Wellness in the 21st century

We’ve already seen the rise of smartphones, smartwatches and tablets — all predicted in some way or shape long before their mass-market acceptance — and many more useful devices are surely on the horizon.

One area where we are just beginning to make a dent with all our fancy new electronics is in personal health care. Hotels are rapidly discovering an underserved niche in wellness that aims to not only enlighten guests with better bodily self-awareness, exercise routines and dietary regimens but also enrich one’s health based upon one’s own DNA.

I remember several years ago when I signed up on 23andMe and had my DNA sequenced. Expecting only a rudimentary analysis, the results shocked me. They not only identified numerous and specific diseases I was genetically predisposed to acquire, but they also pinpointed where my ancestors were from for each of my four grandparents.

Incremental upgrades

Before we dive into this “Gattaca”-esque development, it’s important to highlight some of the other advancements hotels are making on the wellness front, especially with regard to guestroom design. As incredible as onsite DNA sequencing and counseling may be, it’s just not feasible for most hotels. For the average hotelier, smaller, incremental upgrades will have to suffice.

A much-vaunted example of late has been the Stay Well rooms at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. And there’s no better place to test out sleep-enhancing features than a 24-hour gambling hall where weekend-long benders and erratic slumber cycles are the norm. The rooms start by reducing potential irritants via the use of hypoallergenic cleaning products and air-purification systems. Next, blackout shades and special lighting systems have been installed to better imitate natural sleep conditions so guests can maintain some semblance of a proper circadian rhythm amidst all the craziness of the Strip. Last but not least, there are the highly publicized vitamin C showers, which ostensibly act to neutralize chlorine for softer skin and hair.

Taken individually, each of these features isn’t anything to write home about, but as a package they represent an excellent USP for the property and a model to emulate for hotels wishing to build their “wellness guestroom” programs. Most upgrades along these lines seem to involve some form of sensory modification:

  • Lighting that stabilizes daily melatonin cycles (that is, preserving this hormone while it’s peaking during sleep) via warmer, natural-hue projection or fancy LED nightlights
  • Aromatherapy via massive air purifiers or the subtle release of mood-altering scents
  • Healthy minibar options and nutritional F&B menus that are not only enjoyable for the taste buds but also beneficial for the waistline and energy levels
  • Hygienic or organic materials in furnishings that not only reduce skin irritation but are also more pleasant to touch
  • Sound-dampening materials or noise reduction via smart room and furniture layout

The pinnacle of personalization

Refocusing on DNA, imagine for a moment that you have in your wallet or purse a credit card or thumb drive that contains your entire genome for quick access. Bring it to any doctor, dietitian or physiotherapist and they can give you recommendations specific to your unique DNA, making for more effective results from their treatments or proscriptions. Looking at where we’ve come in the past two decades in terms of the technological advancements and social interconnectivity via the Internet, it isn’t farfetched to say these sorts of DNA dealings may soon be commonplace.

A prominent example of this in action is The BodyHoliday at LeSport, St. Lucia. Not only is the Caribbean location hard to beat, but through the property’s BodyScience program, guests are subjected to DNA sequencing followed by a battery of tests and regimes to de-stress, detoxify, bolster digestion, optimize exercises, promote weight loss and reverse aging — all individualized to each consumer’s genes. Plus, there’s far more perceived value than what’s provided by a one-off wellness retreat. Yes, guests at The BodyHoliday are pampered to the nines, but because of this highly personalized approach, guests come away learning valuable insights about their own bodies, thus making the experience nearly impossible to forget.

Although this may appear to be a novelty, as personal genomic mapping becomes more socially acceptable and less expensive, I wouldn’t be surprised to see more resorts adopt similar wellness programs, followed soon after by abridged versions at urban and business hotels. What’s most important to remember from all this is that these futuristic and esoteric wellness programs are emerging to meet a demand that’s already there.

As we delve deeper into the 21st century, this consumer desire for more health-conscious hotels will only increase. Espousing wellness will require experimentation — some features will heighten guest satisfaction while others won’t have any effect — but it is a worthy direction to nevertheless consider for your property. Incorporating DNA-centric amenities may represent the pinnacle of this trend, but my hope for you from reading this post is that you are aware of the multitude of other options also available in the wellness camp.