Business of Well-being

Healthy Hotels are Alive and Well

Don't worry about those flight delays or fret lost luggage or disruptions to routines. At the end of the day, before it starts - and sometimes in between -the hospitality industry is taking care of business for travelers these days. There's no need to stress these typical dangers in corporate travel, not since hotels - at least those looking to feel good about their bottom line and fit in with a growing stream of health-conscious travelers - have turned to wellness initiatives and products to rejuvenate their road-weary guests.

In this sense, everything - or everybody -- will work out. From yoga classes to back rubs, hotels are transforming "Welcome" and making wellness a vital component of their guest experience - from check-in to check-out. And these features to help travelers sleep, relax, eat well and exercise do more than boost guest reviews.

They attract customers and build revenue. "Much like the way corporations are implementing wellness programs to lure and retain talent, the hospitality industry is designing accommodations to reflect the balanced  lifestyles that guests desire - even when they are away from home," said Barak Hirschowitz, president of the International Luxury Hotel Association.

"Hoteliers are out to make their guests feel better when they leave than they did prior to their arrivals." Travelers - at least 53 percent of them, according to a TripAdvisor survey -- report that they have or would like to exercise on the road, and 52 percent would rather make their place of lodging their choice to work out locally.

What's more, reactions to obesity and an increase in senior populations have shifted national behaviors and trends affecting lifestyles. No wonder then that hotels which provided spa-related amenities in 2013 saw revenue and profits from these areas outpace traditional stalwarts like food and beverage, retail, tele communications, movie rental and guest laundry, according to PKFC Consulting USA.

Wellness initiatives are not new to hotels; 84 percent offer some sort of fitness center on-site and that number is even higher at high-end properties. But unique experiences centered on wellness are not exactly old-school. Once perceived to be an amenity afforded only to the wealthy, hotels of all sizes and economic clientele are working to out-do the other to promote health and wellness at their locations.

Some hotels -- including the Norwalk Even Hotel in Norwalk, Conn. --- are building their entire brand around a wellness concept that includes in-room enticements like yoga mats, resistance bands, exercise balls and televisions that are programed to display exercise video at the press of the remote.

From hotels that offer guest bracelets that can be worn while running, but double as room keys to access free bikes and riding trails, there's a whole lot of wellness going on. At the 200 some lodgings under the Starwood Hotels & Resorts Westin name, wellness initiatives are going a step further and then asking their guests to take two more.

Here, travelers are invited to participate in brand-sponsored 5-K runs and arrange for appointments at the hotels' spas or group yoga programs. Westin has gone so far as to partner with footwear manufacturer New Balance to allow guests to receive shoes and clothing for a fee. These practices are proving to be good business.

After all, wellness tourism represents a US$439 billion market, one that managers charged with purchasing travel and in tune with their own company wellness programs are buying into. In the meantime, traveling employees are finding little excuse for missing a workout when they are either away from the job site.

"Employees who have bought into corporate wellness plans do not need to sell-out their fitness routines when they're on the road," said Hirschowitz, who will host an International Luxury Hotel Association Conference, Sept. 27-30, 2015, in Orlando, Fla.

"Wellness opportunities are great perks for companies with an eye on fitness to consider before selecting a hotel to accommodate their traveling employees. It's what employees want when they are on the road, prompting employers to no longer ask how much, but where."

Few hotels have been left in the dark about the potential for incorporating health and wellness concepts into their offerings. At the MGM Grand Las Vegas, amenities can include dawn-simulating alarm clocks, which emit gradually increasing levels of light and sound instead of annoying beeps, to compliment vitamin C-infused shower heads and HEPA air purifiers.

That doesn't mean hotels no longer have room to fit in traditional comforts first linked to wellness like massage, skin care and salon services. They do. Just don't be surprised to be offered a cup of flavor-infused water with a slice of lemon or lime to sip while checking in at the next stop on the road. Practices like these for both guest and hotelier -- go well with a stay.

About the Author:

Renee-Marie Stephano,JD, is President of the Corporate Health & Wellness Association.

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