Mr. Caputo

Spas, Health & Wellness

A New Health and Wellness Approach for Hotels

By Bob Caputo, Founder, Bob Caputo Living Well

I have three words for hotel executives, which may as well be the title of their collective mission: Health and Wellness. Which is to say, the new approach to hospitality - the experience every vacationer deserves to enjoy, and every business traveler has a right to receive - is a healthy atmosphere, a place that exudes the virtues of fitness and nutrition; be it an urban property or a resort location, a boutique destination or a five-star hacienda amidst lush acreage and the soft winds of a turquoise sea; be it a high-end spot or a workaday building, suitable for conferences or company meetings, where a health and wellness expert can consult with a hotel executive - or speak directly to guests - about how to achieve these goals.

Please note: This undertaking goes far beyond the status quo, where a hotel may have a gym - I use that word loosely, as many such places house nothing more than an stationary bike and some barbells - or a breakfast buffet in which chafing dishes hold, respectively, scrambled egg whites and scattered slices of cantaloupe, strawberries, bananas and honey dew melon.

That is not a display of health and wellness. Nor is it a way for hoteliers to distinguish themselves from the competition because, the more we conflate quality with decadence, which may as well be a synonym (within the hospitality industry) for gluttony, the more we assume that a holiday from work will become a regrettable respite from nutrition - what with the sight of pastries, cakes, pies, rolls and loaves of bread - the worse guests will feel, physically and psychologically, and the less likely they will return for another visit. Recognize, too, that I do not suggest hotels should do away with these things.

I believe hotels have a responsibility to inform guests - in a dynamic and intelligent manner - what health and wellness should be; that it should not be - indeed, it must never be - obligatory, like taking a spoonful of medicine or doing something with a sense of resignation; that the perception people have should not be - and again, it must never become - a negative one, as if health and wellness are lifeless rather than lively.

It is a hotelier's duty to show the truth of this story by having someone tell this tale with an emphasis on enlightenment and excitement. In other words, health and wellness can be fun - it is very fun for me - provided guests learn they have options. Explaining those options, and doing so with eloquence and effectiveness, is critical to transforming this category into something people want to do.

This investment is also more an issue of discipline than dollars, meaning, by having a health and wellness expert consult with a hotel executive - by having that professional customize an exercise and nutrition plan, one that highlights an active and robust lifestyle - a hotel can create a personality that attracts new and repeat business.

Start by having that expert talk to staff, particularly catering, where he can share recipes - and cook sample dishes - that are as delicious as they are distinctive, in terms of ingredients and presentation. Therein lies a larger point: A good hotel can become a great hotel, if it has a head chef who is a master of culinary art and creativity in general. And a great hotel can become an even better hotel, if its chef is already a recognizable figure.

The power of that would-be celebrity can be reason enough for a person to dine or stay at a particular hotel. The word-of-mouth marketing that ensues from this action alone can enhance a hotel's reputation, increase its cachet and buttress its effort to be a brand rather than a business. That difference is significant because, while there are many businesses, and many very successful ones for that matter, there are only a few brands. Or: The former may be valuable, but the latter is invaluable.

A brand has an emotional connection with current and existing customers - it has an identity in its own right, as individualistic as it is idiosyncratic - where there is loyalty between a hotel and its guests; where there is reciprocity between the two, where one is a recurring visitor - a celebrant of private milestones and public holidays, a friend of all seasons - and the other greets this familiar face with warmth and love; where customs develop, and an unofficial shorthand for everything from meals to the receipt of mementos emerges; where a property's worth is not the sum total of its buildings or grounds, but its renown as a go-to location for travelers throughout the world. All of which begs the question, Can a health and wellness expert enable a hotel to become a brand? In a word: Yes.

A health and wellness expert can accomplish this objective, provided a hotel executive recognizes - provided that persons sees or reads - the financial benefits that accrue from this investment. Look no further, then, at the popularity of high-end spas and retreats, where the focus is exclusively on health and wellness. (A point of qualification: When I refer to a spa I do not mean a single room with a massage table, where the hotel equivalent of Muzak fills the air alongside the smell of scented candles and sundry oils. I write, instead, of a hotel with a visible commitment to health and wellness, from the drinks and snacks in each room, as well as the complimentary assortment of natural and organic food that a guest sees upon first entering his or her room, to the fitness trainers and teachers - the chefs and nutritionists - who offer daily classes about diet, cooking, menu options and meal preparation.)

This action is substantially less expensive than, say, renovating a property, condoning off a wing or a series of rooms, or closing for months or even a year, sometimes two years, to revamp a hotel's appearance and its infrastructure. For the greater cost is inaction, passivity amidst demand for a hotel that has an obvious dedication to health and wellness. By consulting with the right expert, by following the counsel of a writer and speaker fluent with these issues, a hotel executive can elevate a property's prestige and appeal to a more influential clientele.

I do not expect this change to happen suddenly or without some degree of difficulty, because the transition from a business to a brand is not without its share of hard work and discipline. Such is the case with health and wellness, since the dividends yield to those willing to withstand the challenges - even the setbacks - on the road to fruition. The same is true of any exercise, be it of the fiscal or physical type, because there is no gain without, if not pain, then considerable labor; there is no victory without toil, tears and sweat.I issue this assertion not to frighten or intimidate the reader, but to honor my duty to inform the recipient of this message; and thus, inspire all readers of this missive - to admonish them, perhaps; to advise them, certainly; to educate them, yes; to encourage them, always.

I know how a health and wellness expert can be an asset to the hospitality industry. I also know that this task is worth the professional price, because it can save lives. That statement is neither an exaggeration, nor an overly optimistic assessment of the chance before us, because we can accomplish this feat - and more - if we make the necessary changes that a hotel needs to stand apart from - and above - the competition.

There is no greater blessing than health and wellness. And, while it may appear to some as a nearly unattainable ideal, is it is in fact a very achievable idea. Its success depends on the expert a hotelier hires, and the passion by which that speaker and consultant empowers others. From staff to guests, from first-time visitors to longstanding patrons, from employees to executives - everyone has a stake in renewing their personal health, and reinvigorating their professional strength.

A hotel operator would be wise to uphold these principles not for purposes of ego or career satisfaction, but as a means to the ultimate end: Maintaining or improving the wellness of that extended family of clients and confederates, who want to lead lives of integrity and longevity. Together, we can fulfill these ambitions. We can enliven the hospitality industry, while equipping hotel executives with the tools they need to finish the job. We would be remiss if we did not accept this role. We would be negligent to the spirit of wellness, if we did not defend the letter of the moral law of good health.

Hoteliers owe it to themselves to enforce this code of conduct. Guests should hold hoteliers to this standard. By this measure, health and wellness can be a revolutionary force for good. They can be a way forward for hotels and hotel executives alike. They can be the solution we need, now more than ever.

Bob Caputo is a writer and speaker about health and wellness, among other things. The founder of Living Well, he is the producer of a series of informative – and inspiring – videos about everything from nutrition and creatively healthy cooking to fitness and specific exercise regimens. Mr. Caputo stresses the educational aspect of health and wellness, while imbuing his content – including his articles and TV interviews – with a sense of entertainment and fun. An expert on matters of self-improvement, and a model of encouragement to others, he popularizes healthy living for a global audience. His entrepreneurial spirit is at the center of his commitment to innovation involving the way we learn. Mr. Caputo can be contacted at bob@silverpalmproductions.com Please visit http://www.bobcaputolivingwell.com/ for more information. Extended Bio...

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