Why hotels are taking wellness seriously

Hotel operators have been buying firms focused on wellness in a bid to attract guests looking for healthy getaways.

August 19, 2019

IHG earlier this year acquired luxury wellness resort brand Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas for US$300 million. Hyatt Hotels & Resorts (Hyatt) acquired boutique wellness and fitness brand Exhale in 2017 for an undisclosed amount, which followed Hyatt’s acquisition of U.S. wellness resort brand Miraval for US$375 million that same year.

“We’ve seen greater convergence in the hospitality industry,” says Giuliano Esposito, Senior Vice President, Strategic Advisory & Asset Management for JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group. “Wellness is becoming a key focus for industry stakeholders.”

By acquiring these types of companies, hotels are seeking to provide guests with a more complete journey. The aim is to create an experience that benefits every aspect of a guest’s well-being, from healthier food and beverage options to fitness programs.

“These acquisitions are expanding the abilities of hotels and, by integrating these into their products, are providing a more holistic experience that modern travellers are seeking,” says Tony Ryan, Managing Director, Global Mergers & Acquisitions at JLL’s Hotels & Hospitality Group.

Moving with the times

Spas have long been prevalent in more upscale luxury hotels, where it has become an expected amenity.

But as the overall experience becomes more important for the hotel sector as a whole, a wellness component, weaved into the branding promise, can help make hotels more attractive and promote retention.

“Investments and initiatives by hotels are all in response to how the hospitality industry and consumer preferences are changing,” says Ryan. “As wellness becomes more prominent, we’re seeing hotels adapt.”

A major driver in the growth of the wellness industry has been the increase in people seeking to lead healthier lifestyles. Between 2015 and 2017, the Wellness Economy grew by 6.4 percent on average annually, according to a study conducted by the Global Wellness Institute (GWI).

In 2017, Wellness tourism expenditures were $639.4 billion globally and are projected to grow by 7.5 percent annually between 2017 and 2022. With such projected growth, we expect hotel operators to continue focusing on successful wellness related brands.

“Take Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas,” says Ryan. “It’s done a great job to clearly define and communicate what it stands for, it complements the existing brand offering of IHG and fills a gap in their portfolio.”

Asian growth

With Asia’s rapidly-expanding middle class, the wellness part of the tourism industry is booming. Asia Pacific is the fastest growing wellness tourism market in the world, according to GWI. Wellness tourism expenditures are projected to grow by 13 percent annually during the period 2017-2022.

“Some of the pioneers and successful Wellness brands and offerings -- such as Chiva Som, Hua Hin, Thailand, Kamalaya, Koh Samui, Thailand, Ananda in the Himalayas, and COMO Shambhala Bali, Indonesia – are in Asia,” says Giuliano Esposito, Senior Vice President, Strategic Advisory & Asset Management for JLL Hotels & Hospitality Group.

“In the past we saw standalone aspects of Wellness such as gyms and spas being incorporated into hotels; however, travelling is becoming more and more experience based and a more holistic approach to the Wellness may be required,” he says.