Skift Take

Wellness talk seems to spread at about the same pace as people's waistlines. But if you look beneath the averages, you'll really find a consumer segment that shops for trips that enhance their well-being.

Many travelers have been thinking of their wellness more holistically since the pandemic, according to surveys in seven countries commissioned by Hilton Hotels and released on Monday.

Half of respondents said it was important that their travels address their mental or physical wellness, while 26 percent of respondents said they would prioritize accessibility to fitness amenities like gyms or activities such as yoga when traveling next year.

“Coming out of the pandemic, how travelers think about wellness in their life has changed, and they expect the brands that they know and love to meet them where they are in their wellness journey,” said Lara Hernandez, senior vice president of global brand strategy, planning, and innovation at Hilton, at a press conference.

Hilton intended the surveys to promote its brands and strategy, of course. But the results may still provide useful data points for the broader industry, given that many other hotel companies can’t afford to run global polls and the wellness-minded travelers are up for grabs by any brand.

Hilton commissioned an August survey by Material of about 1,000 travelers in each of these countries: Australia, Britain, China, Germany, Japan, Mexico, and the U.S., and then it supplemented the surveys by a Wakefield Research study of another 1,000 U.S. weighted to represent the average demographics of U.S. travelers.

The surveys suggested that wellness meant different things to different travelers.

For some travelers, wellness meant having frictionless access to workout options so that business trips don’t throw them off their fitness routines. Last month Hilton announced that it would install at least one Peloton bike in every gym at its 5,400 U.S. hotels by year-end and that it will add bikes to selected rooms, which can be found at its new The Tempo by Hilton branded rooms at properties such as Canopy by Hilton Washington DC Bethesda North.

Other travelers just want to avoid junk food. The survey found 41 percent of respondents saying they would seek out healthier food on trips next year. In anticipation, Hilton this year rolled out foods such as dried fruit, kombucha and organic frozen meals — which some perceive to be healthy — at some of its properties.

Yet some travelers are all-in on wellness, willing to go on extended retreats. The survey found that 35 percent of travelers wanted to “address” their mental and physical well-being on trips.

In response, the company’s newly-opened Royal Palm Galapagos, Curio Collection by Hilton offers month-long sabbaticals with access to the Galapagos Islands. Based on the island of Santa Cruz, the retreat’s activities include hiking, tortoise spotting, nighttime bird watching, touring lava tunnels, and workouts using new Technogym equipment.

As always, the new data underscored a few challenges for hotel companies. Coming out of the pandemic, hotels need to ensure they’re offering wellness-themed options if they want to tap into these customer segments. But they also have to market the offerings effectively to help guests make the connection that their properties will meet their needs. Hoteliers need to accomplish this without putting off customers not interested in wellness or paying a premium for a property that offers wellness amenities.

Like with a New Year’s resolution for more regular exercise, tackling the market potential represented by rising consumer demand for wellness is easier said than done.

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Tags: future of lodging, hilton, surveys, wellness, wellness travel

Photo credit: Models playing guests receive Temazcal treatment at a spa at Hilton Playa del Carmen, an all-inclusive resort. Source: Hilton.

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