By Hâfi Martinsdóttir
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes | 1187 words
With the recent pandemic acting as a catalyst for a heightened awareness of our own personal well-being and an escalation in lifestyle-related diseases, COVID-19 is somewhat of a silver lining for the wellness industry. This new wave of health-conscious consumers is set to shape the evolution of the wellness hospitality industry.
In this article we will cover the shifts happening within the wellness industry in relation to hotels and tourism along with some new trends that are set to take centre stage in the post-COVID era.
Hotels have rapidly been expanding their wellness offerings pre-COVID and predominantly fitness brands, such as Equinox, have been broadening their horizons with their expansion into hotels. Their first luxury hotel in New York was launched to much acclaim in 2019. With the merging of these two industries, and the pandemic shining a light on our own fragility, we are anticipating a rise in the number of wellness travellers and hotels working hard to fulfil our rising – and shifting – wellness needs.
“The future for wellness travel will be engaging people’s emotions as much as evidence-based healing,” – the Global Wellness Summit
It is apparent that the new wave of post-pandemic wellness traveller will no longer be satisfied with hotels well-washing and only offering superficial treatments. With the increased emphasis on healthy immune systems in fighting off viruses such as COVID-19 and disease, wellness travellers will demand science-backed therapies with evidence of their direct benefits.
“Having a robust wellness tourism industry built on science-based approaches will be a positive that can come from a damaging pandemic.” — Xinyi Liang-Pholsena
Post-pandemic travellers are more likely to have done research prior to booking and place more importance on nutrition, fitness and mindfulness. Spas won’t be viewed as sufficient with travellers instead turning towards results-driven therapies and ecotherapy (healing through nature) for their health needs.
We can anticipate a rise in preventative wellness holidays with travellers looking to incorporate healthier habits with measurable results within their lifestyle that can continue to benefit them long after they have returned home.
“Wellness is no longer about a spa or a fitness centre, but rather about the impact the experience at the property has on the guest’s wellbeing – during the stay and beyond.” – GOCO Hospitality
Due to the benefits of experiential travel on our health and emotional well-being, we anticipate a growth in hotels providing more thorough wellness treatments along with a well-rounded experiential offering that caters to a wellness guests’ particular personal development mindset.
According to the GOCO Hospitality and HHTL industry report, Designing Through the Wellness Lens, “Wellness resort guests travel for the purpose of achieving specific goals relating to their health and wellbeing. Rather than simply wanting a holiday, they seek to remove themselves from their routine life and invite a personal transformation that allows them to overcome a significant health challenge, release bad habits, or acquire new skills so they can experience a new way of being when they return home”.
Virtual fitness and training classes became an overnight reality for most people due to the lockdowns experienced throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. This has surged the virtual wellness industry into the mainstream far sooner than anticipated.
The use of technology and AI in helping health-conscious people more closely monitor their progress and the results of their fitness sessions is encouraging hotels to invest heavily in technology to further support their guests’ wellness needs. Through sophisticated data collection, Rosewood London enables their personal trainer, Harry Jameson, and his team to pre-test their guests, provide a meal plan and monitor their biometrics, such as sleeping patterns and heart rate, thus empowering their guests with personalised ‘data-led training sessions’.
“When it comes to virtual interaction, guests are increasingly curious about how they can incorporate AI and VR into their wellness experience, pro-actively searching for “Virtual Wellness” online, with searches up 242% according to Google Trend.” – GOCO Hospitality
We have known for a long time that a good night’s rest is essential for our health, clarity of thought, stress reduction, emotional well-being and overall happiness. We are anticipating a rise in hotels utilising design to further support their guests’ needs for rest and recuperation upon arrival.
Biophilic design encourages the increased access to natural light throughout the day to align our body’s internal clock and help with grounding after the disruption of routine. Improved soundproofing, blackout curtains and mediation spaces within rooms are good starting points from which to begin enhancing guests’ comfort during their stay.
Nutrient rich smoothies and salads have long been a staple of health-focused hotels and restaurants but we are beginning to understand more and more about the benefits of following a plant-based diet for both our health and the environment. Some of the reported benefits of a well-balanced plant-based meal plan are decreased inflammation, reduction in heart disease and prevention of chronic diseases such as cancer, autoimmune conditions and diabetes.
With these potential benefits there is little wonder that plant-based dishes are being served at wellness-focused hotels and resorts all around the world. This is only set to increase as more people adopt a plant-based diet and we continue to see the benefits.
The use of cannabis within wellness has experienced a surge due to its growing public favour and its wide array of health benefits. CBD is a non psycho-active strain of cannabis possessing a variety of healing properties including pain relief, anti-inflammatory properties and shows promise as a treatment in reducing anxiety and depression, along with other mental and physical benefits.
Ecotherapy, a term coined by Howard Clinebell, “as an umbrella term for nature-based methods of physical and psychological healing, ecotherapy represents a new form of psychotherapy that acknowledges the vital role of nature and addresses the human-nature relationship.”
Providing guests with the opportunity and incentive to switch off from the outside world during their stay while immersing within nature is an essential aspect of the wellness journey and expectation of the post-pandemic wellness traveller. A desire to escape urban life is increasing demand for deep dives into remote nature far away from the crowds, technology and noise.
To provide a true wellness space, hoteliers will need to consider several aspects within the design element of the property. The integration of biophilic design, the choice of colours, the materials used. It’s important to consider the variety of spaces required to enable guests to navigate the layout of the building smoothly, to access the passive and active areas of the building without disturbing other guests who may be experiencing vulnerable mindsets due to the detoxification and rehabilitation process.
“The location may be of secondary importance, as guests typically travel to a wellness resort for a specific purpose, creating an oasis that is rooted in authenticity, programming, and healthy dining options to service an entire stay. These are crucial elements associated with wellness resorts. Authenticity and a genuine guest experience take centre stage while luxury is not necessarily the priority.” – Designing Through the Wellness Lens
The process of designing a wellness space is very different compared to building a leisure resort, you can learn more about this through the Designing Through the Wellness Lens report.
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