One core thesis we have for the future of hotels is that wellness as a profit center will come to equal or exceed rooms revenue. So, what can your hotel do to start up a wellness vertical that continuously improves upon itself with a healthy rate of return?
We’ve closely examined the mountains of nutritional, pharmaceutical, psychological, exercise, sleep, meditation and longevity science to see what programs will work for any property or brand based on its category, location, available capital and business objectives, then compiled these principles into a list of the “five freebies of wellness.” By studying these techniques, hoteliers can see which ones will add value to their brand and best motivate guests to buy. And as you’ll see, all of this rests on technology – to increase KYC (‘know your customer’) and guide brand initiatives; to automate basic tasks so that your team actually has time to figure all this out; and to decide what wellness apps or devices to deploy.
The Five Freebies of Wellness
There’s lots of information out there about what to eat, supplements to take, exercises to do and so on. From our own exploration, we’ve identified five major groupings of activities that are zero-cost and are based on the interconnected parts of the body that these aim to bolster.
Muscles, Bones, Ligaments & Tendons: planks, pushups, sit-ups, pullups in the park, HIIT, sprint drills, stairs drills, plyometrics, isometrics, yoga, stretching and any other bodyweight exercises
Circulation, Heart, Lungs and Other Blood-Healing Organs: intensive heat exposure, cold showers, low-intensity cardio, long walks while maintaining proper posture, gardening, nasal breathwork, breath hold exercises and even laughter therapy
Digestive Tract: herbal tonics or juices and intermittent fasting whether it’s an 8:16, a 5:2, one meal a day, protein cycling or a proper multiday abstinence
Skin (considered the largest organ in your body by weight): suntanning (but not sunburning…there’s a difference), sweating, face yoga or stretching
Brain, Spirit & Other Endocrine Organs: meditation, CBT, mindfulness, breathwork, socializing in person, grounding (also known as earthing), forest bathing, being near water, periodic caffeine withdrawal and digital detoxing (especially from social media or the news)
But with numerous freebies at everyone’s disposal, why aren’t all of us doing them consistently?
Why Wellness Rests on Tech
The main reason why we aren’t engaging in these freebies on a daily basis is because we’re busy. The limiting factors in our lives are always time and attention, and thus we compromise.
But something changes when we travel. Our routines are interrupted; we’re more open to trying something new. Hence, the two of us propose that hotel guests will increasingly be looking for their chosen hotels to provide wellness amenities baked into the nightly rate and as add-on experiences.
And with so many different forms of wellness and health-promoting projects to choose from, technology is what will tell you where to apply capital and what can be deployed at scale without a proportional increase in demands on labor. Here are some ideas where tech will become instrumental in this process:
Unified guest profiles. The consolidation of siloed guest data is the lynchpin of all future services, amenities and programming that you create. These can be built within the PMS or CRS, or fed into a CRM or BI platform using a CDP and direct interfaces. Only once you have this connected can you start asking questions and getting prescriptive answers. As a basic example, by building a good bridge between the restaurant POS and PMS, you will not only know what percentage of hotel guests dined at your restaurant but also who opted for the healthier menu options. If you notice an update in the latter, it can help guide menu expansions and packaging creation.
Upselling platforms. While the core driver for bookings will likely remain for most hotels as the location, nightly rate, room availability, distribution and value-added promotions, many guests will nevertheless be primed to purchase additional services from their chosen hotels in the weeks and days before arrival. How will your incoming guests know what’s available at the exact time when they are ready to buy? Cross-selling tools like well-configured prearrival emails and guest communication platforms that can push notices to SMS or texting apps can ensure that customers receive your upselling messaging through the medium they prefer. Moreover, testing within these systems will allow you to refine your approach by giving you more data on the conversion funnel. What lead time from the arrival date generates the most clicks on our prearrival cross-selling email? What channel, whether email or WhatsApp, generates the most conversions for additional service purchases?
Staffing and dynamic availability. Whether it’s yoga, guided meditation or one-on-one consultations, a critical step is the automation of any practitioner’s hours with the portal that guests book through. Most hotels simply don’t have the bandwidth to manually herd all these third parties then, through double entry, offer this time-based inventory to guests through an online booking engine (that hopefully can also seamlessly charge to the reservation folio) so that they can complete a purchase without having to get a spa receptionist on the phone. Next comes ‘dynamic availability’ which is also critical whereby you use intelligent tools to recommend what days of the week and times of day you should offer specific treatments or classes. The idea here is profit maximization for spa services (you don’t want a loss leader manicure eating up a primetime Saturday afternoon timeslot when you could sell that for a couples massage) as well as making informed decisions about when your guests would be most receptive to buying said service (scheduling a yoga class for 10am on Saturday is very different than 10am on Wednesday).
Profiting from the five freebies. Guests want inspiration and this alone means you can set services and amenities that can either be sold or baked into the nightly price in order to drive ADR growth. For muscles, think bespoke in-room exercise programming that connects to custom classes through an interactive TV. For circulation, you could build a new wellness center with an infrared sauna and ice plunge tank, but something simpler would be a breathwork module built into your hotel app that can interact with an in-room IoT device to keep guests on track. For the mind, guided meditation apps abound while sensory deprivation tanks and sound therapy chambers are both reaching the mainstream. There’s so much you can do in each area!
It's All About Data Plumbing
While there are a world of possibilities for paid-for wellness programming based solely on the five freebies – in the restaurant, in the guestroom, in the spa, advanced medical machinery or on demand throughout the property – it all comes back to the ‘data plumbing’.
For instance, it’s a lot of work to set up something as simple as a yoga class. You need to find an instructor, secure their timeslots on an ongoing basis, block off a classroom space, itemize the required equipment and complete any necessary renovations. But all that will be meaningless if the classes aren’t visible to incoming guests, aren’t easily bookable or don’t align with your primary guest profiles. The systems and the plumbing between them are what will make your wellness programs sing.
Hence, the first step is to build these data connections. Once you know your guests (KYC), you can personalize the marketing delivery then test and tweak your way to profitability.
Adam and Larry Mogelonsky, partners of Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited