Urban Hotel Spas: Keeping Pace With Consumers Demand For Wellness
By Claire Way Managing Director, Spa Strategy | June 30, 2019
Location and cost are not the only factors hotel guests consider when booking an urban hotel these days. For an increasing number of guests another crucial factor in helping them decide where to stay; wellness.
But what does this mean to the urban hotel and how are they keeping pace with the consumer demand for wellness?
While wellness as a concept has been offered in spas for many years, it is only recently that the term has taken mainstream status. With this increase in consumer demand, hotels ranging from luxury to budget have been fixated on understanding how to integrate wellness into overall operations, in a way that also makes sense for the owner.
The global wellness market is going uphill with no signs of slowing down. According to the Global Wellness Institute, the wellness industry is valued at $4.2 trillion. This grew by 12.85% (was $3.7 trillion) from 2015 to 2017. The market is projected to grow by 35.1% between 2017 and 2022 reaching a whopping $5.6 trillion in value. With a huge growth potential, the real question is how urban hotels join the profitable bandwagon of wellness integration while balancing the trade-off of space.
Wellness Facility Versus Space Premium
There is no denying that the traditional spa model is space hungry. At the luxury end you need to create spaces that feel, well luxurious. There are expectations such as generous lockers, relaxation areas, personal spaces and hydrothermal areas that have become the norm. This is fine if the returns justify the space allocation which means premium rates and high capture.
However, when you move out of the $190 massage the cost versus space allocation becomes a more challenging business case. Urban hotel spas need to consider how their programs, services and experiences optimises their facilities and how they can work outside of the 4-walls of the spa to create authentic wellness offerings.
For urban hotel spas the local factor is a significant consideration and needs careful planning to sit hand in hand with the hotel's priority of filling room nights. In city locations the local market often contributes a higher level of capture than the in-house guest. At times this can be supplemented by a membership program providing a steady revenue stream and justification for the build out costs.
However, a note of caution here. The fitness membership model has changed with pricing and offer fiercely competitive in many markets. Membership programs at urban hotels need to bring a different value proposition to the market. Urban hotel spas have traditionally had great success with short stay and full day programs of pamper services marketed as a treat. The urban hotel spas that are continuing to do well have understood the need to change their offer and marketing to appeal to the wellness minded time pressed urbanite.
Tierra Santa Healing House at Faena, Miami
At Tierra Santa Healing House the menu of services, concept and on trend messaging combine to create an offer that is creative and makes you want to try everything. The menu for an urban location is impressive yet always true to the heart of the philosophy. Touch therapies use hand blended oils and muds, ethically sourced and inspired by shamanic wisdom. Pranic healing is paired with shaman inspired therapies creating experiences such as tree of life vibrations; taking an oil massage to the next level with the inclusion of singing bowls for vibrational therapy.
Partnerships with a team of experienced doctors and health practitioners brings credibility to the preventative medical programs that they offer. These include enzyme programs for gut health, preventative medical programs and an intensive detoxification program. These are supplemented by a year-round calendar of events, including guided meditations, healing workshops, medical discussions, fashion pop-ups and Pranic Healing courses. These comprehensive health check-ups provide differentiation and broadens the spas capture by targeting the consumer who is interested in disease prevention treatments.
Six Senses & The XI, New York
The highly anticipated Six Senses at The XI New York is a new direction for the company and their brand of wellness. Exactly what is going to be offered hasn't been shared yet but news refers to "Creating places that are in harmony with the community and that bring a layered approach to wellness with treatments that are an intuitive mix of science and human awareness, where a high-tech and high-touch approach defines service that is crafted around the individual." "All offer access to a wellness lifestyle starting with healthy, clean and locally sourced food - Eat With Six Senses. This carries through to guidance on the best possible night's rest and bedroom set up thanks to Sleep With Six Senses. It finishes with a pioneering spa offering and revolving series of visiting wellness practitioners."
In a fast-paced location such as New York we expect the sleep program to be well received. While the program includes elements seen at other locations the option to work one on one with a specialist and to really drill down to what is causing your poor sleep will be very appealing. We are watching with interest to see how successful they are in integrating the resorts well-known brand of wellness into an urban destination, especially how effective they are at building a local following and strengthening the brands community of fans.
If a short stay at the hotel is not enough for you a Six Senses residence may be what you are looking for. Targeting the urbanite who wants city living paired with sustainability and a one stop shop to well-being. Six Senses see the opportunity to build on the growing interest in wellness real estate and tie the consumer closer to the Six Senses brand.
ESPA life at Corinthia, London
As an early adopter of introducing scientifically proven services under the category of wellness ESPA life, which operates in a competitive market, has shaped the urban hotel spa market in London. By partnering with external wellness products and companies they elevated the spa offering and the consumers perception of what an urban hotel spa could be. They formed strategic partnerships with fitness experts, naturopaths, acupuncturists, herbalists and osteopaths. Each expert has built an enviable reputation in London and bring their skill sets together to form lifestyle programs. These specialised treatments have contributed to ESPA life's position as an urban hotel spa of distinction.
Wellness Destination Resorts Moving Into Urban Locations
It's not the first time it's been tired but perhaps now the path to success is easier to achieve because more consumers are seeking it. I'm talking about world renown wellness destination resorts taking a carefully curated selection of their services and bringing them to an urban destination.
Canyon Ranch (USA) has successfully transferred their concept and service offering from their original Tucson resort location into several US cities and onto cruise ships. Champneys (UK) have built a collection of city spas which leave out the space hungry hydrothermal facilities and instead focus purely on one to one treatment time. While Lanserhof (Germany & Austria) have partnered with an exclusive member only club in London, The Art's Club, to offer a more medical, scientific and diagnostic approach to urban wellness.
Due to open this year they are creating what they bill as "The ultimate medical and gym facility in London, enabling direct access to some of the world's foremost medical experts and cutting-edge treatments. The medical facility will be led by Lanserhof's multi-award-winning team of Doctors and health professionals. As part of the program members will have access to high-end diagnostics and medical facilities as well as a world-class gym, studios for classes, consulting rooms, treatment rooms for sports and other injuries, a carefully-crafted menu of healthy food and highly sought-after cryotherapy treatment chambers."
The Endless List of Wellness Incorporation
With the skyrocketing potential of wellness, some hotel groups have adopted a long-term outlook on integrating wellness into the overall strategy. The acquisitions by Hyatt Hotels & Resorts of Miraval and Exhale and InterContinental Hotels Group of Six Senses shows a new level of commitment to wellness from these groups. More importantly it sent a strong message to consumers that they care about their needs and understand how to deliver wellness.
Aside from Hyatt and IHG, many of the groups have initiatives to integrate wellness into the overall guest experience. Westin's wellness-themed marketing campaign; Let's Rise highlights Westins' Six Pillars of Well-being": Sleep Well, Eat Well, Move Well, Feel Well, Work Well, and Play Well, all to be achieved through a series of wellness themed programs and partnerships. Features include a bike share program, healthier meal options and run concierges. Through a partnership with Peloton and New Balance, Peloton bikes are available in guestrooms and fitness studios.
Likewise, Wyndham took a twist on wellness by using nature to launch two new wellness focused guestrooms in 2018. Hilton on the other hand, leveraged wellness by moving beyond the gym to introduce its Five Feet to Fitness guestroom concept. which includes in room fitness equipment, meditation chairs, a variety of hydration beverages.
Accor Hotels has incorporated wellness into the guest rooms at Swissotel with their Vitality Rooms designed with Circadian lighting, high performance air purification and a Wellness Wall for personal fitness. Interestingly, fitness canters are crawling their way into the hospitality space. Equinox announced the opening of its first luxury hotel in June 2019. The entry of new players echoes the sentiments of the profitability of wellness
As urban hotels understand how to incorporate wellness into their mid, affordable and budget brands looking for ways to attract the local community will be important. Often located away from prime real estate locations, building community relationships and becoming a space for the community to feel comfortable adopting as their own can present multiple opportunities. Such as, incorporating we work style spaces and meeting spaces that combine technological function with the ability to convert to spaces for therapeutic benefit such as for mindfulness sessions. As well as including gyms that can be used by guests and the community with supporting class schedules.
While some of these inclusions can be considered "light" wellness the glaring opportunity, and where hotels must excel is with providing quality sleep. The Westin Heavenly Bed is arguably the first significant acknowledgment of how important the quality of the sleep environment is to hotel brands. When Delos launched its Stay Well Room concept in 2012 it fed directly in to the growing consumer demand for healthy travel.
Today more and more hotel groups are offering ways in which to improve the quality of the guests sleep. From sound resonance beds, sleep concierges, diagnostic analysis, apps, music and improvements to linen, air quality, and circadian lighting. The recognition that poor sleep has such a detrimental effect on our health presents an opportunity for urban hotels spas. Finding ways to work closer with the hotel to optimise the quality of the guests sleep offers many possibilities.
Disruptors to Urban Hotel Spas
According to Euromonitor's World Travel Trends Report, a significant number of people are paying more attention to health and fitness when they travel. The Global Wellness Institute points out two categories of wellness travellers; primary (travel purposely for wellness) and secondary (guests who desire to maintain their healthy routines while away). The secondary group accounted for 86% of wellness tourism expenditures in 2017 representing a bulk of that sector.
This market is also being pursued by the group that may be the biggest disruptors to urban spas, the individual provider. Whereas competition used to be from other hotels and local day spas today urban hotel spas must also take into account the individual provider. These individuals have smart marketing strategies and are garnering a strong local reputation. On top of this you have Airbnb experiences where guests travelling to the hotel can book a local experience possibly for less money than you charge and, in the belief that it is a more authentic experience.
Urban hotel spas need to continue to define what wellness means to them and the hotel brand. Spas that clearly understand how and where wellness fits into their offer, their brand and in the minds of their guests will have greater success. Consumers seek authenticity. Wellness washing by offering a few services under the heading of wellness but with no clear path to how those services come together in a comprehensive offer that enhances your brand will only provide short lived benefits.
Define your position and own it to achieve success.
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