In search of zen

As more people expect to maintain their wellness routine at home and abroad, hotels and resorts are tuning up their facilities and services to better cater to health-conscious guests, discovers Mimi Hudoyo

There was a time when wellness retreats were unique products, dedicated to healing the body and soul of travellers who took time off their daily grind just for this purpose. Such sanctuaries came with in-house wellness specialists, dieticians and physicians, and offered carefully curated programmes that sought to address guests’ specific health needs, be it weight-loss, emotional healing, detoxification or relief from ailments.

On the other end of the spectrum, provision of a gym and spa within the hotel was deemed sufficient.

But as awareness surrounding the importance of good health and a positive mind swell – especially among people who are determined to live well during their travels – hotels and resorts are altering their facilities and services menu to better cater to this demand.

A clear indication of this shift – and a major motivator for hotels and resorts to move into the wellness space – can be seen in the business value of wellness tourism. The industry is expected to balloon from US$639 billion in 2017 to US$919 billion in 2022.

Speaking at the 13th Global Wellness Summit in Singapore last October, Susie Ellis, chairman & CEO of the event, observed that people were getting more health-conscious, and living in big cities could be stressful, thereby contributing to the growing demand for urban wellness resorts.

Illustrating the changing approach to wellness escapes, Ellis said: “Most travellers used to look for remote destinations, places with beautiful settings and resorts. Not so much anymore, because people are living in the city and feeling the suress, and need someplace in the city to get their wellness experience.”

Sharing his own observations, Neil Jacobs, CEO of Six Senses Hotels, Resorts and Spas, remarked: “People want to be well during their vacation and while they work.”

That has led the company, which is synonymous with wellness and sustainability, to develop some city properties. Following the establishment of two city locations in Singapore, the company will open Six Senses Club in New York at end of this year. Six Senses Club will provide New York City residents an opportunity to continue their wellness retreats after returning from Six Senses resorts elsewhere in the world.

Six Senses Club’s wellness offering is delivered through restaurants that showcase the brand’s popular culinary approach to wellness by using fresh, seasonal and locally-sourced produce and ingredients, and the Six Senses Spa which adopts a high-tech and high-touch approach in its treatments.

A total approach
Wellness hotels are priding themselves in being able to provide an end-to-end experience for their guests, going far beyond just quality spa facilities and services.

Alcide Leali, managing director of Lefay Resorts Italy, which has resorts and residences in Italy’s Dolomites and Lago di Garda, told the audience in a panel discussion: “The spa is the core element in the hotel but it is not the only experience.”

Leali explained that Lefay’s properties were “conceived, designed and built around wellness”, and they “deliver the wellness experience from check-in to check-out”.

Guests undergo a medical interview upon check-in, and have their dietary menu and activity programme – which can include exercises, guided walks, spa treatments and meditation – drawn up for the stay.

And at the conclusion of the retreat, a final examination is conducted and suggestions on well-being maintenance will be offered.

The total approach is necessary today, as travellers no longer “just go to a resort or hotel, and lie on the beach and do nothing”, remarked Six Senses’ Jacobs.

“People want more content during their stay; having good food and good service are not enough anymore,” he added.

At Six Senses Duxton Singapore, a surprising find right smack in the heart of the city-state’s business district, arriving guests get their pulse checked by a traditional Chinese doctor in lieu of an all too common welcome drink.

Occupying a row of heritage shophouses and nestled among skyscrapers, Six Senses Duxton boasts a resident traditional Chinese medicine physician who gladly dishes out advice on herbal medicine, acupuncture, tui na massage, qi gong exercise, and dietary therapy to improve guests’ overall wellness. On top of customised wellness programmes, the urban sanctuary provides complimentary outdoor yoga sessions and singing bowl meditation.

Beyond opportunities to stay active and eat well, wellness experts are also predicting an explosion of sleep-wellness solutions for guests staying in hotels and resorts. These solutions, such as best foods or suitable in-room lighting, may aim to combat jetlag.

Big boys join in
Major hotel brands are in the game now, taking serious steps to answer their guests’ call for healthy options.

However, Mike Fulkerson, vice president brand & marketing Asia Pacific for Marriott International, said the approach taken by major hotel chains would be different from that of specialised wellness resorts.

Fulkerson explained: “The Westin brand alone has more than 250 hotels around the world. It will be very difficult for Westin to do things that are very unique and specialised, like what the niche, individual hotels are doing with wellness.

“Hence, our focus is on the traveller experience and what they need.”

He discovered that business travellers’ main frustration during work trips was the inability to maintain their daily routine.

“Their needs generally fall into three different buckets: diet, exercise and a good night’s sleep. There are different programmes (at Westin properties) created to meet these needs,” he said.

“For those who want to maintain their running exercises, our hotels provide a running kit with shoes so travellers won’t have to pack that,” he added.

Sister brand W takes a different approach. With the brand identity and guest profile in mind, selected W hotels host FUEL Weekends which are action-packed fitness vacations that combine celebrity workouts, killer parties, delicious and healthy cuisine and unforgettable adventures.

Fulkerson further explained that W adopts a Detox. Retox. Repeat. philosophy.

Detox is where well-rounded workouts in multiple disciplines are offered to guests; Retox is where hard work is rewarded with welcome cocktails and light bites, open bar sessions featuring world-class DJs and late night, poolside parties; and Repeat is where Detox and Retox goodies are brought on again.

Wellness from within
Hotels that are with the wellness movement are clear that they need healthy and happy staff to be able to deliver healthful experiences all day, every day.

Mia Kyricos, senior vice president & global head of wellbeing, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, said: “When we talk about wellness, it was for our colleagues as much as for everybody else. We are looking at the whole ecosystem of well-being. If we care for our colleagues, they will be more engaged and happy at work, and the turnaround is a promise of care for customers.”

Allen Law, CEO of Park Hotel Group, Singapore, shared that the company is “moving towards a more flexible working arrangement”, and is open to different work hours and work/break arrangements “as long as the entire team is together in it, so that the work flow is not disrupted”.

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