which is not only good for our individual mental wellbeing but boosts morale and in turn contributes to retaining talent in our sector. 

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The 2023 Walk for Wellness is attempting to set a world record. Can you share more about the inspiration behind this ambitious goal and what you hope it signifies for the travel industry?

Besides the fact we thought it would be great fun, we believe having such a significant goal to collectively strive for is highly motivating – and an excellent way to really highlight the supportive spirit and camaraderie of our entire travel community.  

As this event promotes both physical and mental wellbeing, can you share any personal practices or routines you follow to maintain your own well-being?

I’m a big believer in the connection between physical exercise, getting outdoors and mental health. I’m fortunate to live near the beach so I regularly go for beach walks, swim, and surf to stay physically fit and to clear my head – so I’ll be racking up a lot of my steps on the sand during October. I’ll also be stepping things up in the NCL office, where we’re marking out a walking path, we’re planning walking meetings and we’ll host a weekly walking club to keep everyone on track – and on world record target! 

As we look beyond 2023, can we expect the Walk for Wellness to continue growing? Do you have any visions or plans for the future of this initiative?

Absolutely. We’ve received fantastic feedback on Walk for Wellness from our international colleagues, and we are already expanding to overseas in our German speaking markets with plans to further expand it to other overseas markets in the future. We’ll also continue consulting with our local travel community to hear what resonates so we can keep things fresh and motivating. We want to improve Walk for Wellness every year. 

Lastly, for those in the travel industry who are still considering whether to participate, what would you say to encourage them to join this year’s Walk for Wellness?

Firstly, it’s really easy to get involved – you can walk on your own, with friends, family or colleagues – and you can tailor the time and energy invested to suit your lifestyle and fitness level. 

Plus, by participating you’ll help us reach milestones that will unlock charity donations for our partner Mood Active, so you’ll be supporting a great cause. Of course, it’s also great exercise, lots of fun, and there are fantastic prizes up for grabs, including a European cruise. 

Registrations for NCL’s Walk for Wellness are now open. To find out more and to take part, travel professionals should visit the dedicated W4W site before 30 September 2023.