The healthy future of the hotel industry

Of all the long-term travel shifts that were triggered by covid, for the hotels industry the most significant may be the renewed focus on wellness.

There has been a raft of recent surveys that have underlined this change. Colliers’ 2021 Wellness Tourism Report predicted the global wellness tourism market would be worth $615 billion by the end of 2022, and will rise to $800 billion by 2027. A survey of 1200 high-net-worth individuals by luxury market research firm Altiant in partnership with American Express found that wellness was a key driver in holiday planning for 61% of respondents. Hilton released research last month that showed that 26 % of respondents would prioritize accessibility to fitness amenities like gyms or activities such as yoga when traveling next year.

The conclusion is that for a key and big-spending demographic, travel is no longer a treat: it’s therapy. If covid isolation was bad for health, its opposite – getting out and seeing the world – must be good for you.

The impact of this shift has been felt across the industry from the rising popularity of all-inclusive resorts with gyms and spas to tourism initiatives by nations like Jamaica, Vietnam and Indonesia to reposition themselves as wellness destinations. Just this month, the Chief Minister of the Indian state of Goa said he was looking to historic alternative ayurveda health practices to promote the state as a wellness destination.

This will not be the first time wellness has changed the face of the hospitality industry. In many ways the 19th Century rise of wellness retreats — from Spa in Belgium and Weisbaden in Germany to Dr. John Harvey Kellogg’s Battle Creek Sanitarium in Michigan — arguably changed hotels forever from merely being temporary accommodation for travellers to become destinations in their own right.

The lines between hospitality and hospital are becoming blurred

Today’s renaissance in wellness travel has similarly profound implications for the hotels industry.

The lines between hospitality and hospital are already becoming blurred. Hotels are starting to move from indulgence to treatment. Beyond the usual massages, yoga and hot-spring cleansing regimes, they are now offering bespoke wellness solutions and wellness immersion programs informed by biomarker lab-test diagnostics. And like Kellogg’s “San”, hotels are hiring doctors, nutritionists and other medical staff not just to treat sick guests, but to advise on improving the wellbeing of healthy visitors.

The shift also has other implications. The rise of wellness travel makes hotels more recession-resistant. It might be hard for people sitting at home to make an argument for an all-inclusive beachside holiday during an economic downturn, but they can not only justify a mental health break at a wellness retreat, they can argue that it is even more important at a stressful time.

It also means guests tend to spend more. International wellness tourists spend roughly 53% more than the average international traveller, domestic wellness tourists spend a 178% more than non-wellness tourists.

And when hotels are keen to stress their green credentials, the link between personal wellness and the environment has never been more important.

But to make the most of these opportunities will require a shift in mind-set. The spa is no longer a nice-to-have but an integral part of a wellness stay; marketing moves from promoting recreation to promoting recuperation; and staffing qualifications move from hospitality to medical.

The wellness revolution is here to stay. It is up to the hotels industry to keep pace with the changes.