The relationship between wellbeing and travel is evolving. Consumers are no longer limited to dingy basement gyms or ‘indulgent’ spa treatments. Instead, wellness is a core part of the modern day tourist’s ideals and, as far as the high-end hotel chains and the tourism industry as a whole is concerned, is no longer considered a luxury.
In today’s climate, travellers are actively integrating wellness into their hotel experience and, conversely, hotels are implementing wellness initiatives which go beyond the spa in order to satisfy these demands. This has led, in recent years, to a rise in the ‘healthy hotel’.
In 2014, Spafinder was already positioning the ‘healthy hotel’ at the explosive intersection of the then $2 trillion wellness and $6.6 trillion travel and tourism economies. A research report conducted by SRI International for the Global Spa & Wellness Summit (GSWS) recently found that wellness tourism already represents a $439 billion market, or 14 percent of world tourism expenditures. And, the growing demand for healthier travel of all breeds means that this category will grow nine percent annually through to 2017, 50 percent faster than ‘regular’ tourism.
And yet with wellness tourists spending, on average, 130 percent more than regular tourists, this new paradigm is good not only for guests, but equally for businesses.
Bruce Ryde, Director of Brand Marketing, Luxury and Lifestyle at InterContinental Hotels AMEA told Welltodo: “At InterContinental, we believe wellness should be a big part of your experience as a guest in our resorts. No matter where you are in the world, guests have access to facilities and amenities that allow them to continue their wellness routines while they’re away and perhaps even try something new.”
Keen to monetize the emerging market, hotel groups like the Intercontinental are expanding their spa offerings to include alternative therapies and upgrading their fitness amenities to cater to consumers who view their vacation as a time to develop a healthier body and mind; dynamic vinyasa yoga classes included.
“We want our guests to leave feeling relaxed, rejuvenated, and stress-free. Many of our hotels now offer full service fitness centres that are open 24 hours a day so guests can easily fit a workout into their schedules,” Ryde explains.
Consumers of these wellness offerings are no longer considered a niche, instead hotels are integrating long-term initiatives and marketing wellbeing as a core part of their brand. The Westin has introduced an entire ‘Well-being Movement’ – a global initiative which inspires guests to discover new approaches to wellbeing. And the brand-wide campaign, which cost Westin $15 million to launch, is an indication of just how much hoteliers are investing in order to stay ahead in the market and serve the new wellness-oriented tourist.
The same goes for the Hilton, who are reshaping existing facilities in order to appeal to the new market segment. The Spa Club, a global spa treatment membership, which launched last month, aims to attract local consumers, as well as tourists, who want to improve their wellbeing without the high cost of treatments. The membership offers local residents one discounted spa treatment per month and access to spa and fitness spaces at a range of different properties, and was created in response to profound recent cultural interest towards healthier, more balanced living.
As part of this strategy of encouraging guests and local residents to engage with the brand, The Hilton Park Lane have integrated established boutique fitness brand, Heartcore (founded by celebrity trainer Jess Schuring), into their property. Similarly, W Hotel have launched monthly health and fitness retreats in Amsterdam through a partnership with Pop Up Fitness, a London-based luxury bootcamp startup.
Founder, Olivia Cooney explained that in today’s culture of wellness, “hotels are looking to offer more than just a gym.”
“W Hotel wanted something that would excite people, so we are providing rooftop workouts with specific fitness techniques ranging from boxing, kettlebells, core focus, barre and so much more. And we always make sure everything is accessible for both professionals coming to the hotel on business trips or the leisurely guest,” she adds.
W already have a global partnership with American Yoga Instructor, Tara Stiles, who has created an exclusive in-room workout video for guests and holds regular retreats at W properties across the globe – recently in Puerto Rico, with prices starting at $609 per night.
Speaking about the partnership Paul James, Global Brand Leader, W Hotels said: “Through our partnership with Tara Stiles, we’ve created an energetic program designed to celebrate the body and provide 24/7 access to an interactive workout that can easily be incorporated into the busiest of jet-setting lifestyles.”
Where 24/7 access isn’t the preferred approach, The Como Group feel their resorts capture consumer attention by creating an environment that integrates an all-round level of wellbeing, whatever the consumer’s wellness journey may be.
“Wellness is not a one size fits all concept and we don’t try to force it onto all of our guests.. You can choose to be well when you travel and we understand everyone has a different relationship with wellness so we think about the little details,” Corinna Yap, COMO Shambhala Manager at Metropolitan by COMO, Old Park Lane, explained to Welltodo.
“A lot of hotels are jumping on the wellness bandwagon and it’s good, but we’ve been doing it for a very long time – evolving organically and learning from the industry.”
Instead of following trends the brand argues that the key to a longstanding and successful relationship with wellness rests on looking at what customers are demanding and thinking about how to embrace those demands.
“Wellness is an underlying theme and it has always been part of the brand due to the personal passion of the group’s founder, Christina Ong, who had a vision to create a holistic wellness environment with proper treatments and specialists who have been tried and tested as opposed to simply integrating fads,” Yap explains.
That wellness is about concentrating on yourself positively and consumers shouldn’t feel they have to choose between the two, is a mindset Claridges Hotel has been keen to promote.
Enlisting the help of expert trainer Steve Mellor, who now acts as their resident PT, rather than introducing a completely new concept or an in-your-face initiative aimed at manipulating consumer choices, the hotel’s latest wellness concept hopes to offer the consumer a sense of choice and balance.
“I think health and fitness is a huge part of so many people’s trips. Whether it be for work or fun, people want to feel healthy. Sure they enjoy the finer more indulgent foods and drinks too, but to get a good workout in is a key part of many guests day. It makes you feel great, you feel alive and you then feel like you can enjoy yourself a little more! I think that Claridges saw this collaboration as an opportunity to be great at fitness and wellbeing and a chance to have the best service/the best trainers/best experience.
“Lots of hotels are upping their fitness game and it’s awesome – I love it! But in my opinion hotels need to offer something a little different and not just think about replicating the everyday gym experience. They need to put thought into making the gym visit/PT session that little bit more special in the same way the rest of the hotel experience is,” Mellor told Welltodo.
3 out of the 8 gyms that made it onto GQ’s recent rundown of the best luxury gyms in London were located within hotels. The Bulgari Hotel, The Berkeley Hotel and The Corinthia all made the cut, due to their expert trainers, innovative facilities and luxurious extras.
So, with the opportunity to capture a new dimension of traveller/consumer currently expanding, aside from hotels which other markets are set to follow suit? Airports, transportation and experience-led activities are already starting to take notice by making wellness more accessible to the consumer.
And whether consumers are demanding purpose-driven or supplementary options, one thing that’s certain is that the wellness traveller is shaping the future of travel for good.