Industry Update
Opinion Article 8 December 2020

Health and Wellness as a growing hospitality niche in a post-COVID landscape

By Louis de Vilmorin, External Consultant at EHL Advisory Services

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The "Health & Wellness" sector could well be the answer to post-COVID redevelopment needs and looks set tobe one of the new vectors of growth and profits for hospitality destinations. EHL Advisory Services and HWS have combined their know-how to offer support in the development of impactful health and wellness solutions.

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The spread of health and wellness

Since the 1900s, the hospitality niche of health and wellness has been developing around the world. France, for example, with its thermal and thalassotherapy destinations, has enabled thousands of customers to benefit from hotels associated with seawater or water-based thermal treatments, with the recent addition of dietary and stress management programs, therapeutic massages and fitness techniques.

The model has grown over time with a new approach offering customers a high-quality hotel welcome alongside specific infrastructures and programs to optimize health, well-being and beauty. Often employing the best experts in the field, the health and wellness model offers a variety of stays dedicated to special treatments and cures.

Asia was a forerunner of the development of new health destinations with the Shiva Son, the Kamalaya and other centres attracting a niche clientele who came especially for a healthy vacation. India, already known as the home of Ayurvedic ancestral natural medicine, followed suit by creating high-end resorts for stays based on this alternative medical approach.

For their part, the United States have offered ultra-specialized health & wellness centers such as the Golden Door, the Miraval and the Canyon Ranch, while in Europe and particularly in Switzerland, centers more focused on exclusive anti-ageing care such as Clinique La Prairie have become popular.

At the same time, some centers in this new health destination market have distinguished themselves with an offer of services at the cutting edge of technology and medical research such as the Sha Wellness Clinic in Spain or the Espace Henri Chenot in Italy.

Faced with all these varied proposals ranging from simple spa/fitness centre to specialized clinical wellness, can high-end hotels benefit from this growing demand for health optimization on the part of their customers and combine it with an offer?

The answer is clearly, yes. EHL Advisory Services and HWS have predefined a few directives of which the most important would be that it is neither desirable nor feasible for hotels to compete with specialized health centres.

One can order health care types in 3 categories: Medical, Preventive and Optimizing (or recovery post medical treatment). The latter being "non-intrusive" is suitable for a large clientele segment of the "healthy" individuals, increasingly open to the theme of lifestyle optimization.

Hotels offer qualitative accommodation, services and structures necessary to address these clients with tailor-made programs likely to attract and retain them for the long term. Since individuals are less receptive to the prescription of invasive medical and blood tests, hotels are offering alternative proposals which are lighter, based on profiling, fitness check-ups and possibly non-invasive biological saliva tests.

Examples of specific programs

EHL Advisory Services and HWS have been designing specific programs for hotels equipped with a quality spa, swimming pool and fitness centre. For example, an online "client profiling", pre-check-in, would allow to establish a health and well-being profile for each client, offering a unique program on arrival.

These individual programs could be built upon a mix of essential pillars:

  • Diet detox: A common request for clients wishing to lose superfluous pounds. The diet acts on gently detoxifying their body and is based on advice from a specialist according to the guest's expectations. In addition, the hotel will offer specific cuisine menus linked to the recommendations for each individual program.
  • Stress and emotional management: A hotel stay provides an ideal opportunity to take a break and learn the most innovative relaxation, meditation and stress management techniques scientifically validated.
  • Integrative and personalized fitness: Upon arrival, a tailor-made fitness program with specified exercises under a strict timetable supervised by a team of fitness experts is made available to customers.
  • Sleep and recovery: Too often neglected, a good night's sleep is an essential key to daily health recovery, vitality and well-being. Where else better than a hotel to find the right surroundings for such healing.
  • Post-COVID anxiety recovery: A major consequence of the pandemic is the long and volatile recovery process creating inevitable anxiety based on the concern that life may ever be the same again. For this, we have established "body detox" programs which stimulate the immune system, reduce stress, and improve oxygenation, resistance and endurance.

Such combined programs, based on stays varying from 3 to 12 days depending on the desired objectives, will be supplemented by beauty treatments, face and body massages, and other specific approaches usually offered by hotels and their branding partners. The efficiency of our programs will be measured for each customer by relevant check-out tests.

A smartly built "Health & Wellness" proposal will allow hoteliers to distinguish themselves with an impactful USP leading to an immediate improvement of the traditional KPIs, (i.e. yield, stay duration, cross sell and retention rate).

How to build a new clientele?

With the reintroduction of strict border controls and the disappearance of most business and leisure travel, hotels have lost most of their international clientele as well as revenues from congresses and seminars.

As a consequence, local customers have become the new focus for hotels. Historically, local customers brought only around 15% of revenues. However, in pursuit of new health & wellness sensations and following the environmental trend of lowering the carbon footprint, local customers will be increasingly receptive to local hotel offerings.

Another meaningful niche market will come from local companies looking to take care of their staff by offering preventive and lifestyle optimization measures. Many of these corporations are already offering such programs and rely on third party service providers including relevant hotels.

To adjust to post-COVID life, EHL Advisory Services and HWS believe it is of the utmost importance for hotels to position themselves on the segment of "Health & Wellness Optimisation" with a credible program as part of a new dedicated strategy.

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Louis de Vilmorin

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