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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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.