Skift Take

Now you can spend a fortune shopping on Rodeo Drive, then find a place to quietly contemplate your coming credit card bill.

You’d think that being known as the ultimate American destination for a certain kind of ostentatious luxury would be enough. But Beverly Hills is not resting on its swanky laurels. This week, the city is kicking off its new City of Wellth (yes, that’s how they spell it) initiative, designed to showcase its abundance of wellness options.

The Beverly Hills 90210 saga begins in 2015, when the city’s visitors bureau started focusing on new ways of defining luxury. According to Julie Wagner, CEO of Beverly Hills Conference and Visitors Bureau, “We look at luxury as the ability to tap into your needs and wants, whatever they are. Therefore, our success is predicated on the ability to morph into what people desire.”

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The strategy evolved from there. “We knew we needed to be forward thinking,” says Wagner. “We didn’t want to change the essence of who we are, but we also knew we needed to remain relevant in order to avoid becoming passe.”

The CVB published a white paper on “the new luxury” early in 2016. Continued brainstorming then led into the direction of wellness. That’s when the tourism community discovered the concept of “wellth.” The purposeful double entendre was coined in a book by mindbodygreen founder Jason Wachob. Wellth redefines abundance as a move away from possessions to less materialistic life currencies exemplified by health, purpose and happiness. “Feeling good is the new looking good,” says Wachob, “making wellth the new status symbol.”

Wagner concurs. “The shifting status quo of how success is now perceived in terms of health and well being, rather than through material and financial wealth, means the desire for ‘wellth’ is now a key factor in people’s choice of travel destination.”

The CVB’s updated path coincided with the election of wellness-minded mayor Lili Bosse. Bosse’s belief is that a healthy city is the foundation of a great community. “From my perspective,” says Bosse, “both people and cities need to be healthy from the inside out.” Bosse puts her feet where her mouth is, leading public “Walks with the Mayor” every Monday morning.

The Beverly Hills: City of Wellth initiative comes down to five pillars: Move, Eat, Restore, Gratitude and Explore (as in external journeys as well as more meditative peregrinations). The campaign kicks off May 11 with a series of events led by noted wellness gurus. Deepak Chopra, wellness guru to the wealthy, will be leading a public guided meditation session outside city hall.

The Chopra piece of the action is actually part of Bosse’s SOUL Sessions syllabus. Throughout the year, Beverly Hills will open its SOUL (Seek Original Unique Learning) to the public with monthly events led by wellness experts. At the same time, the CVB is encouraging the city’s hotels and restaurants to beef up their healthy options.

At current count, a baker’s dozen of restaurants will be providing more choices for vegans, vegetarians, paleo dieters, and locavores. Meantime, hotels are designing special packages around the campaign’s five pillars. For example, healthy menus will be paired with decadent spa treatments like Cellular Swiss Ice Crystal Facials at the Beverly Hills Hotel or Green Tea and Ginger Body Wraps at The Viceroy L’Ermitage. Wellness Retreat packages at The Peninsula Beverly Hills feature options ranging from moonlight meditation to sunrise yoga, along with personal training sessions, guided hikes and healthy meal plans. “It’s really a matter of packaging what’s already here in a new way,” according to Offer Nissenbaum, managing director of the Peninsula.

That’s a lesson that any city can take to heart. According to Wachob, “Wellness is the way we live now. So, for any city looking to bolster tourism, a shift of focus to wellness and experiences centered around well-being is a no-brainer. It’s simply a matter of shining a light on a destination’s healthy places.” Mayor Bosse agrees. “I would encourage other cities to make wellness a priority.”

In addition to making the locals feel better, she notes that wellness initiatives can lead to increased tourism, which in turn can improve the economic health… and wealth/wellth… of a city.

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Tags: los angeles, luxury, tourism, wellness

Photo credit: Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, which is promoting its wellness benefits to tourists. Chris Brown / Flickr

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