The rise of social wellness
The rise of social wellness
14 MAY 2019 7:19 AM

Is the modern wellness space usurping the traditional bar as the new go-to social hub? If you don’t think so, take a look at any of these leading examples.

With the much needed rise in the prioritization of self-care, and with less and less millennials drinking as a way to unwind and relax, we are seeing a positive and healthy shift in the design and functionality of wellness spaces.

Once reserved purely for rest and relaxation in total isolation, the modern wellness environment, especially in urban settings, is undergoing rapid transformation. Spas and boutique fitness studios are morphing into community-driven spaces that support both self-care and socialization in powerful ways. Of course, the bar and lounge will always be a prominent fixture, however these ancillary spaces, which are committed to prioritizing wellness, are becoming an increasing driver of traffic and attention that should not be ignored by any industry, hospitality and beyond.

Hydrothermal spas
Healing waters and hydrothermal facilities have long been used as social gathering spaces in Nordic and Asian countries—not just for groups of friends but for multi-generational families as well. Spas with these inclusions are designed to be enjoyed for hours instead of minutes, with most guests creating half-day or even full-day experiences to unwind, linger and connect with friends.

Pre-orchestrated circuits are designed to produce optimal health benefits and include ample time for relaxation alone or with friends. At the one-of-a-kind Bota Bota in Montreal, an abandoned ferry-boat was converted into a floating spa. Opening its doors in 2010, the vessel is anchored in the old port of Montreal on the St. Lawrence River and attracts the 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. crowd from the financial district as well as students from the nearby university.

Bota Bota includes several community-driven zones such as a garden pool, Finnish saunas, steam rooms, sundecks and a restaurant, allowing groups to gather and share social moments, while also incorporating treatment rooms and private relaxation nooks to encourage more quiet relaxation.

Boutique fitness studios
The boutique fitness movement has been a key segment and meaningful contributor to the booming business of wellness. The big-box gym, once the go-to (and possibly the only) space for the athletically inclined, has struggled to keep up with the rise of the smaller scale studios. The boutique movement has succeeded on so many levels, offering unique, targeted and much more personalized experiences while fostering a sense of community and connection rarely found in the traditional gym environment. Hotels are picking up on this trend, which has been more recently reserved for the urban environment. Hyatt’s acquisition of Exhale (and its recent inclusion of spa and fitness within its loyalty program) are major markers of social wellness merging within the hotel environment.

Wellness retreats
Yoga retreats have been around for ages, however a new crop of changemakers have been creating experiences at forward-thinking hotels and resorts, which are catering to those who seek healthy getaways and transformative experiences.

The size of the wellness tourism market has now reached $639 billion and is positioned for continued growth and expansion. Tapping into a host with a cult following is a sure-fire way to make this initiative a success. For example, NYC-based yoga guru Tara Stiles, founder of Strala Yoga, partnered with W Hotels and has hosted successful weekend retreats, including at the W Punta Mita. W Hotels continues to offer their “Fuel Weekends,” creatively attracting fitness-focused travelers who want to retreat while learning new skills, eating healthy and convening with like-minded wellness enthusiasts.

Wellness restaurants
The food-and-beverage industry has without a doubt been influenced and impacted by the rise of wellness and the wellness consumer’s increased appetite for all things healthy. The inclusion of a juice bar, tea lounge or any healthy F&B alternative is a great offering that encourages the health-conscious consumer to linger and commune. At Chill House in New York City, this modern day-spa is complete with a bar and café, offering creative concoctions such as the ‘clean me out latte’ complete with active ingredients such as beet root and spirulina.

Jennifer Findlay is the founder of Core Essence, a Design and Consulting Firm specializing in Spa & Wellness. Core Essence works within and beyond the traditional spa environment with an approach that examines design, development and ongoing operations concurrently. A member of the Global Wellness Institute’s preferred consultants and the International Society of Hospitality Consultants, Jennifer can be contacted at

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