“I think a lot of hotels have jumped on the bandwagon and the problem that we have at the moment is there’s no star rating for wellness.”

John Nielsen

My last interview focused on the need for the wellness industry to adapt to the times in order to be better integrated into hospitality. Some changes are already being implemented to make sure that wellness becomes safer for guests. However, the standards are not the same across the board, and this poses a huge problem when it comes to integration. The term ‘wellness’ is often used synonymously with spa, and yet the concept is much richer than that. 

This week, I got a chance to speak with John Nielsen, general manager of a retreat in Bali, about his views on wellness in hospitality and what the future holds for both industries. Having worked in hospitality for a few decades now, John has experienced the ups and downs of the industry and the insights he shares in this interview are both sobering and encouraging for any hotel owners looking to use wellness as their pivot strategy.

Interview Highlights:

1. Stay focused

Health and safety remain the top priorities for hoteliers the world over. However, all measures taken must remain focused on giving the guests the best experience possible under the circumstances. Safety measures such as social distancing, the wearing of facial masks, sanitising and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) have to be implemented in such a way that they don’t make guests uncomfortable. Hospitality is all about taking care of people and providing a place where they can relax and escape from daily life. Thus, it is imperative to keep all efforts focused on this core foundation otherwise hotels may risk providing a hospital-like experience that will only serve to disappoint guests. As such, hoteliers need to consider the impact of any new policies pertaining to health and safety on their overall guest experience.

2. Define ‘wellness’

There is a lot of confusion surrounding the concept of ‘wellness’. For starters, most people believe implementing wellness in hospitality means putting a spa in your facilities and calling it a day. In addition, there is no standardised way of reviewing wellness such as we find in hospitality. For this integration of the two industries to work, there has to be a clear definition of what wellness is, what the standards are and how success is measured. Only then will we be able to use it successfully to pivot the hospitality industry into a new direction. Wellness is not just about providing massage services and other such treatments. It is a tool that should be used to achieve the wellbeing of guests and staff. 

3. Pricing for value

Pricing remains a sore subject to talk about right now with the economic challenges that the world is facing. The price wars currently taking place within the hospitality industry are understandable in that people want to attract the local guests that they currently have access to. In such times, it is important to make sure that the price offered matches the value being promised. Lowering prices too much undercuts the value offering and is simply unsustainable. On the other hand, increasing the price without sufficient justification can do equal damage and may result in the market losing trust in the industry. Hoteliers must communicate clearly what it is they are offering. When guests understand what their money is buying them, they will be much more open to pay for services. 

Being a wellness hotel may sound trendy right now, but there has to be a benchmark of what this actually means. Conflicting messages must be hashed out and reconciled to form a concise, focused definition that can then be used in hospitality to enhance the guest experience and improve internal communications. As the industry strives to get back on its feet during this pandemic, hotel operators need to keep their efforts focused on hospitality and shy away from anything that may turn their hotels into hospital look-alikes. 

It was such an honour to speak with John and I am very grateful for the wealth of information he shared with me. I am confident that this information will be useful to both hotel general managers and wellness professionals as they look for ideas on how they can become stronger in the current economic climate.

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