The Wellness Trend in Hospitality

By Lawrence Adams Principal, ForrestPerkins | May 14, 2017

Wellness in hospitality as a functional concept spans centuries. The history of the spa is testament to the long tradition of resorts and hotels that cater to health-seeking guests with facilities that promote physical and mental well-being. Following the Greco-Roman models of vast thermae, such as the Baths of Caracalla built in Rome in AD 212, Central Europe embraced the notion of balneology, the science of therapeutic bathing, in Kurorte, "cure towns," like Baden Baden, Germany, Carlsbad, Czech Republic, and Bath, England. Even before Caracalla was built, the Romans started developing Thermae Bath Spa in AD 43 around natural thermal springs in Britain, at a site that had Celtic origins for therapeutic bathing centuries before that.

The Grandhotel Pupp was built in 1701 in Carlsbad, Czech Republic, a Kurorte established in 1370 by Charles IV, King of Bohemia, and historically famous for the health-giving attributes of its mineral hot springs. Today, Carlsbad remains one of the most popular spa destinations in Central Europe. Currently the Pupp Royal Spa offers a variety of sophisticated treatments including Magnetotherapy, which includes the use of a high-frequency magnetic field to address various conditions, and Shock Wave Therapy, which involves the interaction of body tissue with high-intensity sound waves.

The first truly popular spa town in the United States was Saratoga Springs, New York. By 1815 Saratoga had two grand hotels, catering to visitors seeking the town's healthful mineral water and by 1821 had more than 500 hotel rooms. The Grand Union Hotel in Saratoga Springs became the largest hotel in the world in its heyday. By the mid-19th century the US had health resorts in 20 states, many with grand hotel accommodations such as The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, and The Arlington in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Spas, the oldest form of resorts, continue explosive growth and popularity along with the notion of wellness in hospitality. Today's spa resort industry is big business. The 2016 annual study by the International Spa Association highlights the "all-time high revenue of 16 billion USD and an unprecedented record number of spa visits at nearly 180 million." Luxury brands, including Four Seasons, Ritz-Carlton, Aman, Oberoi, and Mandarin Oriental, have successfully integrated spas into their resorts, winning awards along the way. Hilton, Sheraton, and other upscale hotel companies are incorporating their own in-house spa brands into their properties.

The highly acclaimed architectural firm Morphosis, led by Thom Mayne, has designed an extraordinary ultra-luxury, mirrored hotel in Vals, Switzerland, located near a thermal aquifer that dates back to the Bronze Age. The hotel will be adjacent to the Peter Zumthor-designed Therme Vals, a beautifully crafted, minimalist stone-clad spa building set in an idyllic valley in the Swiss Alps. And famed architect, Tadao Ando has designed a poetic landscaped park as part of the ensemble for the 7132 complex. This collection by three Pritzker Prize-winning architects represents a renewed importance given to the expression of wellness in architecture rarely seen since the Baths of Caracalla.

Fitness centers, with their origins in Greco-Roman Gymnasia, have also existed in hotels for decades and exist mainly for relieving stress and for mitigating the negative effects of travel where guests are removed from their daily exercise routines at home and want to maintain a level of fitness and mental acuity that derives from daily or routine exercise. Wellness in hospitality today transcends spas and fitness centers, and even goes beyond more contemporary expressions of wellness such as organic menus, juice bars, and yoga classes.

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Coming up in January 2019...

Mobile Technology: The Future is Now

Mobile Technology continues to advance at a relentless pace and the hotel industry continues to adapt. Hotel guests have shown a strong preference for mobile self-service - from checking-in/out at a hotel kiosk, to ordering room service, making dinner reservations, booking spa treatments, and managing laundry/dry cleaning services. And they also enjoy the convenience of paying for these services with smart phone mobile payments. In addition, some hotels have adopted a “concierge in your pocket” concept. Through a proprietary hotel app, guests can access useful information such as local entertainment venues, tourist attractions, event calendars, and medical facilities and services. In-room entertainment continues to be a key factor, as guests insist on the capacity to plug in their own mobile devices to customize their entertainment choices. Mobile technology also allows for greater marketing opportunities. For example, many hotels have adopted the use of “push notifications” - sending promotions, discounts and special event messages to guests based on their property location, purchase history, profiles, etc. Near field communication (NFC) technology is also being utilized to support applications such as opening room doors, earning loyalty points, renting a bike, accessing a rental car, and more. Finally, some hotels have adopted more futuristic technology. Robots are in use that have the ability to move between floors to deliver room service requests for all kinds of items - food, beverages, towels, toothbrushes, chargers and snacks. And infrared scanners are being used by housekeeping staff that can detect body heat within a room, alerting staff that the room is occupied and they should come back at a later time. The January Hotel Business Review will report on what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in this exciting mobile technology space.