Under China’s “big health” policy, wellness resorts have become an interesting business model for many Chinese real estate developers, but there are many important points to consider
The reason why wellness resorts are favored in China is very simple. Firstly, the national policy supports the development of the “big health” industry. Secondly, Chinese guests have a growing awareness of health maintenance. They also hope to have a healthy experience and learn about healthy lifestyles during their vacations and travel.
In wellness resorts, Chinese young people typically like to stay for 3-5 days. They can escape from their complex reality and recover their vitality and concentration. Middle-aged and elderly people with chronic diseases tend to stay for a longer period of 5-10 days to recuperate and bring health benefits to themselves.
However, at present, there are only a few wellness resorts in China that are in line with the international standard. Wellness resorts which do to operate in an international way cannot be favored by Chinese guests, and the business prospects are bleak.
Therefore, the design and the character of a wellness resort needs to be more professional and rigorous, which is quite different from general hotel development projects. In order to create an immersive and refreshing experience for guests, the wellness resort must provide personalized and comprehensive services in line with the guest psychology. Let’s take a look at what elements international health resorts consider to be essential.
The character of a Wellness Resort
The Health Tourism Association defines a wellness resort as “providing accommodation and a range of hotel services for the main purpose of providing projects and experiences for wellness travelers.” Wellness resort consists of four elements: 1. Accommodation; 2. A series of wellness activities; 3. Healthy diet options; 4. Wellness facilities and hardware. These elements are integrated into a major concept of wellness care, which guides the development and implementation of wellness services, including special architectural and landscape design, and providing visitors with opportunities to get close to nature.
Wellness resorts usually are not just selling rooms, but a whole concept project. The project includes room accommodation, catering, and wellness-related services covering health consultation, exams, treatment and activities. Therefore, two guests in the same room can each have a different bill based on the precise project they are involved in. The design of health care programs should focus on how to help guests attain specific and measurable health and wellness goals as well as healthy lifestyle knowledge. But in China, this approach has not yet been accepted.
naked Group, naked Stables, naked Castle, offer a package price for a whole project, including accommodation and several interesting activities, and spa treatments. They provide relaxing and happy vacations focusing on families with children, and they are very much liked by Chinese people.
In recent years, more and more wellness programs have been carried out in Aman. For example, the three-hour Banya treatment at Yangyun Aman, uses thermotherapy to enhance immunity. The sterilized leaves of the Cinnamomum camphora tree are used, and delicious healthy lunch cuisine is provided, which is very healing and comfortable, suitable for the needs of post-pandemic era.
Most of the wellness resorts in the world feature an average stay of seven days, and guests have to stay for at least three days in order to have enough time to benefit from the special experiences available.
The wellness program typically also includes a series of services before and after the guests arrive and leave, making the wellness journey not limited to the time in the resort. A qualified wellness resort will take the initiative to collect health care data of the guests before their arrival, such as medical history, family health history, lifestyle, living habits, medical treatment received, health examination results, etc., and determine the health objectives of the guests.
The purpose of this service is to gain customers’ trust and reassurance, and also to provide the basis for customizing wellness care programs for guests according to their unique requirements. After the guest leaves the resort, the resort will call the guest for a follow-up to inquire about the effect of the tour, and provide further adjustment and improvement suggestions if necessary.
Therefore, the operation of a wellness resort must also have a set of unique design processes as support, so that it can better provide customers with transformational experiences.
From the international point of view, guests staying in a wellness resort have different psychological expectations from a general leisure resort or other types of hotel. Understanding their uniqueness and related behaviors is particularly important for the space and experience design of a wellness resort.
Guests tend to have clear health goals they want to achieve. They are not only looking forward to a holiday, but also looking forward to getting rid of certain health problems, changing some bad habits, or mastering new skills to open up a new lifestyle after they leave.
During the transforming and healing process of the guests staying in the wellness resort, it is inevitable that there will be some activities with high intensity which cannot be easily adapted to, which will bring physical fatigue to the guests, and also possibly cause an emotional and psychological impact, resulting in “frustration”. Some guests even have a greater physical and psychological reaction before making any progress. At this time, it is particularly important for the resort to pay close attention to the guests and provide the necessary spiritual support. This support involves all aspects of the treatment, daily life and daily activities of the guests. Once this “support” is accepted by the guests, they will have real trust in the health resort. Developers and operators need to understand this well.
The design of a Wellness Resort
Considering the particularity of the concept and business model of the wellness resort, as well as the unique psychology and behavior of the guests, it is necessary to carefully design the location and layout of the facilities, so as to provide guests with an ideal experience. In other words, to bring more clients and benefits.
The layout must support operational portability to maximize service levels and financial performance. In order to make an accurate and functional layout design, some key principles should be followed and the unique elements of individual projects should be considered.
In general, the lobby of the wellness resort can be smaller than that of other leisure resorts, because the stay time of guests in the resort will be longer, and guests will generally only be in the lobby when they arrive and leave. Some procedures such as check-in completed in the lobby of ordinary hotels will also be completed in the room. It can be seen that the function of the reception lobby is not significant, so we should reduce its scale and create a relaxed and warm environment, which is more important.
If the resort has hot springs or other facilities and is open to non-resident guests, the boundary between the private area and the public area of the resort must be clearly demarcated. The public area should be completely separate from the guest lobby of the resort, so as to effectively prevent external guests from entering the private area of the resort and protect the guests from being disturbed. However, resort guests must also be able to reach public areas easily.
In the public area, a community feel can be created, with retail, catering, event activities, and even conference space. Hair, nail and eyelashes in the public area will also attract more clients than in the private area.
Spa and medical spa should be placed in the public area, but should be adjacent to the resort wellness center which is only open to the wellness resort guests. There can be two different entrances, so that the two can better cooperate. This is beneficial from the aspects of resort guests, staff, product and equipment matching, service convenience and so on.
If there are residence apartments next to the resort, then the special channels, entrances and security kiosks should be set up for the residence apartments to ensure the privacy and rights of the apartment guests. The apartments should be located outside the core private area of the resort, but adjacent to the wellness center and public areas. The wellness center is likely to become a gathering place for apartment guests.
As the most important and frequently visited facility, the wellness center must be visible in the center of the whole resort and within walking distance of the resort guests. Generally speaking, the more higher-level resort rooms should be closer to the wellness center, but at the same time, the privacy and the view of the guest rooms should also be guaranteed.
Wellness resort can also build a meeting space in the core private area, which is only open to resort guests. Its main goal is to create a place for guests to exchange, study and meditate, such as a library, communication space, etc. In some cases, a larger dining table can be set up in the all-day dining room for guests to get familiar with each other, communicate, and establish a sense of community. This is also very beneficial for a personal healing journey.
Considering the importance of outdoor activities, the layout of the wellness resort should be as close to the natural landscape as possible to maximize the immersion of guests in the natural environment. If conditions permit, perhaps also consider creating an organic vegetable garden or herbal garden to popularize the importance of a clean and nutritious diet to guests as part of health education in the wellness resort.
Parking area design is also important. After arriving at the resort, the guests will not need to use the car any more, but will move within the confines of the resort. The grounds of the resort should be maximized for the wellness experience. Therefore, if conditions permit, the parking area should be set underground or in another area with pick up service.
For the wellness resort with family tourists as the main guest target group, it is necessary to build a family activity area, children’s education and activity facilities separated from the health center area to avoid noise interference. Families with kids are an extremely important source of spending power in China, which needs to recognized by developers.
Wellness Center as the core part
The traditional leisure resort’s spa is only used as an “additional facility” and “interest option”, different from the traditional ones, in the wellness resort, the wellness center is the key link of the check-in experience and the place where guests will visit every day. Therefore, the wellness center’s lobby area needs to be larger, and the facilities should be more carefully arranged and professional.
The layout is divided into two parts, one is an active area, the other is a relaxation area. In the active area, the guests are dressed neatly and have normal or accelerated heartbeat activities. The nervous system is still active before entering the relaxation stage. In the relaxation area, the guests have changed into physiotherapy clothes or bathrobes, and their heart rate gradually slows down, and the nervous system is calmed down. Due to the different behavior and psychology of guests in the two areas, the two areas should be clearly separated, and the layout, design elements and operation procedures should also be in line with their own characteristics.
As the core “active area”, the reception lobby of the wellness center should be bigger than the check in lobby space, considering that the guests will visit several times a day and the flow of people is larger. The reception area should be equipped with enough reception desk and seats to shorten the waiting time of guests as much as possible. If the hairdressing, nail bar and eyelash center are not set up in the public area of the resort, it can also be considered to set them up beside the reception of the wellness center as part of the active area.
The consultation and diagnosis room should be located in the active area too, close to the reception area. This is the place where experts customize and recommend wellness programs for guests. Fitness and physical and mental activity spaces are either built into the wellness center or are adjacent to the wellness center, which is also an active area.
The changing room is the transition zone between active and relaxed areas. Male / female independent water and heat experiences, such as sauna steam room and bath facilities, should be used as additional services in male / female dressing rooms. If the wellness center has a water and heat experience area shared by both men and women, the area should be set behind the changing rooms. If there are indoor and outdoor water and heat experience areas shared by men and women, the two areas must be connected by a path.
The treatment room is an important part of the relaxation area. The guests must be able to directly reach the treatment room from the changing area, so as to realize the conversion from the active area to the relaxation area. If the wellness center is divided into different treatment areas (e.g. TCM treatment, Ayurveda), each area must have its own small reception and waiting area, and duplication of the facilities must be avoided to improve operational efficiency.
The rest area that guests visit before and after a treatment should be set in the “relaxation area” of the wellness center, which can include indoor and outdoor facilities.
There is no doubt that technology will play an increasingly important role in the project design of the future wellness resort. With the help of technology, more comfortable and applicable spaces can be created for the guests, so as to enhance the sense of experience of the guests and optimize the whole healing journey. For China, the challenge of the application of science and technology lies in how not to produce high-tech pollution, resulting in adverse consequences.
The design guidelines for wellness resorts and wellness centers described above are only a frame reference, and should be adjusted according to the site selection, terrain, area, wellness concept, physiotherapy menu, management system and budget. It is necessary to include and cooperate with a professional wellness and space design consultant company.
The wellness resort is a special form of real estate, with a unique business model and customer characteristics. Therefore, it is necessary to take the project as the core mode and the psychology of wellness care guests as the core consideration in the design, and provide personalized services, so as to optimize the operations of the resort to the greatest extent and get the ideal occupancy rate and return visit rate.