Report: Build Well to Live Well

MIAMI—Wellness is permeating every aspect of business, including real estate. The Global Wellness Institute (GWI) has released in-depth research that analyzes the global and regional wellness lifestyle real estate and communities market.

In its report, “Build Well to Live Well,” GWI reveals that health and wellness are now becoming the center of design, creation and redevelopment. It’s an area that continues to grow as more people start to demand it.

“The shift we see is a recognition that has grown; there’s an understanding that we need to encompass wellness behaviors into our daily lives. It’s gone from ‘I like to be healthy at gym’ to ‘What about at home?’ We have to look at what we’re doing and where we’re living. It’s both the consumer interest and health imperative,” said Katherine Johnston, senior research fellow, GWI.

One of the big takeaways Johnston cited is the importance of built environments and how that can impact health outcomes.

“What’s interesting is that things can happen on the hotel side compared to residential because it’s a different project, different revenue streams. You can innovate in a way a homebuilder may not be ready to do,” she said. “Another finding is that there’s movement happening around the world in the resort sector.

“The building of resorts plus home communities around a hot springs is a new and under-appreciated asset that will be big in 10-20 years,” she continued. “There’s a lot of development in China, and we’re seeing increasing growth in adding a residential component. There’s also the ability to innovate when you add housing, and there are ways to build wellness into that.”

Johnston pointed to what makes hospitality work and how it’s important when you try to build a better home or community.

“When you think about places in the U.S. and cities people want to visit, such as Charleston, SC, San Francisco, and other communities that are historic and desirable to live, what are the characteristics? We don’t have to build cookie-cutter neighborhoods,” she said. “Some of the innovation we see in regular communities is about bringing a hospitality mindset to it.”

When hoteliers and developers build resorts and hospitality-focused developments, it is imperative to be clear in the reasoning for doing it, stressed Johnston.

“Is it actually functional? Will people use it? Is it authentic? There are some properties designed more wellness-minded and eco-friendly with reclaimed wood on the walls. It’s cool, but is it providing a fundamentally better wellness experience? I’m not so sure,” she said.

There are other approaches that Johnston sees as being more practical, such as giving guests more space in the guestroom to work out or providing functional equipment for exercise or healthier food options.

“Different people want different things and hoteliers should know their clientele and provide an experience that is giving them something that enhances their wellness,” she said. “On the luxury end, there’s been a tendency to create a ‘wellness cocoon’ or an escape. Guests go to the spa to get pampered—they don’t talk to anyone and there’s a retreat aspect, but you’re missing a human and social component. I think about that. It’s about the authenticity of the place and where you are. The customers no longer want to be in a generic, luxury hotel when you can be in Shanghai or New York City and it’s all the same. We see success in creating something more authentic, from design and materials to the amenities and experiential offerings for guests.”