With health and fitness making it from the gym to the boardroom as companies realise the value of operating with a healthy energetic workforce, and with educators making very clear connections between physical exercise and academic attainment, the “pursuit of wellness” has become an ever more mainstream focus of public interest. The effects of this trend have certainly influenced the tourism and hospitality industry.
Just as employers have taken measures to ensure people are able to improve their work-life balance through a healthy routine, forward-thinking hoteliers have recognised that those same people will want to maintain that routine when they are away from home. In the past the idea of taking a well-earned break may have meant lazy days of canapés and cocktails by the pool, but now more and more people are looking to become revitalised and reinvigorated by their holiday experiences. So much so, in-fact, that the Global Wellness Institute has even coined a new phrase to define “Wellness Tourism” as “all travel associated with the pursuit of maintaining or enhancing one’s personal wellbeing.”
The Wellness Tourism market is certainly not to be disregarded as a passing fad, as it is estimated to be worth $675 billion as early as 2017. Not only is this particular travel segment of middle-aged, educated and affluent guests growing at a faster rate than the rest of the industry, but they can spend typically 150% more than other travellers on any given trip. High end hotels have been quick to pull out all the stops, offering Personal Trainer services, vitamin-infused showers, consultant dieticians, iPods preloaded with personalised motivational soundtracks, and in-room exercise equipment for those who don’t wish to share a gym. But Wellness Tourism is by no means confined to the super rich. So what can more realistically-priced independent hotels and chains do to attract, engage and retain these valuable customers?
Diet, sleep and exercise are all key contributing factors to a person’s basic health and wellbeing. Hotels have been catering for the first two of these basic requirements for centuries so at the very least should have no trouble in scoring a hat-trick by encouraging guests to exercise. It is not unusual for a hotel to feature a swimming pool and/or a small gym (often hidden away in some unprepossessing inconspicuous basement room) but too often this lacklustre concession to fitness fails to engage with the cash-rich health-conscious consumers that can be categorised as Wellness Tourists. To make matters worse, the hotel management can soon begin to regard their rarely-used gym as a waste of space, making them even less likely to become progressive.
A simple culture of Wellness
Just making fitness equipment “available” somewhere isn’t enough. Unless these guests experience a culture of wellness within a hotel the offering will lack credibility. Offering a range of healthy options in the hotel restaurant is an obvious first step. Fresh fruit in the foyer and a range of herbal infusions alongside the PG tips by the kettle in the bedroom. Maps highlighting local runs and cycle routes. And in addition to these simple, inexpensive encouragements to a healthy lifestyle, a well laid-out, welcoming gym offering a range of easy-to-use cardio and resistance equipment will attract and engage appreciative guests during their stay.
When it comes to choosing the appropriate equipment, ease-of-use is an important consideration. Rugged, uncomplicated cardio machines that don’t have control panels like spaceships are the order of the day if you don’t want to have your gym permanently staffed with trainers who can show users how to get Facebook on their treadmills.
To some hoteliers, the idea of providing in-room equipment may sound extravagant but Sole Fitness designed their treadmills for this exact purpose. Their foldable treadmills are easy to store and were specifically engineered to fit through hotel room doors (just one of the many reasons for their extraordinary popularity in North America).
The growing importance of health and fitness to the hotel industry cannot be ignored. The trend is still on the up and the clientele who embrace this philosophy are amongst the top spenders in the target markets. For the smaller hotels and more affordable chains, a half-hearted concession to fitness simply won’t do. Hoteliers at every level need to embrace a cultural change in order to offer what people increasingly want.