Hot Topics—Investing in Wellness: Your brand, your guests and your bottom line

Coming out of the pandemic, wellness travel has become a major trend that hoteliers need to address. From fitness centers to spas to meditation rooms, there’s not a one-size-fits-all for guests who make their well-being a priority.

In the latest Hotel Business Hot Topics session, “Investing in Wellness: Your brand, your guests and your bottom line,” with sponsorship from Peloton Commercial, panelists discussed the emergence of wellness travel and what that means to the hotelier and the hotel.

Moderator Sonal Uberoi, global wellness expert and author of “The Wellness Asset: How to transform and futureproof your hotel,” was joined by Ryan Crabbe, senior director, commercial experience, Peloton Commercial; Anne Dimon, cofounder/president/CEO, Wellness Tourism Association (WTA); Sonya Haffey, principal, V Starr; Kenneth Ryan, VP, global wellness, spa & fitness operations, Marriott International; and Celine Vadam, founder/CEO, WE(i) Think.

Ryan began the session by noting that the pandemic allowed everyone to learn of the importance of personal well-being.

“It really allowed us all the opportunity to pause and look at our lives individually,” he said. “We saw more people working out outside, walking, hiking—and then also putting a focus on what they’re eating.”

Once people started traveling again, it was evident that they wanted to bring their heightened wellness focus on the road with them.

“We’ve heard that wellness is now at the forefront of everybody’s mind and self-care rituals are really important to everybody—and they’re taking that with them when they travel,” said Ryan. “This has had a profound shift in what’s going on and driving powerful growth. We’re seeing high demand in our spas and the best revenues ever—well over 2019—and really strong rates.”

How wellness is defined is different for every guest and, according to the findings of the WTA, there are two types of wellness travelers: “Those who already live a wellness lifestyle and want to take that with them on the road, and those who want to use their travel time to actually get on a path to wellness,” offered Dimon.

Historically, when people thought of wellness, it was all about going to the gym to lose weight or improve the physique. Haffey said it’s much more than that now at hotels and includes mental health.

“From head to toe, and through the [hotel] experience, it’s everywhere,” she said. “It’s from the moment that you arrive and how you’re greeted. If someone opens your door and they’re smiling, that immediately releases endorphins in your brain and you start on this wellness journey. You’re going into these hotels and now the scent is a big deal and that scent sparks some kind of emotion.”

Vadam has also seen a shift in the way hotels look at wellness. “It went from something related to physical appearance,” she said. “The spa was all about aesthetics, the gym was to look good. Now, wellness is really related to health and how can you improve your overall health—sleeping well, eating well, moving well and socializing well. These are the four universal pillars of healthy living and things that you can implement in their various touch points throughout the hotel.”

Fitness is still a big part of the wellness experience at hotels, and some properties have offered access to fitness mobile apps so that their guests can not only work out in their rooms if they choose, but they can continue to have access to the app at home.

“I love the idea of apps on phones,” said Crabbe. “We certainly find the Peloton app traveling with our members and even non-members a lot more. For me, one of the biggest shifts pre- vs. post-pandemic is this idea that connected fitness can deliver motivational and effective training and fitness outcomes. I don’t think that was the consensus before, but as people were forced to reevaluate the space and time when they consume fitness. I think a lot of people learned during the pandemic that you could have just as motivating and effective a workout through connected fitness and digital apps [than you would at the gym].”

Look for more coverage of this session in the November issue of Hotel Business.

Watch the session