Wellness drives revenue and is now a $3.7 Trillion business… Two simple ideas that could be the first steps in your hospitality wellness plan

What is ‘wellness’? Is it important for hotels and development projects to meet the wellness needs of guests?

As we’re headed into seasonal weather and our first ‘revenue check-ups’ across much of the world – where is wellness on your springtime roadmap? For hospitality operators specifically, there is an opportunity to enable wellness to help individual hotels break away from the pack and better meet guest needs. Read on, be inspired and enjoy! 

We hear more and more about wellness, everywhere. If you watch TV, check social media or see online ads – you’ve possibly noticed an uptick in “wellness-forward” marketing over the past 18 months. Food, fitness, nutrition, transit and even hospitality.

Let’s start at the beginning with a fundamental question:  What is wellness? 

Wellness is a word that can come off as quite generic and vast, so what does it encompass and how does it impact the hotel business? In short, according to the Global Wellness Institute, a global research organization and advocates in the space, wellness is a $3.7 Trillion industry, touching everything from beauty to medical, residential and tourism. “Wellness Tourism” – the idea of traveling to be healthier, better or “well” – is just one component and over a $560 Billion Industry on its own. This travel could be for medical tourism, a trip accompanying a treatment (or treatment of a family member), a group retreat, or any type of get-away with an intentional purpose. Trips planned to help lose weight, become more fit, learn new nutritional plans, adventure travel or just find some peace through meditation and yoga — that’s all wellness. The Global Wellness Institute defines wellness tourism as “expenditures made by tourists who seek to improve or maintain their well-being during or as a result of their trip” In short, around the world we each define wellness differently, but a substantial and growing number of customers are making travel decisions and purchasing from companies that help them be ” “.

Let’s go beyond wellness travel for a minute to paint a picture of how big the wellness space is becoming in the USA. Organic and natural food sales are on the rise – not just at specialty retailers – but at mainstream retailers like Kroger and Walmart. Just last year Amazon jumped into the space acquiring Whole Foods. The $31 Billion U.S. fitness industry is also rapidly expanding, with a plethora of mid-priced gym franchises brands entering the market, with sizeable rises in memberships and new concepts year-on-year. Have you heard of Orange Theory, Barry’s Bootcamp, BLAST, Soul Cycle, Snap Fitness or Anywhere Fitness? Cardio classes on an indoor surfboard? Yep, that’s real, and Surfset Fitness is at over 200 gyms around the globe!

Starting off 2018 fresh, global convenience store powerhouse 7-11 enhanced its healthy lineup in the USA by rolling out a set of four proprietary all-organic, no sugar added cold pressed juices. They see an opportunity to compete head-to-head with premium brands in the space – and don’t want to be left behind as customer needs change. Some still flock to the sugar-laden Slurpee or sodas, but many do not! On the beverage front, let’s talk Kombucha, the fizzy, tart, probiotic beverage. Love it or hate it: you should know it. According to Beverage Daily, Kombucha growth alone is at 25% a year through 2020, reaching $1.8 Billion in sales. More Americans see it as an affordable, approachable product that can help them be healthier. In the residential living space, wellness attributes, natural components green practices are being integrated into apartment and condominium communities, enhancing the residential experience – and helping set a “bar” for what customers may look for in travel.

Food or fitness, the list goes on and on. So why does it matter for hotel owners? Two words: choices and flexibility. When customers have access to a $15 or $30 per month membership to a high-quality gym, and low-priced fresh, healthier food options, you can imagine that they’d expect their “much more expensive” per-night hotel to have above-adequate essential services – even in midscale. Ignoring or delaying action on this changing customer behavior will widen the gap between what many customers expect – and what you offer.

So what do you do about it? In hospitality, the idea behind wellness can come to life in so many ways – and it’s not “one size fits all.” Consider aspects of healthier-eating, improved fitness, access to fresh air and relaxation spaces. Some properties can support the primary wellness needs of guests, being a “hub hotel” adjacent to a large destination clinic or hospital, or targeting wellness tourism or retreats. More commonly though, suburban and roadside properties can support secondary wellness needs, recognizing wellness isn’t the purpose of a trip, but a component of travel and a critical element guests consider in making decisions.

This all leads a big since wellness doesn’t exist at luxury price points only. Mid-tier hotels can differentiate and align the needs of wellness-forward guests, especially millennials. Adding one or two healthier food choices at breakfast, ensuring all areas near building doors are non-smoking, and providing access to fresh air where guests can sit outdoors in a safe and comfortable area are features that many will see as benefits. Small improvements to fitness centers, or local wellness-forward partnerships for guests to sign-up for group classes nearby, would be plusses, too.

Here’s two very simple to execute tips that hotels, across price points, could implement and benefit from:

The yogurt shuffle: Look into what yogurts you serve at breakfast. Check that label! It’s important to offer protein-rich low fat or greek yogurt, but ensure that you are choosing natural products low In sugar. Many blended yogurts (such as Chobani or Dannon blended, or generic brands) may be low fat, but are high in sugar or fake sweeteners, and not ideal for so many guests. Instead, choose options where the fruit topping is separated or on the bottom. This enables guests to make the choice of blending it in – or leaving it out!

The do-it-yourself gym makeover: Give your gym a fresh coat of paint, remove any artwork or posters that are over a few years old, and add a set of multiple-weight strength training bands. Make sure all are working, and you have an oversized, clean mirror just across from where your new bands are stored. Provide a printed guide of various exercises to do with the bands, and have copies available on a shelf in the gym, and at the front desk, to alert guests you have this new option. For an investment of a few hundred dollars or less, you’ll be giving guests options for functional strength training – even if your overall gym isn’t up to par. Adding a mini-fridge with scented cool towels, as they have done at the San Jose Courtyard, is a great touch.

Newer mid-priced brands, like Tru by Hilton or Moxy by Marriott, are addressing wellness within their offers. At Tru, guests have choices of 30+ breakfast toppings for yogurt and cereal, and at  access to guests own Netflix accounts reduces the stress and annoyance of channel-surfing that one often faces in a hotel room. New standards for fitness, grab-and-go, 24/7 coffee and herbal tea access, and breakfast at brands such as Hampton Inn also have subtly dialed-up wellness requirements. And finally, at slightly higher price-points, innovate offers like EVEN Hotels, which features workout spaces in every guest room, are growing.

The takeaway? There are many faces to wellness, but one thing is crystal clear: this is not a trend or a fad. If you haven’t already, the time is now to think about integrating wellness attributes in your hotels. Wellness is part of the everyday life of more and more travelers, and hoteliers have an opportunity to consider wellness as a way to stand out and differentiate with customers.