Designing for the Healthy Traveler

By Keith Simmel Principal, Cooper Carry | July 17, 2016

Co-authored by Kathy Logan, Project Architect, Cooper Carry Hospitality Studio

Over the last decade, we have seen the nation take a greater interest in health and wellness. There has been a major paradigm shift calling for higher quality, organic products and transparency with ingredients. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) now requires restaurants, retail food establishments and vending machines to list the amount of calories associated with each item. Organic grocers like Whole Foods are leading the market with their superior offerings. It’s no surprise that this consumer trend has also manifested in the hospitality industry where hotel designers, owners and developers are seeing greater demand for health and wellness products than ever before. And it’s not just in the restaurants, but others areas of the hotel as well.

Hoteliers have come to realize that health goes beyond breaking a sweat. They see the benefits of investing in mind-body amenities that create better experiences for guests interested in health and wellness. For example, at the recently opened Courtyard and Residence Inn dual-branded hotel in Lake Nona, Orlando, Florida, Cooper Carry designed an entire “Stay Well” floor for guests who increasingly seek healthier choices as part of their travel experience.

On the Lake Nona hotel’s Stay Well floor, we incorporated such components as circadian lighting, air purifiers, energizing lights in the guest bath area and low VOC materials that serve to limit the emission of toxins and chemicals. The finishes - sheets and towels, mattresses, and other elements that guests come in direct contact with - were specifically selected for their environmental sensitivity and ability to contribute to the guest's healthy interaction with them. The Stay Well floor is hypoallergenic with stronger filters, providing a higher quality of air and water for guests. This feature is especially significant for those with allergies, asthma and similar health concerns. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in 12 people in the U.S. have asthma (about 25 million people). Even more startling, this rate is on the rise. From 2001 to 2011, the CDC says Americans with asthma grew by 28 percent. Hypoallergenic guest rooms and accommodations are increasingly important to this growing population.

From the exterior, Lake Nona’s Stay Well floor shines bright with a purple hue because of the special lighting. Guests can control the brightness of the lights, which is a great convenience for those with visual sensitivity. The special lighting also positively regulates body processes such as hormonal balance, appetite, sleep, productivity and energy levels. Innovative light therapy treatments have been shown to increase circulation of oxygenated blood, increase metabolism and promote detoxification. Additionally, the regenerative benefits are numerous for the immune system and nervous system. According to some lighting experts, using light to stimulate the endocrine system and regulate our body’s processes can help to promote sleep, correct hormonal imbalances, combat depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder. Additionally, tests show that the “blue” light we pick up from computer screens, TVs, handheld devices and the like are all affecting the circadian rhythm. This new, innovative lighting system on the Stay Well floor will serve to re-balance the effect certain light has on occupants.

Guests pay a premium to stay on the Stay Well floor, which offers rooms under both hotel brands. Guests can customize their stay by selecting options such as Vitamin C-infused showers that neutralize chlorine and enhance shower water with an essential nutrient and antioxidant that leaves guests with healthier skin, hair and nails. Since the hotel’s opening in late 2015, the hotel developer and owner, Tavistock, has been pleasantly surprised at the high request rate for the Stay Well rooms. The Stay Well floor has increased the bottom line, and health conscious guests are happy to have the option of wellness rooms.

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Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.