Hoteliers can add extras such as breathing exercises and guided meditation to their spa and wellness offerings to help guests achieve a transformational travel experience.
The mind and spirit components of contemporary wellness have recently been getting more attention and offering us many activities that are not strictly devoted to “physical” fitness.
I reference contemporary wellness as many of the techniques and disciplines have been around for a very long time but have not been easy to package or market in 60- or 90-minute classes or circuits. At the Global Wellness Summit last fall, I spoke with John Stewart, founder of Kamalaya, one of Asia’s best-regarded destination spa resorts. He noted “It’s amazing to watch what happens when someone just slows down.”
At an integrative wellness practice that I frequent, the founder, who is a psychiatrist, discusses unexpected topics. Rather than counseling on the pros and cons of anti-depressants, in one session he was coaching us on breathing exercises that we should implement five minutes in the morning and five minutes at night. He explained that the ancient words of salutation, such as amen, shalom, etc. end in the letters “m” or “n” which cause a soothing vibration in the head in the way that chanting does. He further recommended that I see a hypnotherapist in the group to help reinforce focus on certain goals. Other practitioners in the group offer massage, acupuncture, and other modes of therapy. In addition to the effectiveness of the various modalities (whether alone or combined), participants feel more like they have a team of trainers; they don’t feel as though they have a problem and need to be counseled.
Personally, two sessions with the hypnotherapist turned out to be surprisingly powerful in visualizing my “desired state” and in generating enthusiasm for moving in that direction.
What got me interested in the balance among mind, body and spirit in my personal wellness toolbox was a very body-based concern: I reached my 60th birthday this year. The annual check- up was a wake-up call. Like the newer cars that sound an alarm when the driver is drifting out of their lane, I was not only out of my lane, but was heading for the woods.
One Sunday afternoon a few months before the big birthday, I was returning from visiting my parents at their assisted living facility and thought, “What would I do differently if I thought I was going to live to be 90 as they have?” and the next thought was “Why am I not living that way anyway?”
I decided that a big event was in order to mark my commitment to renewed health and vitality as I eventually, and reluctantly signed the AARP card. I had read and written about transformational travel, which generally entails facing obstacles not encountered in our day to day lives and overcoming them. It seemed to be exactly what I needed to get out of old routines and begin new ones. I decided to go for a 60-day adventure of my own design. I will be visiting about 10 countries with activities ranging from a six-day hiking trip in Australia to a relaxing cruise through the fiords of southern New Zealand.
My goals are to make the time to implement some routines of healthier living, to spend time with myself and with some of the world’s marvels, be they great cities like Istanbul, or the grandeur of nature on a train ride through the Austrian Alps, taking in Salzburg and Innsbruck. Of course, I plan to enjoy the typical benefits of travel, such as observing and engaging in other cultures, broadening my perspectives and knowledge, and enjoying the sights, sounds and flavors of exotic places and foods.
One client asked me why I was going on a two-month vacation, and I was mildly offended to have my carefully crafted, purposefully motivated adventure downgraded to a vacation. I have been referring to the experience as a mini-sabbatical, because I will be away from my daily duties, but hopefully will gain better understanding of topics central to my business practice: the benefits of breaking one’s routine, adding “mind” and “spirit” components to a wellness regimen and to see if transformational travel really is transformational.
For destination spas, offerings in the mind and spirit realm are not new. What is interesting, however, is that multi-modal integrative health practices, like the one I’ve been exposed to this year, are introducing people to an array of supportive services that can stimulate demand for travel, whether as part of an organized retreat or an individual journey like the one I began this week. Adding such activities as breathing exercises and guided meditation to round out a resort hotel’s wellness programming can serve as a differentiator from the typical hotel spa menu.
Andrew Cohan, MAI, is the Managing Director of the Horwath HTL office in Miami primarily serving Florida and the Caribbean Basin. A seasoned hospitality professional with extensive real estate, marketing and account management skills in North and Latin America, Andrew has consulted for leading branded management companies such as Canyon Ranch, Six Senses, Montage, Solage and Bulgari. He has extensive experience with health and wellness resort properties and has performed numerous feasibility studies for planned resorts in the Caribbean and Central America. He especially enjoys working on greenfield projects, teaming with land planners to determine the optimal resort configuration in order to fit market demand with destination and site attributes. As health and wellness have moved from the margins of the industry to become important components of mainstream hospitality projects, Andrew’s expertise has been in demand to conduct an increasing number of assignments for proposed resort properties, particularly in Central America, the Caribbean, Mexico and the “sunbelt states” of the United States. Acohan@horwathhtl.com; 305-606-2898
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