Why hotels must focus on wellness to revive their trade and thrive in the future
By Sonal Uberoi, author of The Wellness Asset
Wellness is the new buzzword. The pandemic has put the focus on our health. We are all more aware than ever of the need to look after ourselves, both mentally and physically. Consumers want wellness and businesses across many industries are embracing the idea of wellness as they reshape their processes, philosophies and products for the evolved market.
Of course, wellness is not a new idea but, understandably, demand for wellness provision has increased. Consumers are now looking to nurture their physical and mental health and take a more responsible approach to their lifestyle choices.
Simultaneously, the pandemic has had a profound effect on the hotel industry, with many having to close for long periods, and now struggling to fill rooms at pre-pandemic levels.
So, what is wellness, why is it important and how can embracing wellness help your hotel business thrive?
What is wellness?
There is some confusion over the meaning of wellness, not helped by the fact that there are many competing definitions. For example, the Global Wellness Institute defines wellness as ‘the active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health’, while the National Wellness Institute describes it as ‘a conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving full potential.’
Although this is what many hotels are already doing, as that is the true essence of hospitality, what these broad and generic definitions actually refer to is an individual’s pursuit for a better state of being or health.
Why is wellness important?
To help explain this, consider that we also see ‘wellness’ and ‘wellbeing’ mistakenly being used interchangeably. However, there is a subtle yet important difference we must get right.
A simple way to view it is as follows: wellness is the tool and wellbeing the goal.
So, wellness provides us with the tools that allow us to access different types of wellbeing goals, e.g. physical, mental, emotional, spiritual. These tools include therapies, alternative medicine, fitness activities, meditation and mindfulness, a balanced diet and a gamut of other services designed to enhance our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.
So, quite simply, when we incorporate wellness into our lifestyle, or into our product ecosystem as businesses providing wellness services, we provide the stepping-stones towards better wellbeing!
Data from the Global Wellness Institute is clear: In 2018, wellness expenditures were more than half of all health expenditures, coming in at $4.3 trillion. Of the ten markets analysed, between 2015-2017, revenue growth leaders were the spa industry (9.8%), wellness tourism (6.5%) and wellness real estate (6.4%).
There is no doubt wellness is a huge growth area and one that hoteliers are well placed to benefit from – if they take the necessary steps.
What does wellness mean in the context of your hotel?
The confusion around wellness is also present within our industry. Far too many see it as an amenity or niche product. And now that the pandemic has slowed the growth trajectory of hospitality, hoteliers are even more reluctant to invest the necessary money and resources into wellness. It is seen only as an add on service to their main business of selling room nights and food and beverages.
Where wellness has been considered in hotels, that consideration has very often centred on the pool and hotel spa with signature massages and the showpiece gyms offering activities such as sunset yoga sessions.
These are great – but they don’t make the sort of difference that a hotel really needs if it is to attract new and returning customers. And it certainly doesn’t position wellness as at the heart of the hotel’s offering.
Real wellness, that sort that makes a difference to both the hotel and its guests, goes well beyond this. In its truest form, wellness is the method by which hoteliers can guide their guests to achieve a state of wellbeing, by offering them wellness in every aspect of their experience, from the breakfast right round until they settle down to sleep at night. Done properly, the effects of wellness, in a hotel context, are felt more deeply, reaching far beyond the physical realm of the hotel’s facilities and offerings.
Start with the basics
The wellness experience should start with the way guests are greeted on arrival. If they are treated politely and with respect and kindness they will immediately feel at ease and be looking forward to their experience. If they have all the benefits of the hotel introduced to them, including access to beautiful grounds and relaxing communal areas – in addition to the gym and the pool – they will feel a sense of connection to their surroundings. If their rooms are quiet, the correct temperature and with good air quality, guests will sleep well; the foundation for a great experience.
Their dining should not just be about the fanciest dishes, the latest trends or showing off how talented your chefs are. Guests should, for example, be able to have any dietary requirements or wants accepted and adhered to without fuss and without taste or presentation being diminished, so they feel personally – as well as physically – nurtured.
When you look at wellness in this way, as part of the whole guest experience, it is easy to see why it is important, and why customers will return, and recommend you via word of mouth if you get your wellness offering right.
Meet the needs of your guests
Encourage your team to take the time to get to know what the guest is looking forward to from their stay and make sure they know how to access it. Perhaps they would prefer to find somewhere to read quietly and get a cup of tea, over a massage and Pilates session. Or do they want to take in the local sights, rather than sweat it out in the gym? If your staff know what your guest is looking for, they can guide them in achieving their best experience A great experience, whatever their desires, is always an experience that ultimately looks after their mental wellbeing. No one likes to be stressed or anxious, so take that stress and anxiety away from them by understanding what they want from their stay and helping them achieve it.
That guest will then be pleasantly surprised by how well everything works together to provide them with the memorable experience they seek. Above all, they will be moved to share this experience with their loved ones. They will feel the effects of their stay long after they have left and will look forward to the time when they can relive the experience again.
Use wellness to future-proof your hotel
Given findings from the Global Wellness Institute mentioned above it is wellness tourism and wellness real estate, mental wellness and workplace wellness are all hugely significant. All have already been adapted into hospitality in some ways, but more needs to be done if hotels are to reap the biggest benefits of this trend towards wellness.
You must embrace wellness in the future of your hotel business. Hoteliers that don’t understand that they need to catch this tide will find their hotels become out of date and out of vogue. They will lose market share to those who have embraced wellness and can see the business benefits of doing so.
So, if you want to benefit from the rise in desire for wellness when travelling, there are two major components you need to look at when implementing your wellness strategy; your guests and your staff:
Listen to your guests and implement your new offerings thoughtfully. Every hotel is different, so make sure your offerings are appropriate to your clientele. While you need to deliver on budgetary expectations, do not be tempted to do so by cost-cutting and streamlining. This is a band-aid solution, which may be effective in the short term but comes at a long term cost! Instead invest and be prepared to evolve and respond to market conditions and the needs and wants of your customers. But don’t rush! A strong and robust system takes time to implement and requires the right expertise.
Also crucial to your success in your wellness offering is considering the wellbeing of your team.
Hospitality has historically meant long days, unsocial hours, and the challenges of feast and famine when it comes to bookings and, therefore, available work. During the pandemic, many staff were laid off or had to make do with reduced salaries. Because of these unfortunate circumstances, hotels are at risk of losing their top talent to other industries. By including holistic wellness in future employee packages, this talent can be attracted back.
When staff are provided with the right tools to achieve a good work-life balance, overall wellbeing increases. This creates a happier, more engaged and motivated team, which can only benefit your guests.
The needs of hotel guests have evolved, with the desire for wellness now more important that it has ever been. The hotel business landscape has changed and the needs of our customers and staff have changed too. Business and leisure travellers want to look after their wellbeing when they travel. They want their experience to stretch beyond the standard hotel room, decent breakfast and beautiful facilities. They want fulfilling, shareable experiences that transform their wellbeing on every level – not just when they are in the spa or pool. Hoteliers need to adopt a strategy with wellness woven through their entire offering.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sonal Uberoi is a global wellness expert and founder of Spa Balance, a boutique consultancy working specifically with hotels to help them tap into the full potential of their wellness offering. Sonal has worked with major hotels across the world enabling them to attract a more discerning guest, build a loyal and committed customer base, attract and retain quality talent and increase profitability, without breaking budget.