This article first appeared in The Hotel Executive, July 2020.

People in vast numbers are more in tune with their mind and bodies than ever before, but not necessarily in harmony. This has spawned huge growth of interest in online tutorials, on-demand classes and podcasts that teach us how to be better at caring for our well-being. Self-care, a phrase that has gained traction in the wellness mega-trend, gives us permission to be healthy. Two simple but powerful words.

Our guests have had time with their own thoughts in lock down and are acknowledging that it is okay to put their health first. They’ve had time to put new practices into place and form wellness habits that they are reaping the benefit of.

The Increased Demand for Wellness 

This virus has hit hard those who’s health was already compromised. Raising awareness of the quality of our lives and focus on our vulnerability. Governments and tourism bodies in many countries are endorsing wellness as they see the value to their health system, and relationships between conventional and traditional medical systems are growing ever closer. Scientific studies continue to reinforce the positive attributes of different modalities, systems and programs that are available through various types of spas in the hospitality industry.

During lock-down guests have been researching, trialing and educating themselves on the plethora of wellness options available. Coming out of lock-down hospitality has the opportunity to meet the guest where they are at in their quest for better health. Wellness has huge breadth, a wide audience with varying interests, multiple philosophies and trends from the traditional to modern, and an increase in innovation and technology that have made wellness so scalable.

The difficulty is determining where your spa should be positioned in this diverse market and if a stronger wellness offer is right for your property.

Consider this before Determining a New Wellness Program 

Coming out of Covid-19 is a smarter wellness minded guest, they’ve had time to learn more about the wellness products they want versus marketing hype. For many people it’s not just about how they look but also how they are behaving, it’s been a time to consider how to re-shape our lives as we emerge out of lock down.

Before any consideration is given as to how to change the spa’s physical space or programming to be more attractive to a wellness minded guest, there are a few considerations to determine:

  • Identify the characteristics of the guests you want to attract.
  • Calculate the financial implications.
  • Determine if you are able to deliver a revised program.
  • Be clear on the value proposition.
  • Define the concept and philosophy.
  • Create a story that resonates with the guest.
  • Be aligned with the hotels positioning.
  • Will these changes add value to the brand and the property?
  • Can you deliver on the promise?

The great news is that there are varying depths of wellness promise that can be delivered and they don’t all involve huge costs. The trick to success is to be clear on what your wellness promise is.

In conducting your consumer research consider the different needs of the in-house and local market and how your promise will scale by segment. Once all research is conducted ensure that all leaders understand the wellness positioning of the spa. Often, we are given the direction “we want a wellness center”, but when we dig further there is a lack of understanding as to what this is, costs or what the concept could be.

When considering wellness programs, you need to factor in the cost of equipment, renovations, staffing – specialists, such as Doctors, incur a high payroll cost. Is the staff skill set that is required to deliver the program easily available to recruit and replenish when people move on? What is the length of stay for the guest in order for the program to be effective and how do you monetize the service or program? Is e-commerce and online programming a viable platform or is the return only via an in-person experience. Alternatively, is a range of services that benefit personal wellness without over selling the label a better option for your spa.

It all starts with understanding your consumer segments and what wellness means to each of them. Be comprehensive in what wellness means to you as a spa, a hotel and a brand – define who you are and what the wellness promise is.

A Toolbox of Good Health 

Hotels have been taking wellness beyond the 4-walls of the spa for some time now with innovations such as wellness guest rooms, healthy meeting programs, and changes to the F&B offering. Now they are poised to take this further and provide guests with a toolbox of good health options.

With Covid-19 we’ve seen a lot of interest in wellness services that are low touch or non-contact but deliver high value wellness to the smarter minded wellness guest. From simple formats that can be introduced in various locations within the spa and around the property, to higher cost items that need a robust commitment to providing wellness in order to validate the return.

Low Touch, High Value Wellness 

Social distancing maybe something that stays with us long after governments lift the current restrictions. While we strongly believe that high-touch services will return as guests become comfortable with the concept of spas as a place where they can experience touch in a safe, hygienic environment. Physically distancing services or non-contact services are likely to rebound quicker than high-touch services with safety driving interest in spa services that the individual can control and trust.

Activities such as outdoor exercising, hydrothermal circuits with limitations on capacity and grooming services, such as hairdressing, manicures and pedicures are likely to be the most popular services as we initially re-open. However, there are other low or non-contact services that have been trending; here we look into a few of them.

Breathing Techniques:

Breathwork is defined as the conscious control of breathing to influence a person’s mental, emotional, and/or physical state, to give rise to altered states of consciousness and to influence physical and mental well-being. By changing the patterns of breathing, it is possible to restore balance to the stress response systems, calm an agitated mind, relieve symptoms of anxiety, improve physical health and endurance, and elevate personal performance. There are many styles and strategies of breathwork including: Integrative Breathwork, Transformational Breathwork, Shamanic Breathwork, Conscious Connected Breathing, Radiance Breathwork, Zen Yoga Breathwork, Pranayama, Rebirthing, Vivation.

Breathwork requires no special equipment or facility, while it provides excellent health benefits. Guests will not only learn advanced breathing techniques but learn multiple strategies and methods which can be introduced to their home well-being practice.


Daily stretching is one of the forgotten pillars of health. There is not enough focus on the benefits of stretching for health and well-being. Beyond yoga simple daily stretching promotes flexibility, stimulates circulation, improves metabolic and lymphatic function, improves joint health, and provides an overall sense of vitality. While stretching is often ignored as a separate healing enhancement it is often incorporated into massage, yoga and fitness programming, however there is significant benefit to a simple stretching regimen.

Stretching is one of the simplest and most important healing modalities. Most people do not stretch often and for many it is a matter of not knowing how to stretch properly. Guests can learn comprehensive stretching techniques that are easy and effective to continue at home.

Contrast Therapy:

It is very likely that your spa has a hydrothermal circuit perhaps something simple such as a sauna, steam room and some showers. The opportunity is in educating your guest on the health benefits of the circuit. Exposing the body to heat and cold is proven to be beneficial to the immune system, circulation and to our bodies response to stress.

Simple programming elements could be sharing the principles of contrast therapy and how to navigate the hydrothermal circuit for maximum benefit. Or a more formal program such as the Wim Hof method that amongst other things combines breathing techniques with cold daily showers. Or elevate the space with heat activating experiences such as Auf Gus or add new technology such as infra-red for a different type of sauna experience.


The healing power of the extreme cold can be used as a very effective form of physical therapy via a cryotherapy chamber or cryotherapy mobile device. The body is exposed to short periods of intense cold, down to -110 centigrade. This exposure blocks the bodies sensitivity to pain and acts as an anti-inflammatory. Cryotherapy has multiple health benefits from aiding in the treatment of arthritis, chronic pain to insomnia and increased stress.

Cryotherapy has been popular with athletes and sports people for many years as it aids in recovery and improves sports performance due to the redistribution of blood in the body. Cryotherapy requires a greater commitment to a wellness program as the cost is high.


Beyond the mental feel good factors that a good soak can give introducing re-mineralizing salts into the bath such as magnesium or Epsom adds an additional level of health benefits. Magnesium has re-balancing properties; increased insulin sensitivity, better nutrient absorption, softer skin, improved circulation, stress relief, pain relief and improved sleep. Pair with Dry body brushing for an invigorating experience.

Available as an in-room curated bath experience or via the mini-bar – think apothecary mini bar versus traditional.

Harmonized Resonating Therapy:

Sound, vibration, and music have such a profound way of touching each of us on a deeply personal level. The Universe is filled with frequency and vibration. This energy connects each of us and all of us. As with a fine musical instrument, our bodies can be tuned for optimum performance. Introducing harmonized resonating therapeutic sound beds, therapeutic chants, musical instruments and vibrational healing bowls, this therapy envelopes guests in a field of sound and vibration.

The therapeutic effects include reduced stress, enhanced immune response, increased blood flow, deeper levels of consciousness, and an overall sense of joy.  The experience is truly transformative and elevates you into a deep, calm peace, that is healing to both body and mind.

This therapy can be introduced in many ways, from sound gardens, re purposing spaces as pop-up music rooms, including vibration bowls to water experiences such as watsu or purchasing resonating beds for relaxation or therapeutic treatments

Salt Inhalation

Salt inhalation or halotherapy removes toxicity from the respiratory system, improving the function and appearance of the skin and boosting the immune system. Scientific research has found that inhaled dry salt particles have bactericide, mucokinetic, hydrophilic and anti-inflammatory properties, which may help to reduce inflammation in the entire respiratory tract and widen the airway passages. Dry salt particles are also known to accelerate the transportation of mucus, the elimination of residual tar and foreign allergens. A clean respiratory system results in higher oxygen intake, increased energy and an improved immune system.

The important point here is that the inhalation is of dry salt particles which can be delivered in a spa setting through a hand-held device or fed into a dedicated space which guests sit in for 40-minutes inhaling the particles.

Mental Health:

Spas must be cautious and responsible with how they communicate the ways they are helping guests with their mental health. Providing services that can be incorporated into the guests own coping mechanisms is a positive way to assist. For instance, the benefits to mental health gained through mindfulness and meditation are well documented.

Other concepts that can help people with developing more positive mind sets, build emotional resilience and improve mental strength include positive affirmations and following philosophies such as Sophorolgy, Rumi, Ikigai or Hygee. Spas could partner with specialists in these philosophies to deliver the program to guests.

Communing with Nature:

Attention restoration theory (ART) asserts that people can concentrate better after spending time in nature, or even looking at scenes of nature. ART claims that looking at natural landscapes, such as beaches, forest or mountains allows the mind to sit in default mode network, to wander freely thereby relaxing the stringent focus of everyday life. The mind-wandering, provided in the default mode network, allows for the mind to restore its directed attention capacities and can be effective in combating mental fatigue.

Communing with nature is equally appreciated by guests at urban and resort locations. Whereas at resorts you can be fully immersed there are spaces to be found in many urban locations, which due to their rarity become even more valuable. Hotels can tap into this trend with full nature immersion such as the popular Japanese concept of forest bathing or more simple actions such as identifying routes for walking meetings, creating pop-up or secluded gardens for contemplation and meditation.

With Options Comes Opportunity

With careful consideration a toolbox of good health can be offered by hotel spas. Wellness is a mega trend, yet it is also scalable. Define your wellness promise and be creative in how it is delivered.

Have fun exploring the different options.