Wellness trend spills into group meetings
29 OCTOBER 2014 6:19 AM
The demand for wellness and environmentally-sustainable offerings has moved into the group meeting space, and hotel companies are busy designing offerings to meet that demand.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—It took four decades for hotel operators to figure out that the bed was an important aspect to a hotel room, MGM Resorts International’s Mike Dominguez likes to joke. It’s taken nearly as long for operators to come to the same realization about meeting spaces, he said.
MGM came to that realization recently, as company executives saw increasing demands for health and wellness offerings at hotels. In August, MGM unveiled 18,000 square feet of meeting space designated for “wellness meetings” at its MGM Grand property in Las Vegas, which boasts a total of 300,000 square feet of space.
“There was already a big push for health and wellness, and this was an opportunity for us to create something that doesn’t exist anywhere else in a hotel environment,” Dominguez, senior VP of corporate hotel sales, told HNN prior to the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the meeting space at the MGM Grand.
Included in the wellness offerings at the property are:
- air-purification systems;
- self-cleaning photo-catalytic coating applied to high-touch areas that triggers oxidation and cleaner surfaces;
- acoustic elements that reduce ambient noise;
- access to online Cleveland Clinic Wellness programs for sleep, stress and nutrition; and
- healthy menu options approved by Cleveland Clinic nutritionists.
More hoteliers are coming to the same realization as MGM and have been adding wellness concepts to their meetings offering. Matthew Marcial, senior director of events for Meeting Professionals International, said he had no hard data on just how many wellness-themed meetings are taking place in the industry but had noticed the trend pick up steam just during the past year.
Signs of the demand for wellness-themed meetings are popping up across the hotel landscape. Green Key Global, for example, last summer updated its certification program for hotel and non-hotel facilities that host environmentally-sustainable meetings. Hotel companies have picked up on the wellness trend, too. The Vinoy Renaissance Resort & Golf Club in St. Petersburg, Florida, offers meeting attendees a variety of elements designed with health and wellness in mind. These include soothing lighting and musical options for attendees as well as yoga and spinning sessions.
Tim Reuther, director of event management at the 361-room hotel that features a total of 60,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor function space, said he has noticed a significant increase in demand for wellness solutions from the hotel’s business clients. He said meetings aren’t just being held from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. anymore, and planners are building in more flex time so attendees can take advantage of such offerings.
“We’ll tailor; we’ll change; we’ll customize” to fit what the meeting planners need, he said.
Marcial said breakout sessions featuring yoga and other wellness-related topics are popular.
“It used to be it was an early morning session,” he said. “Now, it’s working its way into the daily programming.”
About 10% of the Vinoy’s group business utilizes the wellness meeting amenities, Reuther said. MGM’s Dominguez said making wellness services available to meeting attendees isn’t necessarily about adding a big boost to the hotel’s bottom line.
“Will I ever make a lot of money with it? I’m not sure,” he said. “But that wasn’t important to us. It will pay for itself in the very short term.”
The cost to add the functionality wasn’t prohibitive, Dominguez said. “The cost was in the thousands, not the multi of thousands,” he said. “That was the important aspect to it.”
Wellness themes in meetings help boost mental acuity of attendees, which is a primary selling point, Dominguez said.
“If people feel they are more productive, they will continue to have meetings here,” he said. “This is our beta test to say, ‘Let’s see what we can do with it.’”
Marcial said the wellness meetings concept isn’t a flash in the pan. “Wellness is an ongoing trend,” he said.
Editor’s note: MGM Resorts International paid for travel and hotel accommodations at the MGM Grand. The company had no say over editorial content.