GLOBAL REPORT—Hoteliers are bringing healthy options right to guests’ doors by providing in-room health and wellness amenities.
According to the Global Business Travel Association’s “2013 European business traveler well-being study,” 65% of the 675 people surveyed said maintaining a healthy diet while traveling was important. Likewise, 46% said sticking with their exercise routines when traveling for business was a priority.
On average, wellness-minded travelers spend 130% more than the average global tourist, while domestic wellness tourists spend nearly 150% more than the average domestic traveler, according to “The global wellness tourism economy” report. Wellness tourism is expected to grow by 9.9% annually over the next five years, reaching $678.5 billion by 2017, or 16% of total tourism revenues.
“In this growing movement for health and wellness in hospitality, we thought it was important to address the rooms themselves,” said Paul Scialla, founder of Delos Living—a wellness design company that partnered with MGM Resorts International to convert an entire floor of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas to “Stay Well” rooms.
“We see a lot of hotels doing things like adding bike racks and healthier menus,” he said. “But we felt it was important to … look at the (in-room) architectural and design elements and see what we can do to enhance the guest’s stay with regard to health-minded features.”
MGM Grand first launched the Stay Well rooms last October, with 42 rooms on its 14th floor. In September MGM and Delos announced they would quadruple the count to 171 rooms, encompassing the entire floor.
Scialla said each room comprises 16 to 20 features, including but not limited to vitamin C shower infusion, air purification systems, water filtration systems, light therapy, photo-catalytic coating, blackout shades, access to Cleveland Clinic wellness software and healthy in-room menu and minibar options.
The Stay Well rooms have generated positive customer feedback and caused a bump in rates and average occupancies in the 90% to 100% range, he said. The rooms are at a 25% premium to standard room rates, with an upgrade fee of $30 per night.
“We didn’t want there to be a huge disparity between the two price points (from standard to premium),” said Travis Lunn, VP of hotel operations at MGM Grand. “We felt there is certainly a (return on investment) that is justified there, but we also wanted it to be something attainable—and be something that wouldn’t be a deterrent based on a price point.”
The concept skews toward slightly younger demographics, he said.
“They tend to be in that 20- to 40(-year-old) range. We found that a lot of our convention guests look for that experience as well because they’re seasoned travelers; they’re on the road quite a bit. The great news is that they’re willing to pay the premium for that experience.”
Adding value and differentiating brands
Tryp by Wyndham takes a similar approach to in-room health and wellness, but the amenities are offered as added features to standard guestrooms, said Bill Hall, the brand’s senior VP. The rooms, which generally have a 20% to 30% premium over standard rooms, are displayed as options when guests are researching and booking online, and they also are presented as an upgrade option at check-in.
Each of the rooms is equipped with one exercise machine—either a stationary bike, treadmill or elliptical—but the actual machine varies by property, Hall said. The rooms also include complimentary clothing for exercising.
“The availability of such a room has the potential to bring in a guest who may not otherwise plan to book with us or know much about us,” Hall added. “These rooms appeal to those guests who are looking to work out and maintain their fitness routines on the road, whether they be Gen X, Gen Y, baby boomers or otherwise.”
Because no two of the branded hotels are alike, the size, location and layout of the guest-fitness rooms vary by property, Hall said.
The in-room fitness options are not available at every Tryp hotel, but Hall said owners are encouraged to incorporate the amenities if it makes good business sense.
“Not only are they a differentiating element for our brand, but (guest) fitness rooms give guests the option of working out in a private, convenient setting,” he said. “It’s all about providing a solution to a guest need and doing what’s best for the guest.”
Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants Group LLC is committed to incorporating wellness into its brand as well. In April, officials rolled out nationwide in-room yoga mats that come standard in every guestroom’s closet, said Barry Pollard, senior VP of hotel operations. Guests also can take their wellness desires to the next level by requesting Kimpton’s complimentary “Roll Out” service, which provides flavored water and fresh fruit in rooms.
“For all of our fitness programs at Kimpton, we like to implement a gradual phase-in approach to see what works for certain hotels and what programs and amenities will work at all of our hotels nationwide,” Pollard said. “For instance, we will individually pilot fitness programs at select hotels and ask our guests for feedback before implementing these initiatives across the brand.”
Pollard said a positive guest response is exactly the kind of ROI Kimpton aims for when it comes to wellness initiatives.
“Because so many of our programs are offered complimentary, we measure success by our guests’ feedback, which have been tremendously positive,” he said.
Creating a brand
InterContinental Hotels Group has gone one step further and created its own brand focused on health and wellness. The Even Hotels brand was developed in response to results from customer research that found both business and leisure guests were frustrated with hotels that did not meet their lifestyle and wellness needs, according to Adam Glickman, head of Even Hotels.
“Our research shows that there are 17 million wellness-minded travelers out there who tell us they find it hard to stay active and eat right, and that they ‘fall off the wagon’ when traveling,” he said. “They’ve grown weary of staying with hotel brands that do not meet their lifestyle and wellness needs. Even Hotels was designed to provide a solution to these guests by enabling wellness in travel.”
He said wellness-minded travelers represent 16% of the total population but 40% of all travelers, typically between 25 to 54 years old, stay at mainstream hotels, travel frequently for work and maintain a balanced approach to healthy living.
“They also skew toward living in major markets—urban and suburban—with an over-index in the Northeast and West Coast,” he added.
That’s why the development focus for Even has been to launch the brand in urban and suburban feeder markets, where Glickman said wellness-minded guests live and travel. The company signed two new-build hotels in New York’s midtown Manhattan. The brand’s flagship 150-room hotel, located on East 44th Street, is scheduled to open in late 2014, while the second 230-room property on West 35th Street will open mid-year 2015.
IHG also announced in August plans to open two Even-branded hotels by early 2014 in Rockville, Maryland, and Norwalk, Connecticut—both conversion projects and located near major markets Washington, D.C. and New York, respectively.
“We have engaged existing IHG owners and owners of other brands throughout the process to tap into their collective wealth of knowledge and experience,” Glickman said.
He said Even properties will feature elements from four key pillars:
Eat well. Menus are focused on fresh, organic ingredients; food is clearly labeled; and free flavored filtered water is always available.
Rest easy. Guestrooms feature natural eucalyptus fiber, high thread count linens; natural bath products; antibacterial wipes; and color LED mood lighting.
Keep active. Exercise equipment such as yoga mats are provided in guestrooms.
Accomplish more. Flexible space is provided for guests to work.
“Instead of an add-on or kit guests can borrow, we’ve designed an in-room experience focused on fitness that includes certain elements focused on strength exercise, cardio, yoga or stretching, as well as elements that truly allow our guests to revitalize and relax in their guestroom,” Glickman said, adding that the in-room wellness elements will be standard in every room.
“While others may look at fitness rooms as a niche, we recognize that wellness is a key priority for our guests and we’ve designed the brand around that,” he added. “It’s not an afterthought; it’s the core of the Even Hotels brand.”