Wellness ROI: Define the target guest, differentiate your hotel


NATIONAL REPORT—It’s true: Guests define wellness differently, which can be challenging for brands developing wellness programs for their properties. Understanding who the target guest is can set properties on the right track.

“Simply put, to each his or her own in wellness,” said Adam Glickman, principal at Parallax Hospitality, a consultancy that builds guest experiences through lifestyle branding, emotionally charged service cultures and wellness platforms. “I think of wellness as a set of touchpoints, with well-being as a ‘state’ we want to get to.”

Overall, the global wellness industry is a $3.7 trillion market, according to data publicly released by the Global Wellness Institute in 2015. The industry is made up of numerous key sectors, including beauty and anti-aging; healthy eating, nutrition and weight loss; wellness tourism; fitness and mind-body; preventive and personalized medicine and public health; complementary and alternative medicine; spa; and workplace wellness.

“Wellness means different things to different people,” Glickman said. “Dark chocolate and a good novel to clear your mind before bed—that’s wellness. Hitting the gym hard and burning away stress—that’s wellness. In one way or another, we’re all trying to live a well, happy life, and we’re on a journey toward that. There are an infinite amount of touchpoints along that journey that we can consider ‘wellness.’ We make choice after choice along the way, and we strive for wellness along our journey, to get to a destination of well-being.”

Put into perspective for properties in the lodging industry: Wellness tourism alone is an industry worth more than $560 billion. That being said, how can properties leverage this market for success? Are there approaches hoteliers can take to find additional ways to improve wellness ROI at properties?

“The single biggest opportunity for properties trying to win in this space is understanding what part of the market they want and not lumping ‘wellness’ into a single bucket,” Glickman said. “It’s not one size fits all.”

It would behoove properties to focus on a particular wellness segment and go from there, he suggested. While guest experiences can overlap throughout the property, hoteliers first need to know whom they’re ultimately going after.

“By understanding what’s important to their core target, they can optimize an experience for them,” Glickman said. “As an example, if the primary target guest of a property is the in-and-out customer, quick spa services (that you might support through a brand like Soothe), a great gym and healthy food choices could be more than enough to wow guests.”

Consider wellness as part of the overall positioning of a property. “I would start to look at differentiation points in a comp set, the ability to drive guest reviews and, ultimately, generate a RevPAR index premium over competitors because of the services a specific property offers that others don’t,” Glickman said. Depending on property size, there are a couple of things properties can do to reevaluate the way they’re approaching wellness ROI.

First, highlight certain property wellness attributes through digital targeting of guests. “How do those placements perform versus the generic campaign a hotel is running?” he asked. “Are they driving performance and room nights?” This also goes for any new wellness initiatives properties may have.

“If you have a new spa, or you roll out robust wellness offers, market them and highlight the needs they meet for a demanding guest,” Glickman said. “Position the offers to groups and corporate clients. Then, run a short study to evaluate transient and group sales with these offers.”

There are also ways properties can leverage strategic and cost-effective changes to improve wellness positioning. “There are many small-scale improvements properties can make when it comes to wellness that will have an outsized impact, and it doesn’t have to just be at the time of a major PIP,” he said. The suggestions revolve around three central focus areas.

First, update the gym to make it a place where guests want to spend time. Take a look at what’s on the walls, check the light bulbs and light covers, and examine the training tools available to your guests (think about yoga mats).

Second, review quiet spaces throughout the property. If there aren’t any, consider creating one in the lobby. “What about adding several large, real plants to connect the outdoors and the indoors, and adding a dimmer to the area so the space can feel inviting—quiet, peaceful and relaxing—in the evenings?” Glickman suggested. Quiet spaces give guests a place where they can sit in to work or relax.

Lastly, review menus for fresh ingredients and foods. “Consider the help of a local dietician or chef to add a mix of healthier and diet-friendly options for vegetarians, vegans and folks on gluten-free or paleo diets,” he said. The drinks menu can be improved with options that include fresh, vitamin-rich vegetables.

But guests aren’t the only ones hotels should be focused on when it comes to well-being initiatives. “Properties that focus on the wellness of their teams in turn support the wellness of their guests,” Glickman said. “What kinds of practices are in place to enable your team to eat healthier, exercise and find quiet, mindful time to recharge? Implementing a few simple team-focused wellness initiatives can have big payoffs in terms of service delivery to guests, employee retention and culture.”

Technology also plays a vital role in wellness. “I see an integrated guest experience—which cuts across design, service, technology and wellness—as critical to exceeding the needs of guests and standing out above the competition,” he said. “Technology and wellness do go hand in hand, in that new technologies can remove friction and stresses that guests may have at a hotel, which improves their overall well-being.” It can be as simple as providing guests with the ability to cast Netflix (instead of browsing cable).

“Technology can backfire, though, so it’s important to test and find balance,” Glickman added. “If I can’t figure out how to shut the bright light of the expensive Bluetooth alarm clock/radio, and it bothers me all night, my key need of a good night sleep is shot. Technology should support wellness delivery and a distinctive guest experience without causing frustration or friction for guests.”

While the times have changed, the way guests view wellness remains pretty much the same—with one overall difference.

“What wellness means in 2018 can be considered very similar to what it meant thousands of years ago,” Glickman said. “How it comes to life, however, is different. From new programs to modalities, treatments and brands, there are more choices than ever for consumers (and guests) to think about when it comes to wellness.” HB