“What we want to do and what we have to do are [taking] two separate roles. We are in what we have to do and…everything is going to impact wellness.”

Franco Pedone

My last interview highlighted the need to have a strategic marketing campaign that goes beyond the current messaging of health and safety using wellness as the centre of hospitality. However, implementing wellness across the whole hotel operation is no easy task. It requires massive investment in both time and money. With the pandemic already threatening to shrink all industries, only those companies with the deepest pockets and the most innovative strategies will come out on top.

In my next interview, Franco Pedone reminds us all to be practical in our approach to wellness in hospitality. Franco is a very experienced hotel general manager who has worked in various markets including the Caribbean, the US, Mexico and Europe. He has seen hotels survive other catastrophes such as natural disasters and in his experience, this situation we’re in will get worse before it gets better.

Interview Highlights:

1. Demonstrable performance

Wellness is a relatively new concept in hospitality with little demonstrable track record of a stellar performance. As such, only those with the deepest pockets can even afford to look at wellness as a strategy for survival. Hotel spas, which are the most common example of wellness implementation in the industry, are very expensive to operate and often come with a low return on investment that might be unattractive to owners. While high overheads are part of the nature of wellness facilities, hoteliers who wish to use wellness as a long-term strategy must answer some very important questions: What are their clients looking for now? How can wellness be implemented under the conditions of social distancing and stretching every cent for maximum returns? Should wellness even be implemented right now or must the industry wait for a time that is more stable? 

2. Effective use of space

Generally, wellness facilities are not given prime real estate within the hotel, and so one could argue that this is a major reason for their poor performance. While this is true, more often than not hotels do not utilise the space they have efficiently enough. Real estate is a major part of the hospitality industry, particularly in the United States, where a massive building can be erected and a hotel is put right in the middle of it to make it more attractive.  When it comes to the design and architecture of the hotel, however, we have to go beyond what looks nice and build for high functionality. The crumbling economy affords the industry very little room for error, and so the hoteliers that are lucky enough to get some money to invest in wellness have to be meticulous about the usage of each square foot within their property.

3. Research your target market

In trying to pivot their business models, hoteliers need to remain cognizant of who their target market is. Business hotels, for instance, need to weigh the risks of a total shift and understand what their current market is looking for. In this particular instance, the data indicates a heavy negative shift in business travel all over the world. Does this mean hotels that had primarily targeted business travellers should make a total 180°? Possibly not. Nevertheless, the needs of the target market have definitely changed, and hoteliers need to come up with ways to meet those needs efficiently. Wellness is one of those needs, but to plaster it recklessly onto any and all operations might cause more harm than good. At the end of the day, the hospitality industry is entirely dependent on the client, which means whatever direction it takes from now on must be directly backed up by the same.

Wellness is still building its track record in stellar performance. To blindly implement it in hospitality without enough data or exercising caution would be detrimental. The high overheads that accompany wellness facilities cannot be ignored, especially now that there is very little money to spare on anything that cannot be justified as absolutely necessary. With this in mind, hoteliers need to make sure that any future plans to implement wellness into their operations are backed by extensive research and deep pockets from which to pour out adequate investment. 

Thank you so much to Franco for putting the practicality of wellness implementation in the hospitality industry into perspective. This whole experience will stretch everyone to the limits, and unfortunately, there will be more strife before we can see any positive shift on the horizon.

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