Industry Update
Press Release17 December 2020

Rigour at the core of wellness investment - For wellness to deliver valuable returns in a project, investors must be “pioneering” and rigorous in their approach

According to the updated Resources for Leisure Assets (RLA) Wellness Real Estate Report.

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For wellness to deliver valuable returns in a project, investors must be "pioneering" and rigorous in their approach, according to the updated Resources for Leisure Assets (RLA) Wellness Real Estate Report.

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Wellness also offered a safety net for investors, through extra facilities, more use of suites and increased high-end F&B spend which could help to offset weaker rooms performance during a downturn.

Roger A. Allen, ISHC, Group CEO, RLA, said: "Investors and developers must have a more hands-on approach to understanding if and how their property will offer wellbeing and how it will influence the performance of the property, rather than it being a bolt on.

"We're meeting investors and developers that are very eager to invest but don't understand the important metrics behind it. There is no data out there showing the bottom line performance. The pandemic has created an opportunity for investors to really understand the sector and make decisions based on facts and understanding as a result."

Hotels with significant wellness offerings generated nearly 43% more in total revenue per available room on average compared to hotels with no wellness, according to data from HotStats. The difference was partially due to a 9.2% uplift in average daily rates, in favour of wellness hotels.

The study illustrated that properties with extensive wellness operations benefited from 20% higher ADR and generated 48% more in average revenue per room compared to hotels with a minor wellness operation.

The changes to ADR illustrated the wider impact of wellness on hotels, as Michael Grove, Managing Director, EMEA, HotStats, commented: "Interpreting the data from different points of view is important, in particular when evaluating very different business models and isolating the performance impact of a certain part of the business. The wellness offering is not a separate entity and therefore the holistic approach to data analysis and the wider strategy is key to understanding the true output."

Gross operating profit per available room at hotels and resorts tended to be higher when a significant wellbeing offering was in place and when performance was under pressure, wellness was seen to provide a hedge.

David Harper, Managing Director, Leisure Property Services, said: "When the economy is less strong there tends to be less evidence of outperformance in GOPPAR growth, but managers do tend to refer to the safety net that such facilities have, allowing them to avoid decline more easily than similar properties without such facilities."

Investors were advised to be wary about adding extra cost which could hold profits back. Hotels with significant wellness offerings saw lower operating profit conversion than those with minor or no wellness and their gross operating profit margin was also narrower.

Allen said: "There is great growth potential from the sector, but investors face challenges in assessing the overall value of the wellness offering and a transparent IRR. Wellness and wellbeing investments in the hospitality industry require the same scrutiny as any other real estate transaction."

Major wellness hotels and resorts generated nearly 8.9% more in average F&B revenue at their restaurants last year than those properties with smaller wellness. This was attributed in part to many hotels and resorts with extensive wellness operating in the luxury category, where discretionary spend was usually higher. The share of food-only revenue in total hotel revenue at properties with major wellness was almost five percentage points higher than at properties with no wellness offerings.

Jason Wischhoff, Managing Director at Benihana, Japanese Teppan Steakhouse, part of Minor International, said: "F&B income streams are ever more important in remote locations, while providing a range of F&B offerings is certainly vital to attracting a defined target market. Furthermore, the impact of F&B performance is particularly influenced by the increased demand and extended length of stay at wellness and leisure orientated hotels during the off season."

A wider leisure offering helped push cost efficiencies for major wellness hotels. The profit conversion rate of leisure departments at properties with extensive wellness was almost 15 percentage points higher than their smaller rivals and payroll expenses at properties with major wellness were less than 40% of leisure revenues and were about 7.5 percentage points lower than those at hotels with relatively small wellness.

More demand from consumers had seen wellness evolve into more specialised offerings, including an increased focus on outdoor activities.

Allen said: "There is a greater magnifying glass on the specifics. The COVID-19 era has bought with it increased interest in personal wellbeing. That breaks down into so many segments and what the micro goals of individuals are - whether that be mental wellbeing, becoming more spiritual, living longer - people are looking for the specific interest that appeals to them. The wellbeing success stories will provide an offering that relates to this increased consumer awareness in health and wellbeing.

"Hotels will have to be a lot more creative with their programming and the offering. Wellbeing has evolved beyond the physical activity - the passive relaxation. Wellbeing today is an active stimulation - the learning of a new skill, for example - and provides inspiration for both mind and body. It is much more than simply having a massage or running on the treadmill in the hotel gym.

"Investors and operators will need to be much more pioneering when considering what their property will represent in terms of a wellbeing experience. It's not a black and white department - wellbeing straddles so many departments within the offering. A holistic approach and philosophy is required."

The full updated report can be downloaded at https://rlaglobal.com/en/insights/updated-rla-wellness-real-estate-report

About RLA

RLA is a recognized global advisory to investors, owners, developers and management companies. Specialized in hospitality, leisure, recreation, wellbeing and health tourism related to hotels, resorts, residential, mixed-use, healthcare, active living communities and destination tourism developments. RLA works closely with the public and private sector in the Americas, Europe, Middle East and Africa to provide conceptual planning, feasibility and financial analysis and asset management of complex properties such as resorts, retreats, destination assets and wellness & spa related operations. Our advisory practice addresses the evolving landscape of the Resort & Hotel sector, Destination planning, Leisure experiential, Spa consulting and Health-Wellness-Medical Tourism & Life Enhancing Destinations. For more information, visit www.rlaglobal.com

For more information, please visit:www.resourcesforleisureassets.com

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Roger A. Allen
Group CEO, Resources for Leisure Assets (RLA)
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