Integrating wellness into hospitality is nothing new, but doing it in a holistic way that factors in broader sustainability goals and aligns with community values points to a new way forward.
Discover the top trends that will define the travel industry for the coming year.
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With anxiety about the global economy, climate change, political uncertainty, and persistent health and safety concerns top of mind, wellness and sustainability have become intertwined as primary travel motivators.
For hospitality brands like Accor, which operates 5,300 properties in 110 countries, providing guests with a sense of well-being is now just as much a priority as making them feel welcome. Delivering that sense of well-being in 2023 will require new ways of thinking about the interconnectedness of wellness and sustainability.
SkiftX spoke with Emlyn Brown, global vice president of well-being at Accor, about how the brand is appealing to emotion, implementing real and measurable sustainability initiatives, and providing an array of wellness experiences to counter today’s common anxieties.
SkiftX: How have the travel behaviors, expectations, and needs of Accor’s guests changed over the past year or two?
Emlyn Brown: We have seen a distinct shift in focus toward quality of experience above all else. Travel is no longer taken for granted, and our guests are keen to discover new ways to feel good and live new experiences. They want meaningful moments, a sense of enrichment, amazing photos, and a great story to share. This leads us to new consumer priorities, including a return to slow travel, a desire for self-improvement, positive travel, and the idea that health is wealth.
Slow travel is making a comeback as people take longer trips, motivated by the desire to deeply understand their destinations to gain cultural awareness and feel like they’ve expanded their horizons. Travelers don’t want to feel like tourists — they want to know how it feels to live like locals. It’s common now to mix a holiday with a few days or weeks of working remotely, creating a long stay and the opportunity to really get to know a place.
Self-improvement is another priority. Gone are the days when travelers would return home exhausted and “in need of a vacation.” Today, they want to return home feeling refreshed, healthier, smarter, and better.
There’s also a growing desire to make travel decisions that have a positive impact on the environment. Consumption is more conscious than in the past, and travel choices reflect people’s values and concern for the footprint they leave, especially for younger generations.
Finally, consumers increasingly see wellness as a priority, with 79 percent of our guests saying wellness is important and 42 percent considering it a top priority.
SkiftX: How is Accor thinking about the interconnectedness of wellness and sustainability to promote an overall sense of well-being for today’s guests?
Brown: As a global leader in the hospitality industry, Accor has been at the forefront of integrating wellness measures throughout our customer journeys. We have led the industry in moving health and wellness matters beyond the traditional walls of spas and fitness centers into everything we do — from hotel operations to food and beverage, from ergonomic furniture to feng shui design, and from air and water quality to sleep and bath rituals.
The environment we inhabit is intrinsic to well-being. Breathing fresh air, splashing around on unpolluted beaches, and eating healthy food — these activities feel good. Sunlight, fresh air, and clean water are all prerequisites for physical health: Spending time in nature has been shown to improve our mood, and a thriving ecosystem provides nutrition and the means to sustain ourselves.
More important than all of these is the health of the planet itself. Taking concrete actions to preserve nature, limit our impact, and support a healthier environment for our children and grandchildren are actions that also feel good. Valuing and protecting the world we love creates a calmer, more peaceful state of mind.
These points are explored in Accor’s Health to Wealth podcast series, which connects the dots between planet-wide benefits and individual choices. Things on the surface may appear to be separate issues but are clearly interconnected when it comes to consumer motivation and our opportunity to create positive hospitality experiences.
SkiftX: What kinds of authentic experiences does Accor provide across its portfolio to cultivate a sense of well-being, promote community goals, and build awareness for sustainability initiatives?
Brown: Accor has one of the most diverse portfolios of brands in the world, and each one approaches wellness and sustainability in ways unique to its own style, befitting the interests of its guests and clients, and mindful of the resources we need to preserve.
Our luxury brands are known not only for their gracious, caring, and bespoke hospitality, but also for their transformative wellness initiatives and customized experiences that open minds, expand knowledge, and shift perspectives.
Of course, wellness is not limited to luxury hospitality. Accor’s premium, midscale and economy brands are equally brilliant and inventive when it comes to linking guest experiences and our commitment to sustainability.
For example, our greet brand was created in 2019 specifically for travelers who care about making a positive impact, while valuing affordability and convenience. Guests are welcomed on arrival with a drink made of unsold fruit from local markets and communal areas are styled with cheerfully upcycled furnishings, second-hand books, and vintage board games.
At the upper end of the luxury segment, Raffles invites guests to achieve emotional well-being through a holistic approach integrating serenity rituals with bespoke bath and sleep rituals. Raffles has also introduced Second Nature, a unique program that combines the principles of Feng Shui, design, and wellness into an all-encompassing approach to create, improve, and maintain positive environments for both guests and employees.
Meanwhile, another one of our luxury brands – Fairmont – literally wrote the book on sustainable hospitality experiences. The brand has integrated its eco-conscious approach to create transformative guest experiences for more than 30 years, including opportunities to explore and engage with wildlife such as butterflies and honeybees on the hotel rooftop gardens at properties like the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto and Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver.
A swim across the longest infinity pool in the Maldives leads guests of Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi to The Coralarium, the country’s first coral regeneration project in the form of an underwater art installation, and ecological sensitivity meets luxury at Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, where the team is reviving its glamorous mid-century outdoor pool scene with a new eco-luxury mountain retreat.
SkiftX: Where are the links between wellness and sustainability most established?
Brown: The area of food and beverage is essential for supporting individual wellness goals and for sustainable hotel operations. At Accor, we are actively diversifying our menus and meeting our guests’ interests for more unique dietary options. Introducing more vegan-based food menus is not only good for the health of our guests; it’s also good for our culinary teams and better for the planet. This is an area where the hospitality industry can really push forward and make a massive difference.
Food waste is another key issue our industry can and must address. Thirty percent of all food produced in the world is thrown away, and this contributes to global warming. All our hotel brands actively reduce food waste, from the way our culinary teams prepare and conserve food, to composting and recycling, to local food sharing, to supporting changes in production. We are also investigating how we can effectively measure our food waste more precisely.
SkiftX: Can you share some of the forward-looking ideas and themes emerging from Accor’s Health to Wealth podcast series, particularly around the intersection of wellness and sustainability?
Brown: Accor welcomes over 120 million guests each year in more than 100 countries, and we are aware of the massive impact we have on our planet. We have a responsibility to lead the conversation and act on issues such as sustainability, equality, social responsibility, wellness, and well-being. The Health to Wealth series is a demonstration that well-being must be recognized as a priority for all if we are to maintain the equilibrium of our lives, our society, and our planet.
Accor is seeking to drive transformational change, supporting a shift toward the emergence of a well-being economy, and has an earnest desire to help people and communities achieve a greater balance of health in their own bodies and minds. The podcast series highlights eight key pathways for businesses, governments, and organizations to consider as they plot their own roadmaps toward a culture of well-being, enabling them to thrive in the future economy.
These include the ideas that we need to democratize wellness and ensure it is available for all, that technology must move toward a more supportive role for our well-being, and most importantly, that our own well-being is entwined with our planet.
For more information about Accor Group, visit Accor.com.