Why hotels should integrate wellness programs

The hospitality industry has been undeniably hard-hit by the impacts of COVID. With international travel put to a halt, both large-scale hoteliers and boutique resorts have to realign their strategies in an attempt to draw in more visitors. One of the most important factors implemented nationwide was the introduction – or expansion – of wellness facilities at hotels. And it’s expected to be the booming future of our post-COVID world. According to a survey by Wellness Tourism Association, nearly 78% of people across 48 countries put wellness travel as their top priority when travel reopens, indicating a positive future for wellness stakeholders. So what are hotels doing now to prepare for the influx of wellness travelers? What is the importance of integrating wellness programs and experiences at hotels?

New strategies are key to ensuring effective outcomes. Hotel groups like Accor Hotels, Rosewood Hotels, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group and Hyatt Hotels have already adopted new growth strategies to integrate wellness into their offerings to appeal to travelers. Experience span from fitness classes in the hotels (with guest practitioners) to yoga sessions in tranquil spaces. 

“The adversity in 2020 has led all of us to re-prioritize personal wellness”, Jason Paluch, Spa Director at Mandarin Oriental, Boston, told Atma, “Developing our reserves of strength during times of uncertainty is crucial to avoid illness, manage stress and be better able to support others”. The hotel group recently launched its “Inner Strength – Outer Strength” wellness initiative across all its spas worldwide to “assist guests in using this time of disruption to create positive changes and build strength both physically and mentally”, continued Paluch. Designed to encourage time for silence, contemplation, and mindfulness, the plan is to also help build Outer Strength by boosting physical vitality through exercise, movement and healthy nutrition. It’s more important than ever, after months of economical, emotional and physical hardships that came with COVID, to focus on oneself and self-heal.

Wellness retreats are well underway with dedicated programs for guests including meditation, yoga, detox, sleep and more. Luxury hotelier Aman launched a plethora of immune-boosting retreats to cater to health-oriented guests. New wellness retreat openings and collaborations in the US this year include Mayflower Inn & Spa’s recent partnership with wellness brand THE WELL, to offer integrated holistic experiences with health expert coaching services, Six Senses New York, the group’s first North American property and Hilton Head Health’s new onsite hotel The Sweetgrass Inn, which will feature everything from healthy cooking classes to daily meditation. For a desert spa experience, Azure Palm Hot Springs & Day Spa Oasis just opened, featuring fresh-flowing geothermal mineral pools to take a dip in. So despite the ongoing COVID situation, wellness retreats continue to open left, right and center – although many opened after months of delays.  

Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas is a hospitality group synonymous with wellness. Housing 20 resorts across the globe from the shores of Ninh Van Bay to the cypress-clad Aegean coastline, each resort embeds a wellness-oriented ethos. “People want to be able to have the opportunity to be well when they travel. They want to be able to get a good night sleep in a hotel room, to eat a both healthy as well a tasty meal, to be able to go to the gym and to treat themselves with a massage or similar”, Anna Bjurstam, Wellness Pioneer at Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas told Atma. She told us about the importance of enhancing wellness programs at hotels to align with the growing demand for healthy holidays post-COVID. “I think it is important for hotels today to incorporate the basics (like yoga, detox, sleep, weight loss, longevity) into their services, and it is surprising how few hotels actually focus on creating an amazing sleep experience for their guests”. The hotels and resorts offer wellness retreats ranging from dedicated sleep programs to fitness itineraries. Since COVID, the group has further expanded its wellness focus. Sleep is high on the priority list. “We have a sleep experience in our hotel rooms that goes from how we build our hotel rooms, including sound, light, air quality, temperature, blackout, no flashing lights etc. and further what beds we chose (organic, allows airflow, are hand made for optimal sleep conditions), bedding, linen etc”, said Bjurstam, “In addition to that we can serve our guests with a sleep kit, we can measure the sleep quality and give them feedback and coaching, we have sleep yoga videos, white noise machine and more. We have integrated wellness in most of our guest experiences”. Furthermore, the group’s food and beverage outlets work with their Eat with Six Senses program, which uses food and beverage to support wellness programs. These include onsite organic farms at locations to grow mushrooms, herbs and other produce for the restaurants. “We have a staff initiative called Mission Wellness, where our staff has access to sleep coaching, yoga classes, nutritious food, and lots of activities that promotes connections, support and teamwork on a social level, and we take wellness very seriously and we have so much more I can write, but hopefully this gives you a bit of an understanding of the depth of our wellness services”, notes Bjurstam.

So wellness retreats are in vogue. But they’re no longer limited to dedicated wellness resorts – large-scale hoteliers are also taking note and implementing retreat programs at their properties. For example, Mandarin Oriental, Boston introduced a series of urban Wellness Retreats for guests. “ Our Reset & Restore Retreat is recommended for guests feeling depleted, suffering from exhaustion, or looking to rebalance the body while our Motivate & Activate Retreat is designed for guests to get motivated and activated through a detoxification and weight loss program that will ignite the inner self”, Paluch told us.

Meanwhile, Kerzner International – the parent company of One&Only and Atlantis Resorts & Residences – recently announced its new wellness-oriented SIRO hotel brand. The new fitness-focused hotel chain will house gyms, wellness activities, nutritionists and a ‘recovery lab’ for holistic healing. This immersive destination was unveiled in an attempt to fill the gap in the $639 billion wellness tourism market, which is projected to grow 7.5% every year through 2022, according to 2018 data from Global Wellness Institute. The group’s first property is set to open in Montenegro in 2023, with a 10,000-square-foot gym, a spa, infrared sauna and streaming fitness classes, with plans to launch into more cities around the globe. 

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