In this ongoing column on the growth of wellness as a profit center for hotels, one concurrent trends to be cognizant of is the aging of the baby boomer generation – ostensibly the wealthiest to date that is, at present, entering the prime travel years of early retirement. This generational shift intersects with the longevity revolution in many interesting ways that hotels can capitalize upon.

First of note is that because boomers are relatively richer than other generations, it behooves hotel brands to follow the money by developing branded programs and marketing campaigns that target this cohort, especially when there are 77 million of them in the United States alone. But this strategy is often at odds with growing wellness revenues because the burgeoning awareness for wellness and healthier lifestyles is largely happening amongst the younger generations who are not ‘set in their ways’.

Not to stereotype too hard, but it is much harder to convince an older traveler with firmly cemented habits to be swayed by a wellness program so that they select your brand over the competition or are willing to pad their hotel stay with wellness-oriented activities. Speaking from personal experience amongst the two of us authors, we have Adam (millennial) who spent five year convincing Larry (boomer) to stop putting milk in his coffee (for your information, commercial pasteurized milk can be inflammatory and not really all that good for your bones) and to get off of the dogma of ‘three square meals’ in favor of an 8:16 intermittent fasting regimen.

But while you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, necessity is the mother of invention. To put more bluntly, nothing will make a person adopt healthier habits faster than a severe, acute medical scare.

In this case, we have two concurrent trends:

  1. Boomers are getting older, which means a higher chance of both becoming chronically sick and looking for a manageable solution to said sickness, whether preemptive or post-hoc.
  2. Awareness for the efficacy of wellness and alternate medicine practices in illness prevention is likewise rising, as is accessibility to practitioners.

Right now, the numbers may suggest that guests are only coming to your hotel for leisure or business or as part of a group, and not much else. Have faith; the combination of these two major trends alone will mean more demand for wellness programming, with the wealthy boomer generation leading the way in making longevity practices a booming business for hotels.

Within this grand progression, it’s important to also codify the difference between ‘wellness primary’ and ‘wellness secondary’ guests. The former are those that travel specifically to a destination for some form of medical tourism or transformative experience. The latter are traveling for other purposes but nevertheless want to stay healthy as they go.

This distinction is important on a strategic level in determining your overarching brand direction, particularly in how it intersects with another prominent trend – the rise of bleisure or workcations. As mentioned in a further column, retirement at age 65 itself is a relatively new concept, and even wealthy boomers who have the means to fully retire may opt for part-time emeritus roles or simply want to actively manage their equity portfolios while abroad (especially if they are relying on dividends as a part of their retirement income). And so, with the rise of bleisure, you now have a growing cohort of middle-aged or older professionals who keenly want to stay healthy while traveling in order to uphold their business or familial responsibilities.

Great; we’ve covered the demographic trends. What can your hotel do about it over the next two years?

In our view, it all comes back to the data. If your systems aren’t connected to deliver rich guest profiles (whether within the PMS or pushed into a CRM), you won’t know what your customers really want. You won’t be able to identify any of the wellness primary or wellness secondary guests who have already traversed your premises. Moreover, you need data integrations to test whether small, incremental changes to your operations are having a meaningful effect on revenues. Third, if your teams are too busy handling the minutia of your existing operations, they won’t have time to learn new SOPs so that you can develop a full-fledged wellness program.

While we don’t want to get too far into the weeds of technology for this short article, the direction is nevertheless clear. You need your existing teams to be as productive as possible and fully empowered through automation technologies. Simultaneously, you can develop a roadmap for implementing a wellness program that is already fitted to what you know about what your customers want and what your budgets can allow. To this end, always keep in mind some of these long and slow, but also permanent, trends and where your brand fits into the bigger demographic picture.

Larry Mogelonsky
Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited

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