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Integrating Wellness into Your Hotel Operation

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Jill Dean Rigsbee

Wellness, like most ambitions, has multiple layers to it. The term has been used in many ways to describe a desire to enhance one’s body, mind, and soul. But it is still only the exceptional hospitality programs that encompass the complete desire for wellness. There are simple ways that your portfolio can provide your guests with the right level of wellness to match your overall experience.

Lina Batarags’ indictment of hospitality’s wellness programs as shallow acknowledgement of a lack of cleanliness (Insider, March 29, 2021) was harsher than necessary. She seemed to think that hotels were lagging the norm of cleanliness, but Covid challenged all of us to dramatically improve our hygiene and hotels were no different. Most hotel brands worked hard to improve their offerings, even in the face of labor and product shortages. New cleaning and disinfecting programs were introduced to make guests feel safer. Perhaps the difference was the significant amount of promotion the hotels used to support their efforts as they reopened made it feel like wellness was a new effort.

But rather than looking at wellness as an addition to a hotel’s offering, it would be more effective to integrate wellness into the core offering, blending wellness components into the traditional hotel amenities. To be successful, a hotel must address the two key elements of wellness—health and comfort. Health is the foundation of wellness, an assurance that you are in a clean, safe environment. Once guests are confident in the health of the environment, then they seek the comfort that will allow them to relax and enjoy that environment and the experience it provides, whether it is a luxurious spa or simply a comfortable bed.

Many Ways to Address Wellness

More than ever, travelers are looking to get away from the reality of day-to-day life, and hotels can continue to provide that well-needed break. From the basics of air quality and cleanliness to the special treats available in food and beverage to the pampering in spas and turndown services, all the elements of wellness can be addressed without dramatic changes. Technology and innovation create significant opportunity to meet the growing desire for wellness.

Even snack foods are focusing more on healthy ingredients and manufacturing processes are becoming more refined to support health needs. Preservatives are being removed while natural spices and ingredients are being added in more healthy ways. The variety of waters is constantly growing as companies find ways to increase the alkaline or mineral levels in the water. There is even an ice cream designed to help you sleep better. Who could have imagined that?

Jill Portman, the founder of Mighty Leaf Tea, recognized the value of focusing on wellness. Her new coffee and teas are created to fill the need by providing authentic wellness within a sensory experience. Functional mushrooms are the rage, but often do not taste good, nor have the proper extraction to provide authentic wellness. With her knowledge and experience, Portman has solved for both. “As we finally are rounding the corner here with Covid, there is much conversation on what food and beverage amenities will look like in the future. The focus on health and well-being, integrated into standard F&B options, is playing a significant role and we hope to be part of that solution.”

Food and beverage enhancements are easy because they play to the senses—taste, smell, touch. But wellness enhancements in facilities are harder because if they are effective, they are not sensory. On the other hand, failures in facilities are highly sensory. Noise that carries from one room to another and unusual smells in the air will disrupt the experience and put the guests’ sense of wellness at risk. These incidents may cause guests to complain, or worse leave with no intent to return, and maybe a negative review on social media that will require great effort to correct.

Little Things Can Mean a Lot

Antibacterial films for elevator buttons or cleaners for key cards are highly effective ways to enhance guests’ wellness yet they are so subtle that you need to develop marketing that lets guests know what you are doing to protect their health while they stay at your hotel. Solutions may look like the days when housekeeping left a mint on the pillow to let guests know they were there. It may be a small note on your keycard or in the room to let guests know what you are doing to show how important wellness is to you.

It is also important to include your employees in your wellness message, both as a beneficiary and a messenger. Be sure your staff knows what you are doing to enhance wellness and share some of those solutions with them. Provide a small goodie basket with healthy snacks and beverages or offer them an hour at the spa to relax after a long day at work. It will improve morale and enhance their support of the program as well as make the staff advocates with your guests.

A wellness program that is integrated into your daily operation will demonstrate the sincerity of your commitment to the health, safety, and comfort of your guests and employees, and will be recognized as a genuine effort.

Jill Dean Rigsbee is CEO & Founder of iDEAl Hospitality Partners Group.

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