Staying well

A new generation of travelers is looking for wellness in their hospitality mix, so what does that mean for hotels?

Wellness has emerged as a priority for today’s travelers. The health-conscious, whether they are taking fitness classes, getting serious about nutrition or making time for nature, want to take their lifestyle changes with them when they leave home. Consumers are looking for healthier vacations and businesses that cater to their wellness-focused lifestyles. Wellness has emerged as a buzzword and full-blown trend in the hospitality world, but what exactly does it mean? And what kind of wellness amenities will influence the programming and design of hospitality going forward? Today, let’s look at the wellness market, wellness seekers and what they are expecting in wellness hospitality.

Renaissance Shanghai Putuo Hotel

Spa at Renaissance Shanghai Putuo Hotel

Is this market real?

Yes. The Global Wellness Institute estimates the global wellness tourism economy is $438.6B global market, of which $93B is in lodging. It estimates that domestic wellness tourism is a market of about $300 billion. The SpaFinder Wellness report predicts the global market will reach $750B by 2017. SpaFiner estimates that 22% of travelers are hoping to incorporate health and wellness aspects into vacation experiences.

So, who are these wellness seekers?
In short, they are urban dwelling professionals, who are using technology, taking classes, eating healthy or local and into fitness (or curious about it). More broadly, wellness-minded consumers are those who integrate healthy habits and activities into their lifestyles and their travel. GWI research says wellness tourists currently tend to be middle-aged, wealthy, educated, and from industrialized countries. But future wellness tourism growth will be driven by consumers in Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America. Wellness tourists are “high-yield” tourists, spending 130% more than the average tourist.

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UIC Sports & Fitness Center by VOA

Wellness, and its changing meaning
A few years back, wellness in hospitality simply meant spas, massages and indulgence, perhaps pools and fitness centers. Today, it suggests the availability of some combination of fitness classes, healthy eating, yoga, meditation, active pursuits, access to nature plus the traditional pools, fitness centers, spas and massages we have grown accustomed to using.

Pool at Renaissance Shanghai Putuo Hotel

Pool at Renaissance Shanghai Putuo Hotel

Why are they seeking wellness?
These travelers are busy, they work hard and they find that making healthy choices and taking care of themselves helps them relax, balances their hard working days—without the hangover, so they can be ready for whatever’s next. They want to come back from a trip refreshed. They’re conscious consumers who are thinking about nutrition, fitness, mental health and preventative care on a daily basis.

What amenities connect to wellness?
Wellness amenities continue to expand, but here are a few that come to mind immediately.


Workout room, Wangfujing Jinmao Renaissance Hotel

In-room fitness:
At some hotels, book a special fitness room and yours will come with an exercise machine (like a stationary bike, elliptical machine or treadmill) and complimentary exercise clothing. The Even chain offers in-room equipment like yoga mats, foam rollers and exercise balls.

On-site classes: Fitness classes are fun in the fitness center, but they’re twice as fun on the hotel rooftop or by the pool. Hotels will partner with instruction providers so guests can try their fitness offerings as part of the experience.

Technology-enabled tracking: State-of-the-art tracking and fitness stats (such as body fat index) will be available and hotel fitness programs will interact with guest’s apps.


Bicycle rental/parking: Hotels from New York to Tulum alike offer easy bike rental (sometimes it’s complimentary, sometimes the bikes are beautifully custom-designed) for active travelers.

Healthy eating:
The wellness crowd wants food and beverage alternatives to indulgent and unhealthy fare. They expect vegetarian, locally-sourced and organic options to be available on the hotel restaurant menu and from room service.

Forest bathing: Hotels are creating programs where travelers can interact with nature locally. Four Seasons offers guided hiking to nearby sites at some locations. And some hotels now offer gear and maps for hikers and runners.

That’s just the tip of the wellness iceberg. Some health-conscious travelers and tourists are looking for mind-body activities, anti-aging products, alternative medicine and tourism that speaks to their spiritual needs.


Is sustainable design a consideration?
You bet. Think cork floors, Red List-free materials in guest rooms and eco bedding. And wellness-themed hotels tend to favor a more natural aesthetic all-around so expect a materiality of wood, stone, sand, recycled and repurposed materials.

How’s the return on investment?
Costs for incorporating wellness vary depending on the extent of the program, but reports from the business-side are overwhelmingly positive. The MGM Grand saw an increase in average-daily-rate of $30 after adding 171 Stay Well rooms. EVEN Hotels from IHG, which are aimed specifically at wellness travelers and launched in 2012, will be closely watched by a highly competitive industry.

My prediction? Wellness isn’t just a trend, but a feature that will influence hospitality design for decades to come.

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