With the provision of wellness in hotels having evolved to the level of a systematic Wellbeing Hospitality®, an integrated approach across all departments with properties actively meeting their guest's existing habits, to improve upon, or resolve health issues as well as promoting new wellness opportunities.
During the pandemic consumer behaviour and activity trends in the wellness field have altered significantly, with many new experiences now being led by both accelerated consumer habits and, rapid technological growth driven by and adopted during this period. The hospitality industry has in addition experienced in recruitment, retention and employment relations hospitality.
Recognition of these evolving elements of wellness and examining their relevance to your properties, and the target market audience, location, and budget keeps the property competitive in a changing market.
Firstly, examples of these changes to the wellbeing hospitality approach are particularly prevalent in the use of technology & communication.
Guests are now increasingly more at ease with discussing their health online or via phone with practitioners, the use of online entertainment streaming platforms grew in popularity and online booking applications for ordering products & services also developed during this period.
The hospitality industry can use this movement in communicating with guests digitally prior to, during and post stay to significant effect.
By holding consultations prior to their visit, the guest can focus on maximising the enjoyment of their stay and the property can better deploy its resources. A program of ongoing digital communication allows targeted marketing information to be supplied, building brand loyalty and driving revenues and guest experience.
Technological efficiencies aid in the reduction of administrative burden and cost savings in resource allocation. Managing the data produced digitally, will help not only drive traditional revenue streams but also shape the future of products and services.
Secondly, we recognise the alterations in the areas of physical activity & mental health awareness evolved with trends becoming firmly adopted by society.
During the pandemic we saw a need to access nature and escape the urban environment for both physical exercise and mental health, with exponential growth in outdoor activities such as Nordic walking, running (trail running) and cycling (MTB & gravel biking) as well as water-based adventure such as wild swimming and Stand-Up Paddle boarding (SUP).
Fitness classes transferred during the pandemic to online streaming platforms with facilities & presenters developing a loyal fan base. Brands with this hybrid (physical & online presence) have developed their brand following, recovered their business at faster rates, and have seen an increase in exercise adherence.
Hotels are perfectly poised to achieve comparable results through creating branded online class content. For the hospitality industry the benefits of this approach include attracting guests to the brand for wellness stays, supplying branded digital content available whenever a guest needs an instructor via their mobile devices, bedroom or fitness studio streaming and developing property loyalty through planned post stay communication and property marketing through access through this branded content after the stay.
Growth of home fitness equipment sales and on-demand / live streaming of classes from brands such as Peloton (indoor cycling & exercise streaming platform), VAHA (the Yoga & exercise mirror) or Les Mills (varied online classes) has seen a merging of the home and gym.
For guests streaming exercise classes to the room and in-room fitness spaces & equipment may prove a more convenient, safer, or secluded setting to exercise. This trend also provides an opportunity for properties with no-wellness offering to enter the fitness realm with low capital costs.
Exercise as preventative medicine continues to gain traction, increasingly so following the pandemic, with heightened public awareness of health issues including diabetes, cardiovascular health, and obesity.
Demand is for personalised exercise programming and delivery (either 1:1, small groups or digitally) which is fun, science based and creates personal accountability and most importantly motivating, measurable data & results.
Our guests may be looking to kick-start a new wellness lifestyle whilst others are advanced users, having long established wellbeing habits.
The demand for performance enhancing training either with 1:1 training or performance psychology, physiology, and physical therapies has developed as has the provision of performance and recovery boosting facilities such as hyperbaric chambers or cryotherapy.
The impact of isolation and stress led to an increased focus on mental health awareness in the media and more open discussion of mental-health issues publicly.
To cope with mental health pressures the practices of Mindfulness & meditation saw increased popularity. This trend was enhanced by mobile applications such as Headspace, Calm, Thrive and Unmind; the Calm application alone has over 4 million paying clients. With over 2,500 meditation applications available providing guests with an initial subscription through your property is both an excellent marketing opportunity but also an expansion of services into mental health & wellbeing avoiding the stigma that may reduce participation in group or 1:1 therapy session.
As group activity and social interaction in classes gains traction once more, the provision of outdoor exercise spaces in natural surroundings for small group training will grow with guests feeling safer in groups out of doors.
Encouraging guests to indulge in nutritious, immune boosting, locally sourced cuisine with tradition and stories attached helps demolish preconceptions of boring “health” foods. Many guests are looking to lose weight by reaching a calorie deficit, tracking their calorific intake with mobile technology; simply supplying calorie data for diners enhances guest satisfaction.
Sleep is another tracked wellness metric, as hoteliers we must be experts in this key feature! Creating the perfect rest whether through comfortable beds, sound & light reduction, or the opportunity to trial a sleep ritual during their stay may boost the guest’s recuperation and enhance their stay.
The third area of consideration is employee / employer relationships.
Who chooses to work with us as part of the team, who we choose to represent the brand, their length of tenure within the brand and their personal development in providing the outstanding delivery of our guest experience; this is arguably the most crucial factor in the provision of wellness hospitality.
As reported in RLA Global's 2022 Wellness Real Estate Report payroll costs up to 50% & 47.1% of leisure revenue in major and minor wellness assets respectively the challenge of training, retaining, and managing the productivity of teams is key. Although technology can efficiently deliver information and enhance a stay, the guests’ stay shall continue to be led by passionate team members who will create memorable experiences and generate revenue.
Though business may need to offer more flexible employment agreements to control costs, developing remuneration and compensation of teams based on productivity and key performance indicators such as re-booking rates or ancillary sales creates and maintains focus on revenue, reward, and customer satisfaction.
Key staff including spa reception, activity instructors and therapists hold the opportunity for interaction & guest relationship building that in turn strengthens the properties brand and builds reputation and drives revenue; these team members have become brand ambassadors.
These key team members of staff become an attraction within your brand with guests following the individual, revisiting the property or referring new guests based upon their outstanding experience.
This is not a new trend of employee's becoming an integral element of your brand but has gained momentum with social media and online marketing the guest stories, reviews and personal recommendations are the desired outcome every wellness property aims for. By managing and supporting these brand ambassadors we encourage & give recognition of their great guest service.
Engaging the entire team in the business performance and installing the importance of individual contribution is key to driving service and productivity in a wellness property; creating an environment in which team members across all departments are actively involved in driving standards, resolving shortfalls in service, reviewing performance data, and celebrating success.
Recognition that we have come through this period of enforced adaptation in these areas of technology, consumer behaviour and employment ensures’ that we are focused upon product development, guest experience and our teams delivering the product.
About the author: Simon Lee Saunders, RLA Global, Strategic Health & Wellness Advisor
Simon Lee Saunders serves as RLA Global’s Strategic Health & Wellness Consultant. His multi-decade experience has been finely crafted through both professional and personal wellbeing experiences that distinguish his ability to connect with the most diverse projects.