Why hotels are getting serious about relaxation and wellbeing

With physical and mental wellbeing a top priority for growing numbers of people, many don't like to leave their healthy habits at home when they travel.

October 12, 2017

It’s not just a case of a quick manicure or massage; today’s business and leisure travelers increasingly expect the types of treatments they’re used to at home when they’re on the move whether it’s a consultation with a sleep doctor, Vitamin C-infused showers or a personal training session.

As such, hotels across the world are revamping their fitness and spa operations beyond conventional gyms, saunas and steam rooms to give affluent guests an additional reason to choose their hotel over competitors.

Bulgari Hotels in Milan and London, for example, offer one-on-one fitness workshops, including assisted stretch therapy. ESPA Life at The Corinthia offers “Brain Power Packages” comprising neuroscientist-designed bedrooms, menus, and spa treatments to boost brain performance.

“Society has become much more health-conscious and there is a bigger demand for wellness, whether physical or mental,” says Marko Vucinic, Senior Vice President and Acting Head of Hotels and Hospitality Group at JLL Middle East and North Africa. “While conventional spas are still very popular, a facility that is positioned as wellness- or medical-focused has the implication that it can improve your life – which has a positive effect on the guest’s stay.”

Unwinding away from home

According to the Global Wellness Institute (GWI), the market for wellness tourism is expected to reach $680 billion this year, as health-conscious travellers look to not only maintain their fitness while away from home, but to improve their lifestyles.

At Miraval Resorts, wellness programs include regenerative treatments such as group-healing sound bath sessions and massage by suspended silk ropes. Luxury resort group Six Senses offers a holistic wellness plan that begins with guests receiving a biometric analysis with suggestions for lifestyle changes and which resort facilities to try. Rooms are designed with a celebrity sleep doctor to provide the perfect night’s rest, including an upgrade to consult with a “sleep ambassador” who can additionally personalize the room to its occupant’s needs.

Medical programs are also increasingly a part of wellness-focused stays – the Red Mountain Resort in Utah offers guests body composition and metabolic testing as part of a four-night package to improve nutrition and general lifestyle habits, including fitness classes and meditation workshops during their stay, while California’s Four Seasons Westlake Village creates bespoke culinary and fitness regimes for guests based on a medical assessment.

“Wellness facilities, whether it’s a yoga class or more medically-focused therapy, enhances the overall experience of a hotel and makes for a more memorable stay,” Vucinic says. “Plus, when guests feel more relaxed they’re able to enjoy their surroundings more and form a positive, long-term impression of the hotel.” And investing in stylish facilities can pay off; the GWI estimates that wellness travellers spend 130 percent than typical guests.

Defined by wellness

For the most part, it is upscale and luxury hotel groups that are designing wellness facilities around therapeutic impact – though midrange hotels such as the Courtyard Marriott and Residence Inn Marriott are beginning to offer in-room wellness amenities such as vitamin C-infused showers to reduce chlorination and dawn-simulation lighting to ease jet-lagged guests into the morning.

“It’s all about implementing a little more of a health program,” Vucinic. “It doesn’t have to be a huge, expensive redesign, but based on what hoteliers and spa operators say, if the hotel intends to deal with the health of individuals, there is an enhanced need for trained staff to conduct classes or consult with guests.” Hyatt Hotels, for example, recently brought some of that knowledge base in-house by acquiring the spa brand Exhale in order to enhance the wellness facilities on offer at Hyatt outposts.

Well-planned wellness services can be a defining feature to set luxury hotels apart from equally well-heeled competitors. “At a certain point it’s very difficult to go beyond the five-star luxury offering,” Vucinic says.

“In addition to physical features and overall service levels, luxury hotels used to stand out by offering enhancing their food and beverage offerings but they’re now looking to also upgrade other amenities, including spa and wellness facilities, where they see good opportunities right now to differentiate themselves,” he concludes.

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