If you’re wondering whether the term “wellness” is just a fancy way to say “staying in shape,” you’d be right on one level. But you’d also be missing many other levels embedded in that idea. Wellness is about more than exercising and living a healthier lifestyle, it’s about a completely changed attitude toward the way most people live their daily lives – especially when they travel.
Ok. So people want to be healthier. That’s not a surprise – take a look at the fad diets and weight-loss shows that dominate popular culture. What does that have to do with your hotel? The truth is, wellness is essentially what drives the heart of hospitality, and it’s already inherent in your job as a hotelier.
“Wellness encompasses everything – your dining, leisure activities, sleeping habits, and even finding joyful things in your day,” says Kristi Bonsack, director of wellness at Longboat Key Club & Resort.
“The medical field is about helping to cure disease, where as wellness is about preventing it, and there’s a distinction. Being well is not about limiting life, but enhancing it.”
And that’s where travel hosts like hotels and resorts are key cogs in the wellness wheel. Much of the health-conscious dialogue is about limitation, depriving ourselves of what we enjoy. So the goal for a position like Bonsack’s, and the programs she and others are putting together, is twofold: first, to point out that wellness as “a balance of mind, body and spirit for enriched quality of life,” she says – not just living longer but having a better quality of life; and second, to let people know that it’s easy to be well in all walks of life. The times their minds are off the stresses of every day life is the perfect opportunity to show them how to do that.
“We’re seeing overall trends of people becoming more health conscious; they live a very fitness-oriented lifestyle and look to find that when they travel for business or vacation,” says Sandra Rios, director of communications at Longboat Key Club. “And then you have a strong family base of travelers that wants to do things together, and today families tend to be a lot more active than just sitting on the beach.”
Paul Leclerc, managing director for the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel, agrees.
“There’s a heightened awareness to raise a healthier generation of kids, and we see travelers looking at making healthier vacation choices,” he says. “For all intents and purposes, we are the birthplace of the health and fitness movement, being on the site of the original Muscle Beach. By virtue of our location with access to the beach, the mountains, the ocean, bike trails and a world-class fitness center, we’ve embraced the wellness concept.”
Specifically, Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel set up its “Fit for Fun” wellness program earlier this year, which includes yoga, “Rings & Swings” playtime, and adventure bike rides along the original Muscle Beach’s star-studded bike path; culinary tours of the famed Santa Monica Farmers’ Market with Chef Keith Roberts; guided hikes through the Santa Monica Mountains; “Run from the Paparazzi” jogging tours; surfing and stand up paddle lessons; and indoor fitness classes, including Hula Hoop Fitness, Spinning, Pilates and Zumba. On top of that, the hotel has an active class program at its fitness center that has more than 400 members from the local community.
“Different guests have different needs, so we wanted to provide simple suggestions to offer them something that suits their style of keeping fit,” Leclerc says.
Longboat Key Club has put into place similar programs that run the gamut, deemed its “Passport to Wellness.” Highlights include the “Biggest Winner Challenge,” which features a series of challenges including beachside exercises and stretching, a healthy-eating cook-off and healthy outdoor activities; a guest speaker series featuring a host of medical, health and lifestyle experts; informational dine-arounds at the resort restaurants on how to read a menu and select and request healthy choices when dining out; as well as an associate program offers that will track an associate’s progress as they participate in various aspects of the wellness program.
Supporting this trend at an even higher level, Fitness Ridge Worldwide, a provider of wellness, fitness and weight-loss resort programs nationwide including The Biggest Loser Resorts, and Grand Heritage, an owner-operator of luxury, independent hotels and resort destinations worldwide, recently formed joint venture to brand globally Fitness Ridge resorts.
“The time is ripe for to jump to the forefront in establishing a global brand that stands for experiential wellness,” said Larry Bond, CEO of Fitness Ridge Worldwide.
The companies’ first resort project is Fitness Ridge Telluride at the Peaks Resort and Spa in Telluride, CO. There, from April 8 through May 26, the resort is running a wellness program that encourages and empowers people to achieve balance in their lives through a strategic combination of fitness, nutrition, education and relaxation in a private and exclusive environment.
But the wellness concept isn’t just about healthy dining programs and pilates, it comes all the way down to the guest room as well, says Gayle McCleese, principal of Studio DW, who is designing the wellness suite at the upcoming HI Connect® Design
event from March 21-23 at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville.
“It’s very important these days for travelers to seek ways to be more physically fit, but wellness is about connecting the body, mind and soul – there’s a spiritual, calming and intangible aspect to it as well,” she says. “The wellness suite I’m designing will be like a mini-spa – I try to hit all the senses.”
The essence of hospitality is inviting another in and selflessly offering them whatever they need. And just like the sustainability movement looks at the future of the living environment from 30,000 feet, the wellness initiative takes that concept of responsibility to a personal level.
“Responsibility is something we look at every day, and that’s the driver of our wellness initiative,” says Leclerc. “We always have heart healthy options in our pool service, and we’re looking at offering healthier choices in minibars. When we tackle the word responsibility, it’s a matter of making guests’ stay simple while giving them what they need to live well – and have fun!”
“The goal of wellness is to encourage people to create joy and enhance their lives, and travel allows them to take the time out and immerse themselves in it,” adds Bonsack.