Hospitality’s Health + Wellness’s Great Escape From Niche, To The New Luxury
When I was six years old, my world ended with the abrupt start of first grade in school. I recall the traumatic experience and sharp departure of my pre-school lifestyle into the new dark world of a disciplinary regime. Gone was breakfast at leisure, endless hours of TV and the luxury of time.
As it turned out, after two totally dark days and a final refusal to go to school on day three, my parents grudging gave into my staunch demands to stay home for another year and I won a twelve-month reprieve. Regrettably, I ended up losing my childhood best friend Ronnie Mitchell as he stayed the course in school. That said, the one grade degree of separation was just too much for the friendship. Despite the fact that my academic career went from bad to worse, and ended up in a final red card many years later, the lesson learned was a lifestyle choice is the most important one after all. It’s defining, highly personal and aspirational. Enter luxury into the subject line.
As we swoosh many decades forward to the present days of the pandemic, what continues to be clear is that health and wellness is now trending everywhere we turn. But, it’s a with a big B, and the reality is the crisis is just a foot on the accelerator of a larger change that has been evident everywhere in our lives over the past few years.
For hotels and the swinging hospitality set, health and wellness have been relegated to a mystic compartmentalized back into the box modus operandi, at a time when travelers are trying to escape the box. Small isolated areas for gyms, fitness, spa treatment and wellness are disconnected from the broader brand ideologies that shout out local, artisanal, experiential and other blah blah blah. Wellness is like being from Tasmania. Hoteliers have come to worship at the feet of a false god of what they think is important or just copy the other guys, because they seem to know what they are doing. Guess again, hotel groups just don’t get wellness or health.
But, as we start to exit from Covid-19, the reality is that now they have to. My biggest issue with this process is not simply looking at what people want. Henry Ford once said “if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” As most of us know, Ford was an automobile pioneer. Move onto the Apple smartphone phenomenon. Got it?
What is exciting about health and wellness is it has a chance to create a new script for hospitality. Luxury is dominated by discretionary spending as anyone who wears an Apple watch and counts steps, can tell you. It’s an obsessive, engaging pursuit of lifestyle. Post-crisis, forget the champagne and Rimowa rush, I want to invest heavily in myself, my life and my health.
In terms of what’s changing, human values are being altered to a health and wellness lifestyle that doesn’t end when the travel begins. It’s about space, engagement, programing and investing in yourself not just into a pish posh bling ring. Today, health and wellness are indeed the new luxury and for hotels, this is a blessing and a curse. which will be defined entirely outside the spa and gym. It is indeed time to wake up and smell the future.
To sum it all up, when I’m asked about hospitality health and wellness in the future, my answer is that it’s about flesh and blood, not bricks and mortar.