Luxury travel has undergone an evolution in recent years, shifting from conspicuous consumption to experiences that allow the traveler to look inward, both physically and mentally.
Knowing this, AccorHotels, which has become a formidable leader in high-end hospitality, has taken a comprehensive, yet curated approach to health and wellness through its luxury properties. The company’s luxury brands now include brands such as Raffles, Fairmont, Sofitel, and MGallery, which fall under AccorHotels’ traditional luxury offerings, and Pullman and Swissôtel, which are in the upper upscale segment –– and the number of AccorHotels’ luxury brands is expected to rise in the not-too- distant future. Each brand has integrated unique aspects of health and wellness that have been carefully designed for the individual property.
AccorHotels believes that wellness initiatives shouldn’t only include spa, beauty, and fitness experiences, but experiences that elevate personal fulfillment, self-reflection, and emotional and mental wellbeing. For example, one of AccorHotels’ properties, Fairmont the Palm, offers full moon yoga, treatment from a skincare specialist from London, a mix of meditation, yoga, and other conceptual wellness programs, as well as open-kitchen cooking classes with healthy super food menus.
It also means focusing on less visible elements, such as quality air, lighting, and sound –– an approach which is incorporated into Swissôtel’s Vitality Room, a conceptual guest room designed with emotional and physical wellness specifically in mind. SkiftX spoke with Chris Cahill, CEO of AccorHotels Luxury Brands, to learn more.
SkiftX: What do luxury travelers of today want when they check into a hotel?
Chris Cahill: They expect hotels to provide not only quality, but a full luxury package throughout the entire stay. Great service can obviously be a differentiator, but the reality is that everyone is doing a pretty good job. I believe that curated experiences and personalized services are what really make the difference. To our guests, luxury is an emotional experience. They want to see elements throughout the properties that will help inspire them to feel healthier, happier, and more enriched, whether that’s through the fitness programs, lighting, music, or quality of food being served.
We’ve incorporated an approach to luxury into how we engage with our guests. At Le Royal Monceau, Raffles Paris, for example, we might offer a curated gallery tour based on a guest’s interest in up-and coming-artists, planned by our art concierge. Or at Raffles Istanbul, guests can receive an invigorating “Oriental Soul” massage, spend time in one of three traditional Turkish Hamams, or receive treatments that incorporate carefully-selected products from Gazelli Skincare and The Organic Pharmacy.
SkiftX: What’s driving the demand for wellness experiences in the luxury travel market?
Cahill: There are a number of things that are simultaneously coming together to create this tipping point for wellness. There’s general media interest and a wealth of information out there. People can now easily learn how to live more healthily. Additionally, the government has realized that a healthy population is more easily served than an unhealthy one. There’s also a generational element. Baby boomers are much healthier than the previous generation and want to sustain their energy longer, while millennials are seeking out curated wellness experiences.
SkiftX: What are some of the experiences AccorHotels’ luxury brands offer in the health and wellness space?
Cahill: Each brand has a distinct approach to health and wellness. Swissôtel has its Vitality Program, which encompasses wellness in fitness, cuisine, and even business meetings. Certain Swissôtel properties now offer the Vitality Room, which is a dedicated guest room for revitalizing the body, mind, and soul.
Our Pullman brand puts a big focus on fitness, nutrition, and social interaction. The brand has partnered with wellness coach Sarah Hoey, who has developed a unique health and wellness program incorporating elements that range from specialty breakfast, to healthy juices, to tailored workouts, to evening yoga practices. Our Fairmont properties offer a number of health and wellness elements, whether it’s the Fairmont Fit program, in which frequent guests arrive at their hotel room to find a pair of running shoes and work-out gear waiting for them, or candlelit yoga, sound therapy, or an organic, local meal.
MGallery has its “Inspired By Her” program, which provides exclusive services, amenities, and considerations specially designed for its female guests, such as robes and slippers in her size, a full-length mirror, skirt hangers, herbal teas, or curated products available for purchase. Raffles and Sofitel offer world-class spas and fitness programs as well, each designed for the individual properties and the guests they attract.
SkiftX: Can you tell us more about the Swissôtel Vitality Room?
Cahill: The room was created in partnership with Wallpaper magazine and designed with functionality and tranquility in mind. It features bespoke wellness elements such as a “Wellbeing Wall” with training and workout equipment, as well as a cyber-trainer, which offers guests a personalized workout in their guestroom. Design was a key focus, with features such as specialized furniture and bedding, customizable circadian lighting, an air purification system, and a clean, minimal color palette, among others. The goal is to give guests a stylish, serene sanctuary to maintain their mental and physical health while they’re away from home. The concept is being expanded and will be added into Swissôtel properties in Chicago, Singapore, and Dubai later this year.
SkiftX: How do you measure guest response to programs such as the Vitality Room, as well as offerings that might go unnoticed, such as quality air, water, and lightning?
Cahill: We’ve been compiling direct guest feedback from hotel guests. We’re trying to figure out what the right balance is between the elements we’re putting in, what our guests value the most, and what they’re willing to pay for. We need to know what’s a “nice to have” vs. what’s now essential to a hotel stay. To your point, much of what we’re doing is going to be invisible to a lot of people. However, I think if they know what’s there and they can believe in the difference, there’s a big market for it.
SkiftX: What are some challenges of being at the forefront of an industry shift such as this?
Cahill: It may not be a challenge per se, but you have to be able to rapidly adapt and keep pace with changing customer demand and interest. If we test out a program at one property and it’s a success, we need to be able to implement it quickly at other properties and adjust it as needed based on guest feedback.
For example, we had success with the Sarah Hoey wellness program we launched at Pullman Dubai City Center, so now have plans to soon roll it out to other Pullman hotels in Sao Paulo, Paris, London, Marrakech, Phuket, and Aukland, among others. Of course, we have to keep the specific characteristics of the properties and guests in mind as we do so. The key is to be adaptable and move quickly.
SkiftX: Where do you expect the intersection between wellness and hospitality to go in the next few years?
Cahill: It’s going to be increasingly intertwined –– the genie can’t be put back in the bottle. The reality is that people are living this way in their own home and environments, and they’re going to want to have the same experiences when they travel and stay in a hotel. Wellness is here to stay and it’s going to be an integral part of what we offer as a hospitality company.