For wellness trends to be successfully integrated into a hotel business, the general managers involved must have sufficient wellness -relevant training, and genuinely embrace a wellness lifestyle. By Sonal Uberoi
As the lines between hospitality and wellness blur, we will see more inclusive and fully integrated business models, wellness-oriented hotel managers and a renovated focus on sustainable wellness offerings gain momentum in 2019.
Foster a sense of community
Giving your guests the opportunity to interact with local peoples is key to generating a sense of community – whether in a restaurant, hotel or spa.
Let’s take the example of Firmdale Hotels, where they hold a weekly film club, inviting hotel guests and locals to dine at the hotel’s restaurant before watching the film of the week. Not only do initiatives like this establish greater links with the community and generate a sense of authenticity, they encourage new visitors to the hotel, and ultimately, to its spa.
While hotel spas have long been open to locals, the experience has been hampered by the spa being difficult to reach and low off-peak offers that convey to locals a sense of ‘filling in’ unpopular times.
This year, we will see hotels adapt their wellness businesses to this trend in increasingly collaborative ways. Examples include integrating creative exterior wellness experiences into services through initiatives like visits to local farmers’ markets, or to local healers for truly indigenous therapies and remedies.
These initiatives allow both the guests and the hotel to connect with the local community in a more meaningful way, as well as encouraging more memorable experiences. As hotels (those with and without wellness facilities) design purpose-built wellness offerings in this way, they will ultimately boost their top and bottom lines.
Consumers as active co-creators of their wellness journey
Consumers today are very wellness savvy. Many have already trialed and followed a number of wellness services and products and they know what works for their lifestyle. Above all, they know what wellness experiences they are looking for and where to find them.
In 2019, we will increasingly see consumers become active “co-creators” of their own wellness experiences, taking a leading role in designing their own wellness journey. Guests will demand the ability to pick and choose wellness services, from food to treatments, both a la carte and off-menu. This is already evident with companies like Health and Fitness Travel, experts in health and fitness holidays, who offer consumers the opportunity to tailor-make their wellness retreats from spa, detox, yoga, weight loss and sports – all in a luxury setting.
Hotels are now becoming facilitators, instead of manufacturers, of their guests’ wellbeing experiences.
Wellness hotels become increasingly popular
The hospitality sector now recognises the benefits and profitability of wellbeing. An example is Hyatt’s acquisition of wellness brands Exhale and Miraval.
Wellness tourists are consistently spending more on average than the typical traveller. The GWI predicts that “wellness tourism will grow at an average annual rate of 7.5% through 2022,” where overall global tourism is only expected to grow by 6.4%.
Hotel brands like Starwood’s Westin (with its tagline “Empower your well-being. Signature wellness offerings that help you rise”), and IHG’s EVEN (with its tagline “where wellness is built in”) are already catering to this demand. We predict that in 2019 other hotel chains, both small and large, will be eager to jump on board. However, as these large players improve their wellness offering, more traditional hotels will have to think about how they can develop new offerings with their specific audience in mind.
In 2019 we will see the rise of more ‘Wellness Hotels’ or hotels incorporating a fully integrated wellness offering across their properties, from F&B and Rooms to design.
Venturing beyond the spa:Multi-use spaces
There is no reason for wellness experiences to be confined to the spa, a fact that I predict hotels and spas will embrace in 2019. Following today’s retail leaders, the hospitality industry is recognising the importance and benefits of multi-use spaces, allowing hoteliers to squeeze all they can out of every square metre, particularly in pricier urban locations.
These multi-purpose areas allow guests to stumble upon a diverse range of experiences and activities. In Accor’s Mama Shelter, for example, wellness has been incorporated into the ‘work’ spaces in a more creative way with fun, stress-busting activities like ping pong and table football. Another example is the introduction of in-room yoga by Hard Rock hotels in January 2018. Here, guests take part in Rock Om music-accompanied yoga sessions that cater to their desire for experiential travel.
And the concept is set to become more popular in 2019 as hoteliers wake up to the opportunities that dynamic, multi-use spaces provide. The main one being a minimal financial outlay.
Tourism with a conscience
The burden that high numbers of tourists, including wellness tourists, put on local communities and environments has become a pressing issue for many destinations suffering the consequences of overtourism.
In my recent experience of what could be considered a classic example of wellness tourism, the famous Camino de Santiago, the last 100 kilometers were far from transformative, with bushes full of discarded toilet paper, plastic bottles, and refuges without a local in sight.
In 2019 and beyond, we expect to see more travellers choosing community and environment-conscious destinations and taking an active part in positive wellness activities. Most tourists and hotels are already aware of the huge impact of tourism on the global plastics phenomenon, and their clientele’s increased focus on wellism is set to result in a more sustainable wellness offering. This phenomenon has even led Airbnb to launch their Global Office of Healthy Tourism.
Costa Rica is a great example of this as a destination with sustainable projects such as Rancho Margot La Fortuna, which pushes the “pura vida” lifestyle. Rancho Margot generates well over half of all food consumed by workers, residents and guests onsite, and it produces most of energy through onsite hydroelectric generators, complex composting system and bio-digesters.
To counteract the negative side-effects of overtourism and irresponsible travel, we will see more hotels seriously consider every aspect of their offerings to ensure the environment and local community are treated with integrity.
The evolution of wellness architecture: from environmentalism to wellism
According to the GWI’s recent report, concerns regarding chronic diseases and environmental issues are dominant factors driving “accelerated consumer interest in wellness”.
As Veronica Schreibeis Smith, CEO and founding principal of Vera Iconica Architecture, advocated in the GWS 2018, establishments now need to not only produce energy and resources, but they also need to be regenerative by becoming living systems and being symbiotic with the natural world as illustrated in the blow graph.
In 2019, we predict a move beyond environmentalism into ‘wellism’, as consumers call for services and establishments which “nourish the soul and elevate mankind”, in addition to promoting human and planetary wellbeing.
Soneva Jani’s Villas, for example, enhance their wellness experience through design features such as retractable roofs, allowing guests to stargaze and connect with nature. The increasing cross-sector popularity of this movement means we will see hotels paying more attention to design with wellness architecture in mind—and properly investing in developing their too-often neglected spas.
The post-experience era: strengthening of core services
Nearly everything in nearly every industry is marketed as an ‘experience’ nowadays. And particularly so with hotels and their wellness offering – treatment rooms, gyms and hydrothermal areas including standard hotel rooms are now packaged as “experiences”. Wellness insiders are now imagining what a ‘post-experience’ era would look like, and how hotel spas can differentiate themselves when everything is marketed the same way.
In 2019, we expect the notion of strengthening core services to become a strong trend, with hotel spas reevaluating their core values to stay in touch with their main goals and target market. An example is the Skylonda Lodge in California that returned to its roots in 2018 as the destination for all-inclusive retreats with focus on nutrition, fitness and relaxation. “Current owner, Ray Blatt, restored the unique combination of indoor and outdoor activities, pampering spa services and impeccable cuisine in a setting of perpetual tranquility.”
No hotel spa is going to see any improvement unless they are great at their core offerings. Tinkering at the edges is never enough.
The hunt for Hotel General Manager 3.0: the Wellness-Oriented GM
Industries across the board are becoming more aware of the importance of wellness, and as wellness continues to take centre stage, we will see an increasing demand for wellness-oriented hotel general managers.
While a hotel may wish to introduce new wellness experiences, and incorporate any number of the previously mentioned trends, the success of their venture comes down to execution.
As Neil Jacobs, CEO of Six Senses resorts, explains, “one of the challenges to hoteliers looking to roll out wellness offerings is finding general managers who believe in wellness and embrace a wellness lifestyle.”
For the wellness trends of 2019 to be successfully integrated into a hotel business, while maintaining the integrity of its framework and the quality of its core services and products, the general managers involved must have sufficient wellness-relevant training, or at a minimum believe in and genuinely embrace a wellness lifestyle.
If hotels can get this right, the industry is extremely well-positioned to ride the global wellness wave, up its game and allow transformational well-being experiences to take place.