Our view: How hotels contribute to wellbeing

Updated: Oct 29, 2019

With an increasing number of travellers wanting to improve or maintain their wellbeing during or as a result of their trip, wellness tourism means big business for the hotel industry. We look at how hotels are aligning themselves more closely with the wellbeing of their guests.

Wellness tourism is big business for the hotel industry. Travellers wanting to improve or maintain their wellbeing during or as a result of their trip spent $639 billion globally in 2017 and that figure is expected to reach $919 billion by 2022 [Source: Global Wellness Institute]. In fact, one hotel chain reckons that health-conscious travellers spend 130% more on hotel amenities than other guests [Source: HotelManagement.net].

Traditionally, wellness tourism has been synonymous with destinations offering yoga, spa retreats and detox packages. Today, with more travellers (and their employers) wanting to either escape from, or to mitigate the stresses of business travel, the wellness phenomenon stretches much further.

Millennials have led the way by exercising more, smoking and drinking less, eating better and being more aware of the impact of wellbeing on stress, productivity and overall quality of life. So much so that wellness extends into diet, exercise, medication, sleep routines, and self-improvement.

Hotels have a big part to play in enhancing their guests’ wellbeing. Most five-star hotel gyms are packed with the latest equipment, offer nuanced spa treatments and have optimised the nutritional content of their food and drink. Marriott’s AC Hotels and AccorHotels’ 25Hours brands both serve organic food in casual lobbies.

Properties without gyms are providing information about local leisure centres or popular jogging and cycling routes. Others are simply providing quiet and calming bedrooms as part of an overall atmosphere of peacefulness and cleanliness.

Almost inevitably, the focus on wellness in hotels started in America. In 2011, Marriott’s Westin brand began offering health-focused breakfast, saline swimming pools, fitness centres, a bike-share programme and electric vehicle charging stations. In 2018, Westin installed high-tech workout Peloton bikes in guestrooms and fitness studios at 50 hotels across the US.

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG)’s EVEN brand is another early example of chains using wellbeing as a customer segment. Now four years old, EVEN Hotels feature in-room workout zones for those who prefer to exercise privately. Each guestroom has an area with cork flooring and equipment including a yoga mat, exercise ball and bands.

Other brands have bought-in existing fitness brands to bolster their wellbeing credentials, such as Fairmont Hotels and Technogym; Shangri-La and Lululemon; and Mandarin Oriental Hotels and the Mayo Clinic. Ironically, the Equinox fitness club brand has announced plans to open 50 upscale hotels worldwide.

Hyatt has invested heavily in wellness. After acquiring the Miraval wellness resort and Exhale spa and fitness company, Hilton is offering Exhale-branded fitness programming at selected hotels. The luxury Hyatt Place brand has been revamped to promote wellbeing, with bedrooms divided into different zones for sleeping, working and relaxing with updated mattresses, blackout shades and lighting designed to improve sleep quality. 

In 2017, Hilton launched its Five Feet to Fitness concept by installing a dozen different fitness equipment and accessory options in hotel rooms at 13 properties across the Hilton, DoubleTree, Embassy Suites and Homewood Suites brands. The kit includes a touchscreen monitor with a wide range of routines and programmes led by an onscreen personal instructor. The company aims to demonstrate that wellbeing is not the exclusive preserve of the most expensive hotels – even if the Five Feet to Fitness rooms cost around 20% more than the normal room rates.

Although the major chains are in the earliest stages of deploying wellbeing initiatives as part of their UK offerings, there are examples of best practice to be found within these shores.

Village Hotels has a range of wellness-related offerings including a health check for guests and myWellness by Technogym, an app that gives users access to exercise and lifestyle data either remotely or via on-site gym equipment.

London’s Lanesborough Hotel has combined the concept of traditional members clubs with wellness, touching on nutrition, fitness, skincare, and recovery. 

London will also see the launch of a new hotel brand with wellbeing at the core. The ninety-bedroom Inhabit Hotel will open across in six Georgian townhouses in Paddington. As well as an atrium hosting fitness classes, the bedrooms have been designed with sleep as top priority, and the hotel will be free of single-use plastics.

Meanwhile YOTEL guests already have access to Mindfresh – a series of meditation videos that allow guests to ‘wake-up,’ ‘motivate’ and ‘unwind’ through a morning, afternoon and evening routine, respectively.

It’s a safe bet to assume that the hospitality industry will align itself even more closely with the wellbeing of their guests, not just in terms of fitness, but sleep, and nutrition too. Recent research shows that 95% of travel managers regard recommendations for restaurants with healthy menus as important; just 14% of companies offer such referrals [Source: Buying Business Travel]. Food for thought?