While wellness has long been a primary driver for resorts and luxury properties, it is now reaching critical mass for all other segments of hospitality. The trends supporting this progression come from the generally healthier dispositions of customers who now actively seeking healthier choices in all aspects of their lives, not just when they are home and going about their daily routines.
For those with no prior exposure to this rather nebulous term we call ‘wellness’, in its broadest form it denotes hotel operations purposefully inscribed to make people feel better, either through sound nutritional aids or physically exertive activities (body), or through self-actualization programs aimed at revitalizing one’s mental constitution or expanding one’s experiential horizons (mind/spirit). It’s okay if you are slightly new to the game, but it’s crucial that you investigate how this trend impacts your hotel.
And why is this trend reaching a critical mass of demand right now? In a nutshell, and with particular attention to how Western cultures are evolving, people are smoking fewer cigarettes, drinking less alcohol and looking for healthy labels in their meal options such as organic, low carb, low fat, dairy free, hormone free, antibiotic free or locally sourced. Concurrent to this, the wealthy boomer demographic is getting older and will have a strong desire for medical-based programs offered by hotels while traveling. Moreover, the very-soon-to-be spending leader that is the millennial generation is increasingly fitness-obsessed and highly influenced by unique experiences such as those offered by wellness programs.
Indeed, the term ‘wellness’ has become a catch-all for hotel properties to initiative new programs to lure guests – whether it be for the spa, the fitness center, in-room, on the restaurant menu or through local partnerships – and some are in fact quite lucrative.
Under this broad umbrella, you can and should make incremental improvements that are in line with what your core audiences want from your hotel when it comes to wellness. With its rapidly rising demand, even traditionally excluded segments like business/corporate, conventions and other groups will soon look beyond just price or location and to a property’s wellness features as a primary driver when making their travel purchases.
In building a productive wellness program that works to build incremental revenues and boost the overall guest experience, you should thus look at the four quadrants of where you can make an impact, aiming to slowly upgrade your operations in all major divisions in order to ‘holistically’ meet this demand. These four areas for implementation include:
- Community partners
- Back of house
In the Guestroom
Sleep programs are now universally recognized as a strong value-add because, well, everyone sleeps! Whether you are a jetlagged road warrior looking for a restful night before a sales meeting or you just got off a seven-hour long haul to kickstart the yearly family vacation, who wouldn’t want to have access to such in-room features as sleep-inducing lighting, special mineral-infused relaxation showers or even a pillow concierge?
Aside from thinking about your customers’ slumber, you should also look to their exercise regimens. Less so for luxury or resort properties where a fully equipped gym is within the capital expenditure budget, in-room fitness will make its biggest mark for the business guest who only has a few spare minutes before the next event. Programs such as Hilton’s Five Feet to Fitness will prove to be phenomenal drivers for loyalty and for urban, short-term travelers.
While every effort you make in both regards will be beneficial to the incoming guest – and may even be the deciding factor for booking with you versus a competitor or in selling a room upgrade – where hoteliers must focus their efforts is in the promotion of these new amenities. After all, what good are these programs if no one knows about them?
Press releases and advertising through a heightened website presence or social media are a great start. Where real traction can be gained, though, is in utilizing advanced bolt-on software to boost activation at key points in the prearrival experience. There are now plugins that can deliver interactive 360-degree room tours or 3D dollhouse views where hoteliers can ping users to specifically highlight these in-room wellness features as well as prompt viewers to browse the more expensive room inventory – for which these suites can be further differentiated with more wellness features for a potential upsell. Then there are the centralized guest messaging systems that can be set up to ask new arrivals at just the right time if they are interested in any of the hotel’s wellness offerings or are planning to fit in a workout.
Throughout the Property
The food revolution knows no bounds, and indeed upgrading your restaurants, bars and in-room menus to be more amenable to the diverse array of dietary proscriptions and the newfound demand for healthy eating is worthy of its own article. The same goes with the spa which is likewise going through its own transformation into the more encompassing ‘wellness center’.
The key throughout these endeavors is that they must be initiated within the context of the property. A fitness center at an economy hotel need not focus on more group classes with high profile instructors or free strength assessments, but instead might investigate how to supply guests with loaner exercise clothing so that they need not pack their own when traveling for work (or returning with sweaty gear in their suitcases). Brands like Fairmont, Trump and Westin are already doing this quite successfully.
On the other hand, many hotels that strive to be more aspirational are going the experiential route with healthy cooking classes, on-property vegetable gardening tutorials, customized herbal tea creations, personal training sessions, spa treatments involving an interactive component, aromatherapy, personalized meditation programs and even DNA-based wellness itineraries. The key here is to think in terms of unique experiences while offering guests activities that are fun, physical and educational.
Again, technology should be deployed to maximize awareness and usage of these onsite wellness features. For example, think about how geofencing via a hotel app can be utilized to prime users about wellness experiences both big and small around the property. When a guest approaches one of your restaurants, you can then ping them with information about what’s new on the menu and some of your healthier options.
Surrounding the Hotel
Much like those that you design to be provided exclusively from your team and onsite, partnering with local vendors taps you into a much larger network of possible wellness experiences. This becomes critical when you don’t have the facilities or the staffing capacity.
And similar to those where you are the sole supplier, what’s most important is to stay on-brand and to offer something extraordinary. Just look at Hyatt’s new wellbeing program FIND and some of the truly remarkable once-in-a-lifetime packages they have set up. Next, look at your comp set to see how they have leveraged the neighborhood. Not every property needs to have class vouchers and free shuttle service to a renowned yoga studio in the area – again, differentiation works best.
Like Guest, Like Employee
In order to become a bona fide wellness-minded property, you must embrace it on all every level, and that includes the back-of-house. Your staff is your family, and you should care for them as you would any paying customer. After all, how can your team members be effectively motivated to sell these programs and experiences if they aren’t also passionate about what wellness can offer?
Think group exercise classes, nutritional programs with voluntary enrollment or offsite activities. Be a leader and show your whole house the light!
Concurrently, a healthier team can end up saving you in several indirect ways on the bottom line. First, healthy employees take fewer sick days on average and can be more productive. Next, they’ll be less likely to jump ship because of the ancillary benefits you have given them in addition to their salaries, thereby reducing turnover and the sunk costs of onboarding fresh faces. Lastly, certain wellness programs – such as those aimed at helping employees quit smoking – can be positioned as a means of lower your insurance premiums.
With this in mind, a wellness manager that can facilitate health-conscious programs for all employees is rapidly becoming a must-have role within the human resources department. Ultimately, though, helping your guests as well as your team live healthier lives can be both profitable and personally gratifying. If you need help getting underway, I’m always available to chat!