Home News & Features Enhancing Well-Being for Hotel Guests: Academic Insights for Hoteliers

Enhancing Well-Being for Hotel Guests: Academic Insights for Hoteliers

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NATIONAL REPORT—In recent years, the topic of well-being has become increasingly ubiquitous. A report by McKinsey (2024) finds, surprisingly, that millennials and Gen Z are spending more on health and wellness than older consumers. According to the Global Wellness Institute (2023), the wellness economy reached $5.6 trillion in 2023 and is forecast to soar to $8.5 trillion by 2027.

Experiences and the pursuit of well-being go hand in hand. The hospitality industry is particularly well positioned as a creator of tourist experiences that contribute to people’s well-being and happiness, to capture this demand. Why do people travel? To take a break from their fast-paced routines, to enhance their well-being, to discover new places. (Park et al., 2021; Zheng et al., 2022). Every hospitality actor can assist guests in achieving this and in turn, guests who have enhanced their well-being during their hotel stay are likely to: have a more positive attitude towards the hotel brand; be more satisfied with their stay; and recommend it or make a return visit (Alegre & Cladera, 2006; Chi et al., 2020; Kim et al., 2015; Neal et al., 2007; Vada et al., 2019b).

Therefore, improving guest well-being is beneficial for both the guest and the hotel brand, which is why many hospitality companies have been working on new well-being strategies or improving their current offer. Research on well-being shows that it is a multidimensional construct with both an affective and a cognitive component (Deci & Ryan, 2008; Diener, 2012; Ryff & Singer, 2008). As such, well-being arises from subjective interpretations of experiences in terms of pleasure and self-development (Filep & Laing, 2019; Kim et al., 2015; Knobloch et al., 2017; Pine & Gilmore, 1998).

Below are ten suggestions of how your hospitality brand can enhance your guests’ well-being, focusing on both affective and cognitive components.

Helping Your Guests Feel Good

To start, hospitality and tourism research has identified affective well-being as an imperative experiential outcome (Ahn et al., 2019; Kim et al., 2015; Su et al., 2022; Vada et al., 2019a; Vada et al., 2019b). The following five experiences could increase your guests’ positive emotions:

1. Escapist experiences—An escapist experience can be defined as the extent to which an individual is absorbed in the activity (Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). Escapist experiences are highly immersive and require active participation. Escapist experiences enable people to take leave of everyday life and enter a different place and time (Ali et al., 2016). Hospitality operators could propose activities such as theme park visits, adventure land visits, simulations, rafting, participation in film festivals and parties, gambling at casinos, and other recreational activities (Hosany & Witham, 2010).

2. Slow tourism—Slow tourism celebrates simple, local, and traditional dimensions of the experiences gained through immersion in the destination and local way of life (Dickinson & Lumsdon, 2010). Experiences in remote, rural, or natural spaces help guests slow down and focus on extending time to fully savor the experience (Heitmann et al.,2011). Examples include visits to nature reserves and national parks or even forest bathing.

3. Entertaining experiences—Entertainment is one of the oldest forms of experience and usually entails the passive involvement of the spectator (e.g., Ahn et al., 2019; Hwang & Lee, 2019; Pine & Gilmore, 1998). Examples include variety shows, comedy shows and other performances, live music bands, Easter egg hunts, and casino-style gaming.

4. Beauty experiences—People tend to go to a spa to receive body and beauty treatments. The multi-sensory nature of the spa experience contributes to guests’ enjoyment. Specifically, hotels could offer face and body treatments, relaxing meditative music in the spa, warm room temperatures that make people feel they’re enveloped in a cocoon, and enjoyable massages (e.g., Voigt et al., 2011).

5. High-quality aesthetics and sensory experience—Aesthetics is an umbrella term that refers to guests’ interpretation of the physical environment, which encompasses the ambiance, layout, and functionality of the space (Bitner, 1992). Examples include a beautiful arrangement of historical relics or pieces of art, an attractive servicescape or ambiance in a resort hotel, or breathtaking scenery (e.g., Ali et al., 2016; Hosany & Witham, 2010).

Helping Your Guests Grow

Research has shown that when the cognitive component of a guest’s well-being is enhanced it creates a feeling of attachment (Vada et al., 2019b) and increases the likelihood that the guest will return in the future (Cho et al., 2021; White & Yu, 2019). Therefore, hoteliers could think of elaborating offers around the following activities and experiences:

1. Educational experiences and learning new skills—Those reflect the natural human desire to learn new things. Educational experiences help people acquire new skills or knowledge usually through challenges or learning opportunities, thus helping guests gain a sense of achievement and self-development (Hwang & Lee, 2019: Pine & Gilmore, 1998; Knobloch et al., 2017). Hoteliers could offer local food experiences, visits to historical/nature sites, or museum tours where guests can acquire new knowledge in history, culture, and geography.

2. Spiritual tourist experiences—These include self-awareness at the spiritual and psychological levels and include meditation, contemplation of one’s life, experiencing peace and calmness, a sense of renewal, and religious or spiritual insight. Practicing therapies and techniques such as meditation, yoga, reiki, and tai chi, or studying a specific religious/spiritual orientation or philosophy such as Buddhism are examples. Another possibility is to provide learning materials about healthy living such as nutrition, exercise, sleep, and stress management (Parsons et al., 2019; Voigt et al., 2011).

3. Mindful nature-based tourism—This type of tourism involves spending time in nature and is considered not only leisure but therapy, as well (Li, 2018). Hiking, a form of nature-based tourism, is an activity that allows one to experience environmental and cultural resources in a natural setting. Tourists seek rejuvenation through the restoration of their physical and mental states by walking on hiking trails (Farkic et al., 2020; Kim et al., 2015). Therefore, hoteliers could propose hiking, walking in nature parks, sailing, and yoga in nature.

4. Adventure sports—Adventure sports form an integral part of sports tourism, and normally involve some form of competitive event (Chalip & Costa, 2005; Getz & McConnell, 2011). These include endurance races across a range of challenging disciplines mixing adventure and fitness (e.g. kayaking or rafting, cycling, skiing, trail running, orienteering, rock climbing, surfing, etc.) that can be completed by individuals or teams (Lynch & Dibben, 2016).

5. Social connections and shared tourist experiences—Connections and experiences are shown to enhance couples’ togetherness and flexibility (Shahvali et al., 2021). Sharing a vacation can be a powerful vehicle for experiencing love and creating a romantic atmosphere (de Bloom et al., 2017; Matteucci et al., 2019). Therefore, the social connection dimension is highly relevant for increasing guests’ well-being. Effective activities can be as simple as sharing a table during a meal, participating in group activities, visiting residents, cultural exchanges, cooking classes, or volunteering initiatives.

It is important to find ways to increase both the affective and the cognitive components of well-being. Indeed, the affective component (i.e., appealing to a guest’s feelings) has higher intensity and an immediate effect; whereas the cognitive aspect (i.e., helping the guest grow and learn) has a lower intensity and a delayed, but powerful, effect on well-being (Su et al., 2020). Therefore, by developing offers that target both the affective and the cognitive components of well-being, hoteliers can improve their guests’ subjective well-being who will have a more positive opinion of the hotel brand. In turn, they will be more likely to recommend it and become a repeat guest.

Hopefully, non-luxury hotels are reassured by the proposed suggestions in this article as well-being is not just about having luxury spa centers and providing exotic massages. Indeed, it may be easier for luxury establishments to provide a more extensive well-being offer to their guests, but non-luxury hotels have opportunities to propose experiences promoting well-being as it seems that for some guests this could be as simple as forming social connections or spending some time in nature.

Dr. Valentina Clergue is Assistant Professor at EHL Hospitality Business School. This article originally appeared on EHL Insights.

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