“If everything is welfare, then nothing is welfare.”
This bon mot was recently offered by Kevin Kelly, CEO of Sensei—the wellness brand co-founded by tech mogul Larry Ellison—when I asked him about the potential overuse of the term “wellness” within hospitality.
Kelly, whose 40-year health, luxury and lifestyle career has included stints with brands like Civana and Canyon Ranch, has had a front-row seat to the rapidly expanding wellness industry.
“Fifty years ago, wellness started as a countercultural cottage industry, but then was adopted by the hotel and resort industry,” Kelly said. “From there, it became a specialty for brands like Canyon Ranches and Miravals and so on.”
These days, however, it seems that almost every high-end hotel and resort is aspiring to position itself as a “wellness destination,” a la Canyon Ranch or Sensei. Forget basic facilities like a spa or gym. A growing number of luxury properties are ditching such labels, choosing to call their spa and fitness areas “wellness clubs” or “wellness centers.”
Of course there is a lot of pressure to take advantage of the welfare state from a financial perspective. According to a report from the Global Wellness Institute released late last year, the global wellness tourism market is projected to expand an average of 20.9% per year through 2025, well outpacing growth in the broader wellness economy.
By the end of 2025, the Global Wellness Institute estimates, the wellness tourism market will reach a size of more than $1 trillion.
However, figuring out how to fully implement a curated wellness program can be challenging. In today’s health-obsessed age, what constitutes wellness runs the gamut, from garden-variety massages and facials to reiki and crystal healing and next-level biohacking like IV therapy or spa treatments. stem cells.
For some properties, building an advanced wellness strategy means incorporating the latest spa and fitness trends, whether it’s Peloton bikes or CBD massage oils.
For others, it means repositioning existing features as wellness amenities. Recent press releases in my inbox, for example, have touted indoor and outdoor pools, basketball courts, rooftop terraces, pillow menus and showers as wellness highlights.
As a result, it can be increasingly difficult for properties to cut through the clutter.
According to Dawn Oliver, a wellness travel expert and founder of luxury travel company Well Xplored, as hotels and resorts race to “tick the wellness box” off their checklist, some get lost in the shuffle.
“There are so many properties that are putting wellness programs together these days, which is great,” Oliver said. “But sometimes I think there’s just a disconnect. It’s more about creating programs from a sales and marketing perspective.”
For Sensei, who operates Sensei Lanai, a Four Seasons Resort in Hawaii and will open a property in California this fall, the solution to standing out in an increasingly crowded sector has been what he claims is a more science-backed and results-oriented approach. for welfare. The Sensei app uses data collection and wearable health tracking devices to create personalized wellness programs.
However, some of Sensei’s secret sauces are a little harder to pin down. In addition to looking at the obvious biomarkers, such as resting heart rate, lung capacity and REM sleep length, the brand also looks at what Kelly calls “subjective data,” which Sensei doesn’t categorize under well-being, but well-being .
“Well-being is how you feel,” Kelly explained. “It is what inspires you, what gives you hope, joy and energy.”
As the realm of wellness hospitality becomes increasingly crowded and definitions become more vague, however, it has actually created something of an opportunity for health-focused travel advisors.
Jill Radin-Leeds, founder and president of Just Spas & Adventures, has found that her expertise is more in demand than ever.
“I often get wellness clients because they’re overworked,” she said. “Everybody has a different mindset in terms of what they’re looking for. And there’s so much out there now that it can get very overwhelming for anyone.”