I remember walking down a dingy corridor in the early noughties, towel in hand, trainers squeaking on the polished tiles as I made my way to the dreaded, airless corner of a hotel that made up their gym offering.
How today’s hospitality spaces have changed! From the days where fitness and wellness were relegated to the back corner, we are now in an era where they are front and centre. The reason for this is no mystery — wellness is one of the fastest growing sectors in the hospitality industry and, according to the Global Wellness Institute’s latest report, which was unveiled at WTM London earlier this month, its growth is on an upward trend, expected to reach a projected $919 billion by 2022.
In this month’s trend digest, we look to resources from around the web to find out what makes wellness such an important trend, how properties can incorporate wellness into their offerings, what kinds of properties are expected to have these offerings, and the difference between being wellness-themed and focussed on wellness.
What is it that has seen the shift from fitness, health and wellness being a side-note of a stay, to being one of a property’s defining features? Perhaps it’s a combination of an increase in business travellers, and a push for personalisation. After all, properties want to accommodate unique stays, and travellers who are often on the road (or in the air) want the opportunity to keep up their routines.
“The merging of fitness and hotels works so well because it brings an element of people’s daily routines directly to them while they’re away from home and generally off their typical schedules.” — Kara Liotta
As personal trainer, Bec Donlan points out to Well+Good, “I found that my clients were training really intensely for four or five days, but then business travel would throw it all off. They’d say they ‘didn’t have time.’ So I developed a 20-minute workout that anyone can do between meetings in their hotel room.”
While Donlan’s solution for business travellers was to provide a workout that they could manage without access to gyms or equipment, many properties, like Hilton Hotels, are moving in another direction — incorporating equipment for fitness into their rooms and offerings.
“Brands are integrating health-focused products and services into more aspects of the travel experience, empowering their customers to optimize their time away and positioning themselves as a valuable partner in the wellness endeavor.” — PSFK
And, PSFK explain, properties are hardly the only ones making efforts to incorporate wellness into their programmes. Air France have begun to offer meditation during their flights, while innumerable restaurants are beginning to focus on health through natural, organic or unprocessed ingredients and processes.
Where some businesses are adding to their repertoires to incorporate wellness, others are making a simple request from their guests and patrons — to leave technology at the door. According to MarketWatch, this seemingly easy ask can result in guests being less distracted, appreciating their surroundings more, and connecting with others around them face-to-face rather than online.
“People end up using technology as a crutch. My parents generation would grab a cigarette, we grab our phone.” — James La Russo
While some restaurants and accommodation providers are offering financial incentives in the form of discounts for patrons to leave their cell phones and smart watches at the door, others, like New York City’s Mandarin Oriental, offer spa treatments aimed at helping guests to relieve the stress placed on one’s body by constantly staring at screens, texting, swiping and typing.
Not every property will be able to incorporate gym equipment into their rooms, offer spa treatments directed at digital detoxing, or arrange personal training sessions for each of their guests. But, as Skift points out, if you aren’t able to rework your offerings, that doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to accommodate wellness in one way or another.
“Meditation is free, the lack of blue light in a room is free, a TV-based yoga tutorial can be low-cost.” — Harry Jameson
Luxury accommodation providers are often seen to be the ones moving trends like wellness forward, as they are often designed around concepts such as healthy lifestyles and personalisation. But health and wellness are not exclusive to luxury, and accommodation providers who cater to travellers of any budget can easily take steps to include wellness in their offerings.
Any property can facilitate wellness, but as Horwath HTL explains, there is a big difference between being wellness-themed, and actually helping guests with their health and wellness.
“Many hospitality companies increasingly incorporate various elements of wellness into their product and service offering. The reality is that merely highlighting healthy features or amenities is ‘well-washing’ and confuses developers and consumers alike.” — Horwath HTL
A single spa treatment, placing a few pieces of gym equipment in a room, or having a couple of healthier options on your menu only goes so far in terms of accommodating guests who are focussed on keeping their minds and bodies healthy, but they do not promote a lifestyle of wellness, and often amount to nothing more than a gimmick. Properties that are truly focussed on helping guests with wellness are those that provide services that go beyond one stay — helping guests to learn the benefits of a healthier lifestyle in general rather than simply capitalising on a trend.