Whether it’s a full-out wellness resort or a property with unique spa offerings, hoteliers said running wellness operations at a boutique hotel comes with its own set of challenges and advantages.
REPORT FROM THE U.S—Custom wellness programs are a great way to draw in guests to a hotel, but sources said operating wellness amenities at a boutique property has its benefits and challenges.
At the Stanford Inn Mendocino Resort in Mendocino, California, the hotel has several wellness options including gardening classes, nature walks and a Chinese herbal dispensary. Sid Garza-Hillman, wellness programs director and certified nutritionist at the Stanford Inn, which is also the only vegan resort in North America, said marketing is a challenge for the resort.
“What we offer here and being as remote as we are, the challenge is, in the climate of today’s social media, the innovation of so much information and advertising, (as an independent hotel) getting the word out to the target customer, that’s our biggest challenge,” he said.
While the hotel has some challenges in its remote location, Garza-Hillman said it also has a set of advantages over big-branded hotels.
“The advantage, we have our level of personal service that is unmatched with chains,” he said. “People show up for our retreats or our enhancement packages …. I’m the (programs director) here, I’m the nutritionist here, and I’m with them physically throughout (their stay). We see them in the lobby, we see them for a cup of tea; it’s very personal, very relaxed and totally positive in terms of their experience.”
At Hotel Los Gatos in Silicon Valley, GM Brayton Gosling said it’s sometimes difficult to cater to millennials’ technology needs when Hotel Los Gatos tries to create a place for wellness with unobtrusive technology.
While this is a challenge, Gosling said staff is well trained to ensure they can properly help each guest.
”With our smaller property size, we are able to spend more time in our interactions with every individual guest and tailor their experience into something truly unique and fulfill what they are looking for …. whether that is an invigorating hike up into the Santa Cruz mountains to enjoy the redwoods or enjoying a spa day and relaxing by the pool with a chilled glass of chardonnay,” he said.
The Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, California, personalizes spa services such as aromatherapy massage and crystal and gemstone therapy by using ingredients found in its location at the Post Ranch Spa.
Monika Jalovec, spa director at the Post Ranch Inn, said the hotel’s spa products are made with “hand-harvested Big Sur flower essences.”
“Post Ranch signature spa treatments are inspired by Big Sur's stunning natural beauty, local history and community,” she said. “Offering treatments and products to help nature (and) nurture guests, the full menu of spa treatments and activities unites guests with elements of nature. The Post Ranch Spa offers signature treatments with Big Sur jade, to bring the best of local healing qualities. Jade is revered by many ancient cultures as a healing gemstone.”
Jalovec said the property’s remote location is both a challenge and an advantage.
“The distinctive terrain spread over 100 acres in a remote location can be operationally challenging,” she said. “However, this unique and remote location in the heart of nature offers the outdoor elements, hiking trails, magnificent views, fresh air, et cetera, between the yoga (and shaman) yurt, pools and the spa treatment area, as well as guest rooms.”
Custom wellness options
Like the Post Ranch Inn, the Stanford Inn also offers unique programs and experiences that are unique to the hotel’s location.
The property is remote, Garza-Hillman said, and being the only vegan resort in North America makes it kind of a niche type of hotel. Because it’s remote, the staff has crafted enhancement packages. The hotel offers six stay retreats throughout the year, but that can be difficult for some guests who have to travel a great distance.
“So what we did is, we created things called enhancement packages, which are essentially private retreats that you can (add) to your stay at any time,” he said.
If a guest books a three-night stay, any time they choose, they can choose among the cooking enhancement package, the yoga one, the nutrition one, the gardening one and the trail running one, he said. By putting an enhancement package on their stay, guests can create a private retreat that’s just for them, he said.
“All of the classes are included, meals are included, and then they just show up and have a …. three-night, four-day private retreat,” he said.
Jalovec said guest requests for “unique experiences such as shaman sessions, energy-balancing spa treatments and private activities that improve long-term, holistic health and happiness are continually increasing.”
Gosling said Hotel Los Gatos realizes physical wellness is important, but the hotel has been tailored to focus on mental wellness.
“Our weekend clientele usually joins us to relax and get away, so our restful, quiet hotel focuses on delivering that experience,” he said. “The property size, rich classical textures, and the minimal, unobtrusive technology in our guestrooms allow people to disconnect and detox from the hustle and bustle of their busy lives.”
The High Hampton Inn in Cashiers, North Carolina, offers wellness retreats in connection with the Hampton Health Club & Spa on-property, according to Faith Hartle, spa manager at the Hampton Health Club & Spa.
“The nice thing about offering wellness retreats here at High Hampton Inn and Hampton Health Club & Spa is the natural beauty that surrounds us,” she said. “We have waterfalls and lakes to explore and mountains to climb with views that are out of this world.”
New wellness ventures
The Verdanza Hotel in Puerto Rico has a few healthy options on the menu, but GM Ricky Newman said the food-and-beverage team at the hotel recently started rethinking nutritious items offered at the hotel’s four restaurants.
“As we had already decided to redo our menus, it was the perfect time to rethink how to include healthy alternatives for those guests looking to maintain a healthier regimen during their travels,” he said.
The staff had to figure out how to create healthy items, vegan items and other dishes without affecting the themes and style of the restaurants, he said, and the executive chef was tasked with designing menus with this in mind. The chef worked to develop menu items that will appeal not only to those guests seeking healthy options, he said, but that will catch the attention of all clients.