New-Age guru and medical doctor Deepak Chopra once wrote that “The way you think, the way you behave, the way you eat, can increase your life by 30 to 50 years.” While Chopra was a forerunner in the field of preventative medicine, his books brought the concept of ‘wellness’ to the masses, a concept that has veritably infiltrated every market and industry conceivable. Today, competitors in the hotel industry understand that embracing a philosophy of wellness is critical to maintaining customer loyalty and enhancing guest experiences — both within the four walls of the hotel and beyond.
Andrew Gibson, VP of Spa and Wellness at Dubai, U.A.E.-based-FRHI Hotels & Resorts, which includes the Fairmont brand, says that understanding wellness requires a holistic perspective on operations. “To confine the notion of wellness to the operation of pools, fitness spaces and spas is to misunderstand the concept of wellness,” says Gibson. “It’s about offering healthy choices on the menu, embracing sustainability initiatives that reflect well on the local community and improving employee wellness that’s then passed on to guests.” At the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in Arizona, for example, the hotel has undergone a health-and-wellness transformation that includes new equipment, an aerial yoga program, clearly labelled wellness options on its menus and a roster of newly hired fitness experts, personal trainers as well as holistic practitioners are accessible to guests around the clock.
Meanwhile, as part of the Fairmont Le Château Frontenac’s $66-million renovation in Quebec City, management is expanding its spa and adding a world-class health club. Not only does it double the size of each area, but the spa is also now relocated next to the pool. “This relocation enhances the guest experience dramatically, as many of our treatments involve consuming a healthy snack, and it’s so much more relaxing to do this pool side,” explains Genevieve Parent, director of Public Relations. A poolside spa also streamlines the transition in guest activities. “People will often begin with a swim and then move on to a spa treatment,” says Parent. “It’s all part of our wellness initiative where we support guests in pursuing a healthy lifestyle.” The spa has also been outfitted with a few double rooms for partners or friends wishing to have treatments together.
One cutting-edge technology that is quickly becoming de rigueur in Fairmont’s spa/fitness centres is the unique (and expensive) Bod Pod. This large egg-shaped device, similar to the one Robin Williams’ “Mork from Ork” arrived in, gives guests who step into the unit a breakdown of body fat and muscle percentages. From the Bod Pod’s analysis, a customized workout routine can be engineered, one that highlights whether the guest needs to gain muscle, lose fat or both. The process takes 30 minutes or so and costs approximately $50 per session.
The wellness trend is also being highlighted at Vancouver’s Wedgewood Hotel & Spa, which recently tripled its gym space and upgraded its spa facilities. “Ten years ago, a fitness facility may have been an afterthought — whereas now it’s a must-have,” says Philip Meyer, GM. The Wedgewood reinvented its fitness and spa facilities in response to feedback from guests who were loyal to the hotel but craved a more diversified and expansive fitness centre.
“The need to expand had been percolating for a while,” says Meyer. “More and more people, especially a number of celebrities who stay with us, have a workout as a key part of their day. It’s something we could no longer overlook.” Meyer also notes that three spa treatment rooms have been added due to the increase in spa treatments for men. “There’s a trend happening in this area — it’s no longer taboo for men to go to the spa. Facials, massages, they are now just part and parcel of the self-care regime,” notes Meyer.
Another major trend is the shift to cycling. “Cycling has become the new golf,” laughs Meyer. “I remember when we used to have tons of golf bags lying around. Now everyone’s got a bike, and they’re eager to explore our customized routes and trails around the city.” Guests have the option of bringing their own bike or renting one through hotel services, which partners with a number of high-end bike shops in the surrounding area. While many guests prefer to bring their own bikes up to their suites, a separate, secure bike storage unit is also provided by the hotel.
With running and cycling maps provided in each room, the Wedgewood is catering to a new trend among today’s hotel guests — a desire for a local, outdoor experience. In Vancouver that means biking to Granville Island, the Stanley Park sea wall or the Olympic Village. During the city’s popular 10-km Sun Run or the Gran Fondo bike race, the hotel is full, sometimes even a year in advance, with many of the participants choosing to stay at the Wedgewood. “We have repeat guests who visit us prior to the big competition in order to train,” adds Meyer.
Understanding guest needs is imperative, which is why Hoyt Harper, global brand leader for Stamford, Conn.-based Sheraton Hotels & Resorts, references Sheraton’s extensive research on customer satisfaction. “We’ve learned fitness is a priority for our guests when they travel,” says Harper. “To this end, we partnered with Core Performance to provide guests with tools and fitness programs within our well-equipped, well-maintained Sheraton Fitness centres.” He notes that wearable tech has been an emerging trend Sheraton has noticed, especially technology that tracks and records workouts, calories burned and heartbeats per minute. So, the hotel offers guests access to heart-rate monitors or pedometers to track their progress.
When it comes to spa trends, Harper agrees with the Wedgewood’s Meyer that it’s becoming popular for men to pursue spa treatments. “Eight out of 10 Sheraton guests, including males, say they are likely to consider using spa services when travelling and 50 per cent of guests only visit spas while travelling,” he says. “There’s growth in this segment of our operations, and it’s only increasing.”
Bob Jacobs, VP of Brand Management at Stamford, Conn.-based Westin Hotels & Resorts, North America, says Westin has been integrating wellness initiatives for years. “For more than a decade, Westin’s brand positioning has been rooted in well-being, and the brand has remained an innovative industry leader,” says Jacobs, “especially with programs like RunWestin and the New Balance gear-lending program.” However, earlier this year, the company spearheaded The Westin Well-Being Movement, which surprisingly includes a couple of relatively famous people on its Westin Well-being Council — from former Buddhist monk, Andy Puddicombe to media mogul Arianna Huffington. The council guides the company through the ‘big-picture’ perspective of what a holistic health service should offer.
With a plethora of competition in the hotel industry, wellness is just one more factor that can set hotels apart — a factor that matters to guests now more than ever before. But, while hotel brands try to outdo each other to create the best wellness programs — it’s truly the customer who wins.