Skift Take

Travelers are ready to adventure again, but they just may not be ready for the pitfalls of getting to their destination. Hotels are enhancing wellness, relaxation, and convenience in anticipation of those often-rocky journeys.

Traffic at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is almost back to pre-Covid levels, and with it comes a host of issues plaguing airports worldwide — delays and cancellations due to weather, lack of flight crews, mechanical needs, and air and ground congestion.

So for today’s flier, that often means a journey that’s more challenging than ever before, especially when travelers want to escape stress. But for hotels like the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale, these challenges all represent an opportunity to focus on a part hospitality not getting a lot of attention — the journey leading to the final destination.

“We have a lot more delays where people are calling us (and) chatting (virtually),” said Kelley Moreton, the hotel’s general manager. “We offer them a meal in the room if they (have) a delayed or late-night arrival. We want a situation where they don’t need to think about those things, and just deal with not getting themselves stressed out.”

Four Seasons is no stranger to trying to clip the wings of flying fatigue. It launched a series of Jet Lag Rescue routines just prior to the pandemic that were designed to restore guests’ circadian balance, including activities to stretch muscles, engage lower bodies, and raise heart rates. But since travel can cause elevated blood pressure, Moreton sees the program through a different lens — and as more important than ever before.

“Jet lag is typically related to long-haul travel,” she said. “But today, I think ‘jet lag’ comes from the re-engagement of airlines and the overall disturbance of travel.”

The Four Seasons is not alone in increasing its focus on wellness and restorative measures. The spa at the The House by Elegant Hotels in Barbados features a jet leg massage, which combines a series of techniques to relax muscles needing to be stretched after long flights. Sitting in a chair for hours on end is also encouraged at another location in the country — so long as it’s a beach chair. Virgin Holidays’ airline beachside lounge made waves as the world’s first departure beach, and travelers can spend time in the sun instead of listening to airport loudspeakers.

Making getting from point A to point B more enjoyable is also huge selling point for another island nation, Iceland. The one-stop-shop nature of coordinated transportation between the capital Reykjavík, its gateway airport in Keflavík, and the Blue Lagoon makes a visit to the geothermal pools one of the country’s most-searched activities online, says Visit Iceland Area Manager Oddný Arnarsdóttir. The agency coordinates bus transportation to the spa en route to the airport or just upon arrival en route to Keflavík, adjusting times according to changes in flight schedules.  

While a spa experience is sure to soothe the nerves, Arnarsdóttir says that more and more travelers are adventuring independently versus in groups — making removing the angst of the planning process more essential. So Visit Iceland took advantage of a downturn in tourist arrivals in 2020 and 2021 to update its website.

“The most important thing today is … it has to be very clear and easy to find to make the ‘job’ of the traveler free of stress,” Arnarsdóttir said.

Arnarsdóttir and her team are now in the process of developing an artificial intelligence-powered chatbot to guide those asking such questions as “How do I get to the Blue Lagoon?”

“We’re just bombarding it with questions these days, and we’ve put in a lot of answers ourselves,” Arnarsdóttir said. “The system will learn if you enter information in the right way, and this will make learning faster once it launches.”  

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Tags: bahamas, four seasons, hotels, iceland, stress, wellness

Photo credit: Guests relaxing at the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale

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