Taco Bell to open “early retirement community” in San Diego, signaling the fast food giant’s pivot into the wellness industry

Early morning golf? Afternoon pickleball? Dinner at 6 p.m.? For one weekend in the dog days of summer 2024, this could be your life. In San Diego, between August 17–18, Taco Bell (yes, that Taco Bell) will open an early retirement community for the “old at heart.”

The Cantinas is a temporary pop-up neighborhood coming to California where people 21 years and older can live like retirees. It will open at La Valle Coastal Club, a golf course community about 30 minutes from San Diego’s airport. The affair is marketed specifically toward “Taco Bell super fans” who are “tired of turning up” and want to be in bed by 8 p.m.

Taco Bell’s new venture is being shepherded by Taylor Mongtomery, the fast food giant’s chief marketing officer in the U.S. Today, Taco Bell is following in the foot steps of other corporations one wouldn’t typically associate with travel.

In recent years, Equinox began offering hiking trips to Morocco and running tours in Florence, Italy, under its travel wing, Equinox Explore; and Gwyneth Paltrow’s company, Goop, now offers luxury cruises to the Italian Riviera. Soul Cycle and lululemon have also diversified their portfolio to include experience tourism and get in on the wellness industry, a market valued at $4.5 trillion.

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Visitors will be able to play low-impact sports and have access to arts and crafts activities. (Courtesy Taco Bell)

“There’s a common misconception that retirement unlocks the life you’ve been waiting for. And while that may be true for some, we don’t think you should have to wait until 55 to live the life you’re craving,” Taylor Montgomery said in a statement. “The Cantinas early retirement community, just like our brand, represents a place where all generations can come together, regardless of age, to Live their Más however they want.”

Reservations for The Cantinas open on July 16, and Taco Bell is offering both daytime and overnight options. A weekend pass is $150 which offers hotel accommodations, and full access to amenities, recreation, dining, entertainment, and more. A day pass is $50—this gives you access to the grounds and dining options between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. But the affair is exclusively for Taco Bell Rewards* Members.

On-site activities will include low-impact sports like golf, bocce ball, croquet, tennis and pickleball; and even old school arts and crafts like knitting and painting. There will also be nature walks for anyone trying to walk off last night’s Crunchwrap Supreme. Afternoon naps will be encouraged.

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The Cantinas is is exclusively for Taco Bell Rewards* Members. (Courtesy Taco Bell)

The Cantinas, however, isn’t Taco Bell’s first foray into tourism. In 2019, it opened a hotel in Palm Springs, California, where guests could doze off on pillows that look like a hot sauce pockets.

This upcoming weekend retreat in San Diego a la Taco Bell is what economists call experience tourism, adventure tourism, wellness tourism, or immersion travel. Today, experience tourism is a booming industry specifically catered toward millennials and Gen Z.

The Global Wellness Institute, a nonprofit based in the U.S., defines wellness tourism as “travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal well-being.” A poll by the marketing firm Harris Group first revealed the high growth potential for experience tourism, and explains why companies like Taco Bell may be diversifying and pivoting to it.

Millennials (people born between 1981 and 1996) have a combined annual purchasing power of $1.3 trillion, but the things they spend money on are different from their parents. In short, young people value experiences over goods, and “look elsewhere for fulfillment and value experiences over things,” neoliberal economists have said.

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The Cantinas will take over La Valle Coastal Club, a golf course community about 30 minutes from San Diego’s airport. (Courtesy Taco Bell)

In 2017, wellness tourism generated $639 billion in the U.S alone. And in 2018, the wellness industry generated $4.5 trillion worldwide. COVID-19 put a dent in that growth, but now that politicians have lifted restrictions, the wellness market is back on track.

Gabrielle Lieberman, Mintel’s director of trends and social media research, said wellness tourism could become the new normal for brands like Taco Bell. “As consumers set out for a more holistic approach to managing their well-being, it makes sense then that they would want this to extend into their travel experiences as well,” Liebermann recently told BBC reporters. “You’ll see these wellness retreats become even less of a novelty and integrated more naturally into everyday experiences.”

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