As consumer values and expectations — as well as ways of being and doing business — continue to evolve, the travel-and-hospitality industry is taking an increasingly conscious, holistic, whole-picture approach to operations and the guest experience.
In fact, the changing priorities of travellers, and consumers at large, have been the focus of a plethora of recent industry research and strategies.
As Accor’s report Hospitality Ahead: Transforming How We Welcome, Engage and Manage states: “The momentous societal and consumer evolution over the past few years has significantly impacted traveller behaviour. The inherent needs and desires which determine how and why a guest selects a hotel have altered considerably.”
Among the report’s key takeaways related to these evolving traveller expectations, it notes people’s “desire to seek and savour exclusive, authentic or local experiences,” “interest in pursuing self-fulfillment” and “finding ways to re-connect to one’s self” as key reasons for travel.
“Wellness has been important to our guests for some time, but the pandemic shifted their expectations and preferences…There’s not only a growing number of wellness-oriented travellers but also an expanded definition of ‘wellness,’” agrees Amanda Al-Masri, Hilton’s vice-president of Wellness, citing the company’s recent report, The 2023 Traveler: Emerging Trends that are Innovating the Travel Experience.
Similarly, the Top 12 Trends Shaping the Future of Travel and Destinations, by Vancouver-based Twenty31 Consulting, highlights sustainability and wellness as key trends bolstered by shifting traveller priorities; pointing to sustainable tourism in particular as being as both a high-impact and long-term trend within the industry.
This is also reflected in Hospitality Ahead, which reports that sustainability has emerged as “one of the top-eight criteria of travellers’ needs, in line with research across the board, which has shown that sustainability is growing in overall importance for travellers and in society at large.”
“In today’s world, consumers are looking for brands that are actively trying to make the world a better place and are choosing to remain loyal to those brands that stay true to this mission,” says Larry Traxler, senior vice-president, global head of Architecture and Design, Hilton.
Construction, design and operational considerations remain important factors in this holistic perspective, as core elements of the physical environment of the hotel.
“As more and more [travellers] seek out accommodations, destinations and authentic travel experiences that address their needs and preferences, we can also begin to re-think how these preferences inspire hotel design,” Traxler notes. “It’s important that sustainability and wellness permeate all aspects of the stay, from check-in to check-out — and this has come to life in many ways through hotel design.”
As an example, he points to biophilia as a design concept that can shape the hotel experience. “We can promote wellness by increasing natural light and connections to outdoor areas in our hotels and create feelings of warmth, relaxation, renewed energy and focus.”
As part of its recently completed transformation, Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel has put a greater emphasis on sustainability, weaving new practices and infrastructure into the property’s extensive renovations.
“When we were re-designing the hotel, significant considerations were made in terms of sustainability and wellness,” shares Tim Reardon, the property’s general manager. New initiatives include distilling all food waste into compost on site, recycling water where appropriate and installing a rooftop garden.
“The physical design was also considered and we worked with Lightenco to switch from halogen to LED light bulbs throughout the lobby and 43 Club Floor,” Reardon explains. “This greatly reduces our annual electricity consumption — by nearly 500,000 kWh — and our carbon footprint by more than 14,000 kg.”
Through such efforts, Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel earned a 5 Key Eco-Rating from Green Key Global last year. “Because of our certification, sustainability becomes part of our daily work; we are consistently considering how we can act more sustainably and in a holistic way,” Reardon explains. “When we think about the guest experience, these choices exist in our food-vendor selection and menu-item choices, the upgrades to our fitness facility and pool area, and even hosting our own honeybee colony on site.”
“Overall, I believe delivering wellness in a hotel environment requires a multi-pronged approach that both reduces the friction of maintaining healthy habits on the road and, more broadly, actively explores a wider view of wellness and new ways for us to infuse it into all of our award-winning brands,” says Hilton’s Al-Masri.
Broadly speaking, at Hilton this includes introducing “more plant-based, locally sourced and sober-conscious options” at hotels, as well as the company’s partnership with Peloton and ongoing efforts to ease common friction points within the travel experience with technology such as Digital Key.
“It’s not enough anymore to simply offer fitness centres and static spa treatments,” says Al-Masri. “This shift in the traveller mindset served as a huge catalyst for change within the industry and Hilton is aiming to be the first major hotelier to have a unified wellness point-of-view with wellness touch points integrated throughout the stay experience and across the portfolio.”
She further explains, “This [endeavour] will certainly mean a continuation, and deepening, of existing areas of expertise — namely fitness and spa — but also an expansion into other areas that are critical to an optimal stay, such as movement, recovery and mindfulness, nourishment, and design.”
Looking at the industry, broader approaches to wellness offerings can manifest as programs focused on creating a restful environment and quality sleep, such as Westin’s Sleep Well offerings and Even Hotels’ ‘Rest Easy’ pillar, encompassing the brand’s natural eucalyptus fibre bedding and premium sleep system. There are also growing examples of integrating wellness into event offerings, such as Hyatt leveraging its partnership with the Headspace meditation platform in its Together by Hyatt program.
The new Tempo by Hilton brand aims to “create an elevated and innovative stay grounded by wellness” through its room design. And, Al-Masri notes the brand’s debut property in Time Square features “a dedicated Get Ready Zone that provides guests with an in-room, flexible space to get organized ahead of the work day.”
There are also unique, spa-led offerings such as the digital wellness escape offered at Waldorf Astoria Berlin’s Guerlain Spa, which is designed to help guests disconnect and alleviate the strain associated with digital devices and our connected world.
“Delivering wellness successfully in a hotel environment requires us to think outside the box, and we’re working to reduce the friction of maintaining healthy habits on the road while infusing a wellness focus into all of our brands,” says Al-Masri. “Looking ahead, many of our wellness initiatives are really about doing right by our guests to help them live their best, most healthy and fulfilling lives on their own terms.”
BY DANIELLE SCHALK