Remember those electric belts that jiggle your abs into high definition while you watch television? How about the South Beach diet, the Atkins diet, the baby food diet? To say nothing of sauna suits and power bracelets?
History—particularly the last few decades—is littered with health and wellness trends that went the way of the dinosaur. They seem to come and go every year, like the push and pull of a coastal tide. Most of them fade into obscurity as new inventions, new discoveries and technologies, appear on the horizon.
And what does this have to do with hotels and hospitality?
A whole lot, actually. Hotels owners and managers excel by crafting services and amenities that draw business. Services and amenities that, in the best of cases, may even create brand loyalty. A guest will automatically look to you when booking a stay in this or that city, because she has been there before and enjoyed the experience. Location and budget were obviously considerations, but on top of that, you offered things that mattered to her, things she found useful.
The challenge, of course, is finding ‘things’ that a critical number of guests (and potential guests) will find useful. When hotels cater to health and wellness trends, they must invest resources to do so. This might mean changing the restaurant and/or room service menus, putting new equipment in the gym, or (perhaps twenty years from now) installing those new infrared weight-loss goggles in the bathtub.
But twenty years from now, there will no doubt be more trends that you should invest in. Things that people really will want. Investments that will pay dividends.
How about right now? Among the health and wellness trends of the last four or five years, are there any that would merit closer scrutiny—if not dedicated action—from hotels today? Hmmm…
There are a handful of dietary trends, for example, that are just as hotly contested as any other trend of the past. Paleo diets, gluten free foods, “superfoods,” dairy free foods, and organic foods fall into this category. There are many believers out there, sure—but just as many critics. Scientists and nutritionists are lined up on both sides. The University of Sydney, for example, conducted research on gluten free foods in supermarkets, and in many cases found them to be less healthy and nutritious than their gluten-friendly counterparts. And yet the gluten free business is booming in Australia, with some figures placing its value north of $135m nationally, and rising steadily.
In terms of your hotel’s food and drink, one thing’s for sure. More and more people appreciate options that at least portend to be at the leading edge of nutritional science. Raw juices and superfood smoothies, robust vegetarian options, grass-fed/organic meats and eggs, local organic produce. This is all stuff that sounds great—whether or not you personally believe in its merits. You may not feel it’s right for your hotel, or that it might actually offend your guests. A certain amount of deep thought may be required here especially if you are about to introduce something that is trending but that none of your customers may actually want.
What about the standing workstation trend? The US Washington Post interviewed four highly qualified doctors and scientists for its report on the health problems creating by working long hours at a seated desk. They list muscle degeneration, leg disorders, back problems, foggy brain, and organ damage among the long list of hazards. Standing laptop workstations have surged as a solution to this problem, but a Huffington Post journalistic report calls them “essentially useless” and makes reference to its own experts. Other office designers suggest they are good for those stuck in one area all day but not as important for those who can move around regularly anyway.
Once again—for hotels, it can be difficult to know where to invest. But here’s an important detail: For hotel owners and operators (even small hotels), it’s worth following the research on health and wellness trends to some extent. If more healthful living is gaining popularity in general (and let’s hope so), people are constantly investigating and trying different things for themselves, and a general shift toward health and wellness will continue to be marketable in many respects. If you as a hotelier understand not only what seems marketable in the moment, but the thinking and research behind it, you’ll be in a better position to make those changes to your services and amenities and explain it as an investment in your customers. At the very least, you won’t be following the herd so much as making a smart management decision. (One trend that you really should consider is that of providing more than just fitness and food initiatives. This recent article in HNN notes that Morgan Hotels have just introduced services to reduce guests’ daily stresses through both physical experiences and mindfulness exercises. They now provide things like adult colouring books and have partnered with Buddhify to provide meditations created especially for their guests. Other hotels provide yoga mats, walking sticks and many other services to help their guests de-stress.)
A closing question to consider: How much would it cost my hotel to: 1) Offer gluten free options on the menu, 2) Offer more superfood, raw, and/or vegetarian options, 3) fit rooms and/or common areas with standing desks, or 4) make other changes to my services and amenities that reflect current health and wellness trends? Would these changes be profitable, in line with my hotel’s vision and brand, and sustainable over the long term?
And perhaps most importantly: “Can I spot the next electric abdominal toner trend before my competitors??”
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