Building Brand Experiences: What Wellness Travel Can Learn From The Hospitality Industry

  • As consumer need for wellness becomes a normal part of everyday life, the act of travel is becoming less motivated by seeking a wellness destination, and instead, a part of the entire travel experience.
  • Wellness tourism is well and truly booming — expected to grow to $919 billion by 2022.
  • The wellness travel market has become a lucrative space to break into, proving it isn’t just a sector for hospitality brands.
  • Travel brands are learning from the hospitality industry about how they can redefine transient spaces into a moment of wellness, quietness and relaxation.

In our column ‘Building Brand Experiences’, creative agency Household has been exploring how modern wellness businesses can leverage consumer behaviour to create brand stories and experiential points of discovery for customers.

Over the next few columns, Household will examine how wellness has unlocked new experiences within the travel and hospitality industry, creating luxury destinations and immersive wellness experiences. 

A new opportunity for travel brands
January’s CES 2020 and the World Economic Forum highlighted once again that wellness isn’t just a fad anymore. We saw Mirror – a full body mirror that doubled up as a fitness screen, Oral-B’s IO toothbrush – a toothbrush that gives customers a real-time analysis of their brushing and Xenoma – smart pyjamas and loungewear that monitor the wearer’s sleep and activity levels.

Read More: The Most-Hyped Wellness Innovations At CES 2020

What this showed is that wellness isn’t one-dimensional anymore. It’s become even more integrated into our everyday lives and that consumers are increasingly seeking holistic wellness experiences. 

No longer is it a yoga session on a Wednesday morning, or 30 minutes spent on meditation app Headspace – wellness has become a part of people’s lives from when they wake up to when they sleep, and everything that comes in-between. Consumers are taking a 360-degree approach to achieving wellness and they’re expecting brands to offer the same to them. 

Hospitality brands have been some of the first to recognise this need and have crafted experiences to take customers away from the stresses of daily life, providing them with spaces and experiences in which they can focus on their personal wellbeing — physically, mentally or spiritually. 

And consumers have responded, with wellness tourism well and truly booming, and showing no signs of slowing down. It is expected to grow to $919 billion by 2022.

Wellness tourism has become a lucrative industry to break into and it isn’t just a sector for hospitality brands. Take a look at W Hotels, it’s recognised the consumer need for a holistic wellness experience and has curated Fuel Weekends, offering guests the ability to choose if they are seeking “detox, retox or a balance of both.” – giving them a balance of physical, mental and spiritual well-being. 

But as consumer need for wellness becomes a normal part of everyday life, the act of travel is becoming less motivated by seeking a specific wellness destination, but instead, a part of the entire travel experience.

Travel brands are recognising this and learning from the hospitality sector how to bring wellness to the forefront of their experiences to break further into the wellness tourism market. 

Building Brand Experiences: What Wellness Travel Can Learn From The Hospitality Industry
Image: Changi Airport

Transforming transient space into wellness destinations. 
For many travellers, the first port of call is the airport. Air travel still dominates the industry and is the gateway to experiences for a high number of consumers. But airports can be busy, stressful and overall an unpleasant experience.

As a response, a growing number of travel brands are looking to tackle this. They are learning from the hospitality industry about how they can redefine a stressful transient space into a moment of wellness, quietness and relaxation — making the physical airport experience a moment of celebration during trips.  

It’s suggested when you’re flying to go to the airport two hours before your flight. However, every person that arrives at an airport has a different time allowance, whether they’re stopping over or transferring to another destination.

Changi Airport reclaims customer dwell-time, creating extraordinary experiences within the airport terminal. It combines operational efficiency with more engaging activities, such as its butterfly garden which creates a wellness space for customers before they board their flight. 

But how about those draining long-haul flights? Well brands are taking notice of this too. 

Qantas Airways’ new international transit lounge at Perth Airport — the airline’s new, purpose-built lounge — is open only to travellers flying business class on flights between Perth and London. The lounge has been specifically designed in collaboration with the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre, to create a true wellness space to take on the effects of jetlag. This is done through traditional wellness amenities that aid passengers with “flight recovery.” The space has an airy patio area with ceiling shades that can be opened to let in natural light and boost passengers’ vitamin D, promoting healthier sleep patterns. 

Brand collaboration to create wellness in-air
And the sky’s the limit for brands, even more so when it comes to leveraging opportunities for wellness experiences during flights. We’ve seen several travel and wellness brands collaborate to introduce wellness experiences in spaces that are known to be uncomfortable, claustrophobic and tiresome. 

The hospitality industry uses brand collaborations incredibly well to bring the best wellness experiences to customers. For example, Bvlgari Hotel partnered with Kloris, a CBD brand to enhance its spa offering through ‘experiential’ therapies. 

And airline brands are learning from this too — using brand partnerships to elevate their wellness offerings. 

Digital-first brands have looked at collaborating with travel brands to reach a wider audience. Meditation apps have become part of the airline experience such as American Airlines partnership with Calm, giving travellers in-flight entertainment. And Headspace has collaborated with a number of travel brands to introduce its product onto flights.  

Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon airlines launched a new inflight wellbeing program last year called “Travel Well with Yoga” on all routes, in collaboration with Pure Yoga. This program was developed to ease passengers into their journeys, improve customers circulation, enhance joint mobility and relax the mind for a comfortable and restful journey.

For long-haul flights sleep is essential. And with 4 out of ten adults saying that their sleep has gotten worse over the past 5 years (Stylus, 2020) and 61% of air travellers saying they experienced “below average” or “very poor sleep” on a flight (The Sleep Judge, 2020), the opportunity for brands to collaborate to heighten the in-flight sleep experience, is one that shouldn’t be overlooked.

Already leveraging this opportunity is The White Company, which recently partnered with British Airways to give customers ‘the best night’s sleep’.

Building on the success of its Sleep Studio – a sensory service experience created in collaboration with Household, the initiative, whilst not particularly experiential, showed how brands can work together to enhance the flight experience.

The business class experience included elegant cushions, large pillows, super-soft woven blankets and a luxury duvet — all designed to improve the quality of sleep. It also provided customers with an elegantly designed travel bag including products from its Restore and Relax Spa Collection, demonstrating how brands can authentically engage with the rise of wellness tourism through meaningful collaborations that meet the needs of customers.  

Building Brand Experiences: What Wellness Travel Can Learn From The Hospitality Industry
Image: The White Company x BA

The takeaway
Agile travel brands are well-positioned to step further into the lucrative wellness tourism industry by appealing to travellers who are seeking holistic wellness experiences before they reach their destinations. 

By creating innovative physical spaces and meaningful brand collaborations, travel brands have the opportunity to reach customers in moments that were once deemed inopportune and offer them 360-degree wellness experiences, which can create deeper, more meaningful relationships with customers, and drive revenue streams. 

In next month’s column, we’ll shift to the hospitality industry, where we’ll explore how brands are responding to the evolving wellness needs of consumers by offering experiences for a new generation of travellers.