You know wellness has come of age when one of the world’s largest hotel companies creates an entire new brand built around the concept.
InterContinental Hotels Group, which operates Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza and many others, has launched Even Hotels, with guest rooms that have space to exercise, plus large gyms, and healthier food options.
“We recognize that there are about 17 million customers in the U.S. alone who believe that lifestyle is very important,” said Christian Hempell, vice president, new brand development for IHG.
“What was a trend has become permanent in their lives. These are folks who integrate a healthy lifestyle in everything they do and that includes on their travels.”
A seminal change for hotels
The move, representing a $150 million investment by IHG, reflects a seminal change at hotels and resorts to accommodate the wellness needs and habits of guests, including meeting groups.
Many resorts already offer spas and other recreational activities. Now, the broader concept of “wellness” is forcing change in other ways.
In another example, The Homestead, a resort in Hot Springs, Va., dating back to 1766, will debut a new Spa and Wellness Center this summer “as a world-class holistic retreat.”
“We’re seeing a number of trends on this front as attendees become more health conscious,” said Rachael Thompson, director of regional accounts.
“Those trends extend beyond spa treatments like massages. We will have a spa garden that will be open year-round. It will feature a reflexology walk, where guests enjoy a reflexology treatment by walking on the stones, and an octagonal pool with the natural hot springs for which the resort is famous.”
The wellness concept extends elsewhere at The Homestead, including to meetings, according to Thompson.
“We have a new food and beverage concept that incorporates farm to table cuisine. Meetings will be incorporating all these changes.
“Corporate America is looking to have healthier employees to keep health care costs down and the focus on wellness and an active, healthy lifestyle contributes to that.”
For meeting planners, “the more information we have in advance the better a job we can do,” said Thompson.
“That could be anything from food and beverage requests to activities to time in the wellness center. With the center, attendees will be able to be more productive and focused during their afternoon off – or whatever free time they have.”
Customized for meetings
At Grande Lakes Orlando, home to a Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott, the number of fitness classes has grown from half dozen a week to more than 200 classes a week – everything from bar fitness to zumba.
“We also have a nature yoga walking tour of the property,” said Karen Englund. director of sales and marketing,
“And we can incorporate all this into meetings with mini-spa breaks, breathing sessions and the like. We leave it up to the planner. We will customize whatever extends the pleasure of the guest without detracting from the purpose of the meeting.”
Wellness & marketing
Even when they are not specifically delivering wellness solutions, hotel companies see the concept as an important part of their marketing.
In a recent announcement of a new Westin hotel on Jekyll Island, Ga., Westin said, “The Westin Jekyll Island will feature 200 rooms, ample meeting facilities and the full suite of Westin signature amenities and services designed to help guests leave feeling better than when they arrived.”
Growing demand from guests
Hotels once relegated their fitness facilities to the basement. But today they are spotlighting their wellness amenities in response to increased demand.
At the New York Palace, Brian Honan, director of marketing, recalled that when he worked at Le Meridien New York in the early 1980s the fitness center was a rare hotel feature that few guests used.
“Now they have grown into and expect it to be there and the next generation will expect it even more. I can’t imagine the look on a guest’s face if they were told there is no fitness center.
“Those who were working out used to be more male than female – and 25 to 45 years old. Now it’s pretty much everybody.
In fact, the Palace moved its fitness center from the building’s basement to a more accessible section of the hotel that overlooks St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
“Our concierge tells me that more and more guests ask for restaurants where they can get vegan or vegetarian meals, so the concierges have to be knowledgeable about those options,” Honan said. “At our own meetings, the gluten-free options, which is fairly recent, continues to grow in popularity.”