Where is wellness going?

Wellness tourism already is valued by the Global Wellness Institute at US$563 billion, and based on the growing emphasis hotels are placing on wellness — creating programming to engage families, singles, children and the aging population — it feels as though owners are just starting to capitalize on the opportunity.

Think about how stressed everyone is by the 24/7 news cycle, our growing attachment to devices that promote sedentary lifestyles, work creeping further into leisure time and the growing cost of health care. It has led to growing obesity, more diabetes and increasing interest in finding healthful stress-busters.

The question is who will win by putting the management in place to make it profitable. It will be interesting to see how well the Equinox gym concept will translate as a hotel brand when it finally opens its first properties in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago starting in 2019. One thing it has as an advantage is being small enough to avoid delivering a formulaic wellness platform and therefore having the potential to attract millennials who want more authentic products. In fact, generally speaking, the smaller the brand, the better.

For any hotel company considering its future in wellness, I hate to say it but, yes, look at millennials because they are driving the trend more than any other group. Understand what they at least perceive to be important, even if they don’t always act on it. Words like organic, natural, holistic and simple come to mind.

Remember that wellness is not just about the spa and fitness facilities; it is just as much about how services that improve guests’ state of mind. To truly make inroads, you have to help them eat well, sleep well, look great and increase their happiness quotient. Those with the right equation are already winning — and they tend to be independents and smaller brands where wellness is viewed as an inherent quality.

Keep in mind that wellness programming will vary from region to region and can travel. For example, Middle Eastern and North African holistic wellness developments reportedly have included a surge in hot springs development. In Japan, Hoshino Resorts CEO Yoshiharu Hoshino believes he can export his traditional and popular Japanese hot springs ryokan concept to urban and resort centers in the United States.

How this translates to Marriott, Hilton and other big companies I am not sure. Yes, they have their programming, but I suggest wellness is where everyone should improve their game, and it goes beyond having a yoga room to creating a much more holistic experience. First, better understand your guests’ needs, and then don’t hesitate to act, as this trend seems to have a serious tailwind.