“The younger generation, the 20-year-olds, they have no fear. So, I really think the future [of] wellness rests on that generation, kind of working through nutrition and working on mindfulness. They love the idea of meditation, they love talking about being at peace with themselves and taking a moment.”

David Ryan

In order to better serve the current needs of the market, both the hotel and the wellness industries will need a revamp. The traditional business models of either industry must shift in the direction of a more integrated and consolidated offering. In wellness, for example, getting people to pay for premium services such as spa treatments has become an onerous task due to all the safety requirements. Similarly, hotels have to do twice the work to get people to book a room with them, and even then, they have occupancy restrictions imposed on them. On top of that, it is hard to keep up with staffing requirements with important lay off measures taking place across the board.

To help me better understand how the industries can pivot, I spoke to David Ryan, the managing director at a resort in a renowned wine region. David has been in the industry long enough to witness other crises, from financial, environmental to the 9/11 attack. In this interview, he shares with me some smart and valuable insights on how wellness might evolve in the hospitality industry in these challenging times.

Interview Highlights:

1. Shrinking industry

It is highly likely that the hospitality industry will shrink as a result of the pandemic. Online meetings and conferencing have seen a massive surge due to worldwide lockdowns and travel restrictions. Young professionals were already comfortable with conducting the bulk of their business online, with a lot of their processes automated on social media and other platforms. Now that the pandemic has forced companies to rethink their ways of doing business, the older generations have embraced the use of technology and have warmed up to the idea of hopping on a Zoom call rather than booking a hotel room for the weekend. As such, the likelihood of business travel regaining popularity is very low in the short to midterm. Hotels that relied on the convention market and business travel will have to pivot their focus and perhaps convert their spaces into something else, for instance, condos or other long-term accommodation. 

2. Drive market

Until there is a vaccine out international travel is likely to remain heavily restricted for the rest of the year. Hotels all over the world have already started targeting the local market either by lowering their prices or by offering packages that attract people who are within a four to five hour drive from their location. In some places COVID regulations have required hoteliers to operate their restaurants and spas outdoors, which is a great attraction for nearby families looking for a change of scenery. However, the biggest challenge with this drive market is that they are not looking for unnecessary opulence. Hotel operators will have to ensure that whatever they offer is unique enough to entice people to stay at their resorts but isn’t too exorbitant to make spending uncomfortable. 

3. Indulgence vs Wellness

A typical human response to restriction is overcompensation. This is certainly true for the hospitality industry, where some local markets are currently leaning towards indulgence rather than wellness. Because people haven’t been able to enjoy the little luxuries they were so accustomed to for a few months now, frustration levels are very high. Hence, as markets begin to reopen, the emphasis will be placed more on making up for lost time rather than taking up wellness practices. Thus, for wellness to work in hospitality, it must be integrated seamlessly into the already existing offer so as to keep the prices optimum. The wellness industry must pivot from the traditional business model and seek more innovative, contemporary means to provide the same services.

For some, the days of expensive spa treatments in opulent facilities are slowly coming to an end. Therefore, wellness must take a new shape in the hospitality industry that allows guests to enjoy the same benefits on their own terms. If the wellness industry is to survive this pandemic, there has to be a deliberate shift from exclusive luxury offerings to more immersive, customised experiences that won’t burn a hole in the guests’ and hotels’ pockets. 

Thank you so much to David for making time to share these invaluable insights. Such a pragmatic response to the economic situation is essential to the survival of both the hospitality and wellness industries.

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