Skift Take

In episode eight of the Skift Ideas Podcast, we are joined by Harry Jameson of Pillar Wellbeing, to examine the industry's transformative journey towards embracing and incorporating wellness as an integral aspect of the guest experience.

In the latest episode of the Skift Ideas Podcast, Colin is joined by Harry Jameson, CEO of Pillar Wellbeing, a service provider targeting sophisticated, health-curious individuals who wish to optimise today and future-proof tomorrow through the three core ‘pillars’ of Movement, Nourishment and Recovery.

Harry has over 18 years’ experience in the fitness & hospitality industries, having optimized performance and wellbeing for CEOs, celebrities and politicians alike, alongside creating wellbeing retreats and advising on wellness programming in some of the world’s most luxurious hotels and resorts. 

Join us as we explore Harry’s profound insights into the world of wellbeing, and examine how the industry has undergone a transformative journey towards embracing and incorporating wellness as an integral aspect of the guest experience.

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Episode Notes

Colin Nagy: Hi everyone, welcome back to the Skift Ideas Podcast and thanks for tuning in. I’m delighted to be joined by an awesome guest today, Harry Jameson, CEO of Pillar Wellbeing.

Harry has over 18 years’ experience in the fitness and hospitality industries, having optimized performance and wellbeing for CEOs, celebrities and politicians alike. 

He has developed one-on-one fitness training for senior leaders at Quintessentially, Chelsea Football Club and Soho House Group; and created wellbeing retreats and advised on wellness programming and concept development in some of the world’s most luxurious hotels and resorts. 

He’s also a Wellness Editor at the Times with a monthly column, and a global brand ambassador for Lululemon and Technogym.

And I have a great history with Harry because he used to write an amazing column for a British magazine, and I was just a fan. I would pick up this magazine and I thought it was some of the most astute writing on fitness and wellbeing, and I actively sought him out and had the pleasure of working out with him in a few different places in London whenever I’d be in town.

It’s been awesome to watch Harry’s ascent with building Pillar and we’ll get into the entire background.

So Harry, I’m super happy to have you on. It’s always a pleasure to talk to you. Would love to know a little bit about your journey. You know, like give us some insight and history into your background and why this space is really important to you.

Harry Jameson: Well, listen, first of all, thanks for the intro. And second of all, yeah, you know, we’ve known each other well over a decade. When I used to do the Esquire Fitness column. And I also had the gym at the Langham Hotel in London. And, you know, that was probably my first stepping stone into what the integration of fitness and wellbeing at a higher level could be in the hospitality space.

But if I rewind back to the start of my career, I did a sports science and psychology degree in 2000 at Liverpool University, and I think like lots of trainers and people in my space, you know, I have to be a self-confessed failed athlete. You know, if I could have been a professional athlete I definitely would have.

And my passion had always been in sports, and I loved and played every single sport under the sun. I then headed back to London to try and sort of apply my trade in as high a level as I possibly could. If I was going to be a personal trainer, I wanted to be an outstanding one and worked in a studio on Harley Street.

And for those who don’t know, Harley Street is the medical center of Europe really. It’s very high end in its approach, sometimes reactive treating disease and sometimes preventative in terms of scanning for disease. And what we had an opportunity to do my first big client was the co-founder of a concierge business school Quintessentially. So we had access to high net worth, interesting entrepreneurial C-suite level individuals who, at the time, only came to me because they wanted to lose weight, but because of all my traction and interaction with the medical community, I was asking them questions that they hadn’t really heard before.

Like, how do you sleep? And, you know, let’s take a look at your digestive health and let’s test your heart rate variability to look at your stress responses to the environment. Now we see that data being used in Oura Ring and sleep tracking has become quite normal. And I guess it’s the wellness industry now, and in 2000 it didn’t really exist. 

So my view was very much put an athlete protocol, athlete approach into an everyday person. By everyday person, I mean already high performer, CEO, leader, entrepreneur, and treat them like an athlete. And we have a huge opportunity to impact their daily performance, but even more so, their longevity. And that’s then spilled into my approach to coaching, which was optimize today and future proof tomorrow, which is a phrase that we use within Pillar.

And after working with those people, like you said, and a few prime ministers, a Prime minister and some CEOs and a high level sports club, one of the biggest in the world, I started to take gym spaces in five star hotels because they were hugely underutilized and had a bit of a background in health retreats, and I’d run some with Rocco Forte, Four Seasons One&Only, and it was a very transient type product. And I thought actually our products and services should be in hotels full time and if we fast forward a little bit more, we now have Pillar Wellbeing.

Nagy: Yeah. What’s really exciting to me, Harry, is, you know, my thesis is a lot of these very high end, you know, CEOs, celebrities, people with full on lives. They’re looking at fitness and wellness as like an unfair advantage. Right? And they’re using data in order to be better, whether it’s the ordering, whether it’s the Oura Ring or the WOOP. And it’s no longer, you know, hospitality in many ways is no longer just like excess and gluttony, you know, and like endless shrimp cocktails.

Hospitality needs to be enabling these people to sort of perform at a higher level. And this is kind of what we’re talking about with, you know, as we as we think about our Megatrends for next year is that the role of, you know, bleeding edge, interesting wellness and top tier hospitality coming together. Right? And it’s interesting because it seems like it was just a small percentage of people that were living this way.

But now when I’m at a you know, five star resort, I see more Garmin Sports Watches and On Trainers and athletic leisure than you see the traditional codes of luxury, right? You see these people that are kind of trying to dial in everything to get more performance, better recovery, more sleep. So just a really interesting dynamic.

Jameson: It’s a huge trend. It’s a global trend that is impacting all ends of the market. You know, luxury, ultra-luxury, mid-scale. You know, we’ve got we’re seeing kind of the more accessible end of the market really looking at actually how do you strip everything out of a room and optimize it for sleep? You know, I stood up at a hospitality conference in Cannes, six years ago to a group of hoteliers, and I said, none of you have ever designed a room to get a good night’s sleep, which is crazy because it’s a bedroom. 

What is the value of sleep? And now, as you say, with the rise of wearables, these things are trackable. There’s a real tangible metric that we can decide whether our products are effective or not.

So I used to have Twitter as one of my corporate clients, and I would go to New York, to their global offsite every year, and I would speak to the C-suite and the regional leadership teams, there would be 20-odd people in the room outside of the then CEO, Jack Dorsey. Every single other senior person in that business was in that room.

And their biggest pain point was recovery from jetlag. And I think that’s a huge pain point for the global luxury traveler all together. And my data from BUPA was that 24 hours without sleep leaves the body with the same reaction times as somebody, two and a half times the legal drink drive limit for alcohol.

So would you get off a red eye flight and go to a business meeting right off the bat and try and knock it out of the park? People do that all the time. Would you, just before you entered the room to one of the most important meetings to close a big deal, drink two and a half pints of beer really, really quickly and then go and expect to do well. Obviously you wouldn’t. 

So the importance of sleep when it comes to performing at a high level is huge. And actually that’s, I still feel where the hotel industry specifically has missed a trick. 

But when we look at wellness as a badge of honor, I think, you know, the argument is that wellness is the new luxury. It is. It is when we see the highest ADRs, when we see the most expensive branded real estate, Aman knock it out of the park.

And it’s a really beautifully designed concept with wellbeing at the core of everything. It’s the most luxurious and Six Senses led the way with this barefoot luxury concept. But actually when I think about true modern luxury, I think wellness beyond what Grand Crus champagne they have or how much marble there is or how much gold there is, that’s almost, for me, outdated luxury and wellness is leading the trend in a huge way.

Nagy: It’s a great point and it’s one that I’ve been talking to a lot of people about. You know, I just caught up with Chris Norton at Equinox and I think what they’ve done with the rooms and even removing the little blinking lights and the annoyances, the blackout curtains really making an incredible room for sleep. Even the air conditioner, you know, doesn’t make noise in the same way that some other HVAC systems do.

So it’s like they’re these very interesting people that are pushing this forward, which is exciting to me. 

And I think the other thing that I want to talk to you about is so there’s the excess in the Grand Crus and then there’s, you know, how decadent things are versus, you know, what we’re talking about. But there’s also the evolution of wellness as it relates to hospitality, because I think a lot of hospitality, was really focused on like expensive massages and like the La Prairie or La Mer kind of, you know, super, super luxurious pampering.

But your approach to wellness and the way you’re thinking about it is not just about like the relaxation side of things. It’s much more holistic. So would you kind of explain the pillars, you know, not to also use the name of your, how you’re thinking about this holistically.

Jameson: Yeah. So the three pillars that we abide by within our business are the way the body moves, the way the body recovers and how the body is nourished. And you can break that down into three distinct departments within the facility. You know, we have a movement studio and a gym which very much looks at physical elements of wellbeing.

Now that might be rehabilitation from an injury, that might be prehab in the sense that here’s how I move my body so I don’t get injured. And then there’s traditional strength and conditioning work, there’s weight loss, cardiovascular capacity development, we push your VO2 max, we’ll build muscle, we’ll turn you into a weekend warrior. That’s the movement side.

Now, prior to businesses like ours coming to the marketplace, about 80% of gyms in luxury hotels were unmanned. So what they were completely lacking was this personal touch and personal approach that we know the luxury consumer demands in every other department of the hotel. You wouldn’t walk up to the concierge desk and be happy just to have an iPad.

You want a concierge to serve you. You want a sommelier to tell you what wine to have. Why wouldn’t you want a highly trained, highly upskilled wellbeing professional to teach you how to move your body or what specific steps to go through to improve your golf swing? Those things should all be there. 

Recovery is a really interesting element. And as you say, the traditional spa was a very product led environment and there’s still a huge need for that and a huge demand for that. In our product, in London, we have a spa partner Guerlain, now owned by LVMH, and a beautiful French heritage brand that does fantastic beauty treatments and amazing relaxation.

Our part comes in at the level that we would consider to be more clinical, which is mentally, physically and emotionally restorative services, physiotherapy, things to do with anti-inflammatory processes, whether that’s deep tissue massage or hot cold contrast therapy. We’ve also got a clinical psychologist. We have talking therapies, we have cognitive behavioral therapy, we have nutritional therapists.

So we consider our services to be complementary to those, not kind of hostile to those, because there’s still room for a manicure and a pedicure and a facial. And I think those things will always remain in demand. However, we wanted to bring all of those wellness services under one roof.

And then the nourishment part is super important to us. Pre and post-workout nutrition has always been quite functional.

Even at your friend’s beautiful gym, I would still challenge them to up their F&B game on the on the healthy eating side, because I’ve trained in Equinox London. I’ve been to Equinox in New York. We’ve got a third space. We’ve got other great luxury gyms that I’ve spent large parts of my adult life in and I’m never super excited to have lunch there.

And I think that that is something that we really wanted to change. We’ve got a global partnership with the two Michelin star chef, Jason Atherton, and he’s the culinary director in Pillar Kitchen. And we wanted to redefine how healthy eating is delivered, not just in the hospitality space, but actually how it’s delivered into the marketplace. 

You could choose between something healthy or something tasty. And actually those two things shouldn’t be, you know, they should be complementary. 

And so if we can deliver great movement services, great recovery services which complement existing spa provision and great F&B, you’ve now got a wellness club that you don’t necessarily have to have to leave, you know, the goal and commercial perspective is to increase dwell time and to get people to come to your facility, and move and socialize and do business, and nourish their body and recover and get all of their things under one roof without being a jack of all trades, but each one of them excellent.

Nagy: And I like what you said there because number one, you know, the F&B component just seems like such an opportunity. I think unfortunately, you just see these like, sad smoothie bars in a lot of places. The one that I did appreciate that you’ll be familiar with, I did a couple of workouts and played some tennis in the Jumeirah, the kind of fitness club there on a beach in Dubai.

Jameson: Talise Fitness I think it’s called. 

Nagy: Yeah, I can’t remember, but F&B was  awesome, but I like the opportunity space for you on like super clean proteins and things on the more anti-inflammatory side and really the fueling side of the equation. Because it hasn’t really been done. You know, we’ve neglected, you know, a lot of these sides which creates this opportunity space that’s very meaningful.

I wanted to double click with you a little bit on the behavioral side of this, because I think that that’s absolutely fascinating, because you could be doing all the right things. You could be, you know, in the gym and doing your cardio and doing your mobility. But the behavioral side of coaching is also kind of helping you address some hidden things or like undoing some habits that might be deeply rooted from, you know, but from the time you were eight.

So I would love to hear your thoughts on the role of sort of the behavioral coaching with what you’re doing.

Jameson: I mean, my original degree was in sports science. I did a combined degree with psychology. So I wasn’t sports psychology specifically, although that was a component, but it was the psychology of human behavior, you know, from Freudian psychology all the way through to sort of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, thinking about, you know, a whole plethora of different things.

And actually, when you look at somebody who iss going to perform at a high level, emotional intelligence and coaching around the emotional side of performance, primarily in the management of stress, but also in the management of emotions and interpersonal relationships, is huge. 

And I think there’s a real space at the moment. You know, there’s a huge zeitgeist moment for this personal optimization piece, and if you look at the big trending podcasts of the world, the Diaries of the CEO, the Modern Wisdoms is that the bigger players in the game, these entrepreneurial stories are men and women who’ve gone through real hardship, actually talking about past trauma and letting those things go and not letting it hold them back. 

I think if you got especially men, a man in the room whose life was going fantastically on the surface, and you asked them honestly what was holding them back. Nine times out of ten, it would be something connected to either addiction or non processing of emotion. And I think that’s becoming less taboo.

You’re in the States where therapy is normalized, as personal training, whereas when you’re European and specifically English, where if you came back, if you went and sat with your friend in the pub and you said, I’ve just been to see my therapist, they say, oh my God, what’s wrong? You know, you would only go as a reactive process because something really bad had happened. You were getting divorced or you were clinically depressed.

Actually thinking about using talking therapies as a preventative tool so that those things don’t ever take place in the first place is very much our approach at Pillar. And I think when you look at the highest performing people on the planet, mindset plays almost a larger proportion of that than anything.

I worked with with the former UK prime minister who was definitely not physically an athlete, but had the biggest mental toughness and resilience and coping mechanisms to deal with stress that I’ve ever seen ever, and worked with the CEO Chelsea Football Club and two of the partners at McKinsey physically and actually personality wise, those three people were so, so different. You would never put them together in a room. 

They all have this one common trait, which is an incredible resilience to stress, an incredible capacity to deal with, cope with stress, and make decisions under pressure. And actually that all comes from mindset. 

So I think we’re not just talking about, you know, coaching somebody out of anxiety or depression, but we are giving them coping mechanisms so that said, anxiety and depression doesn’t necessarily take hold in a high pressure environment. 

We’re also giving them the life tools and skills that they need to process and manage their emotions, not just to get to the top, because getting there for a day is not what our guys are after. They want to get there and stay there for a decade and that requires a huge amount of resilience.

Nagy: And I think what’s very interesting that you’re talking about is there has been incredible zeitgeist shift with, you know, the Peter Attias, the Hubermans, guys that are actually very much using data and deep understanding of, you know, vetted research and not, you know, fitness talk or some of the things that pop up. And as these sort of platforms scale alongside, you know, some of the other ones, you know, performance recovery and also the things you’re talking about with resilience are becoming more commonplace, you know, in the conversation.

And I think, I’ve done a lot of work with you guys from the special operations community that are, you know, transitioning into the business world. And it’s very interesting to see how a lot of these men and women are working on these newer forms of therapy and addressing some underlying mental things, because in the past, those cultures were very, you know, talking about anything like that is a weakness, right?

Jameson: Totally. 

Nagy: But now much more evolved in terms of thinking. And there’s been a sea change. And I think it’s very meaningful what you said with your former client that was, you know, British Prime Minister is, you know, a very stressful job. And the ability to have some tools, whether it’s from breathwork or mindfulness or even talking to someone, to kind of maintain that because otherwise we’ll see what happens when that doesn’t happen, people kind of implode.

People have terrible fitness or health results when they haven’t built the system to deal with that.

Jameson: I think what people are really starting to understand and this is a slight tangent, but it’s true, is that thoughts and feelings manifest themselves as physical ailments. If they are negative and if they are not managed, stress becomes a stomach ulcer. You know, poor digestive health through lack of sleep and poor quality of food leads to a suppressed immune system. 90% of the serotonin in is produced in your gut, which decides essentially whether you are happy or whether you are not. 

And so if you combine managing thoughts and emotions with managing your digestive health and managing your body, you know these things in a butterfly effect. One of them in isolation is not what we’re looking at. High level performance from an athlete perspective means you’ve got to be fast, you’ve got to be strong, you’ve got to be supple, you’ve got to be able to sprint, ready to catch, you got to be able to jump. All those things need to be able to sing at once. 

And actually high level performance, as an entrepreneur, you need so many different elements of your mind, body, spirit, soul, leadership, community management to all sing together at the same time.

And actually I think what people are really understanding is that in order to get there a mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually, a more and more robust, capable and trained person has a better chance of getting there in the first place and a way better chance of winning. 

I think that’s the first element. I think the second element is Peter Attia, who I’ve been listening to for years and years, along with Rhonda Patrick who I also love.

His original drive for his research was longevity. How do I get this kind of health span piece out there? And I think we’re seeing in this kind of high net worth, ultra high net worth demographic of individuals, longevity is now a real key driver of behavioral change. 

I am successful or my life is good, I may or may not be affluent. I’m probably slightly older. I want the last 30 years of my life to be the best 30 years of my life. And actually, what habits and behaviors do I need to put in place? I’m not quite talking about Brian Johnson who’s hit the news in his life, in my opinion, not even living his life in order to live longer.

But there are, you know, less than 5% of anything from a lifestyle disease perspective that’s going to go wrong with us is genetic. 95% of the things that are going to go wrong with you or myself or my mom or my wife are going to be down to how we live. And that’s cardiovascular disease, type two diabetes, Alzheimer’s, dementia and things that are probably going to get us, cancers, at some point. They’re essentially in our hands.

And so we see this hybrid behavioral pattern, which is I want to wake up every day with the best chance of winning, kicking everybody’s ass. And I want to live a long, happy, healthy life. Actually, the behaviors that drive those two outcomes are the same. And so if I was selling my services to a 55 year old who wanted to live to be 105, I’d be telling them exactly what to do. And if I was selling my services to a 30 year old who wanted to be CEO of his company in the next five years, I’d be telling him exactly what to do.

I’d be telling those two individuals to do exactly the same thing, broadly. 

The outcome, their desired outcome, which would motivate them to adhere to those behaviors would be slightly different. But actually the human body hasn’t changed for tens of thousands of years, although our environment is exponentially different, but we are almost stripping it, stripping it back to basics.

People are jumping into ice baths and meditating to manage their central nervous system. I would argue Buddhist monks have been meditating for far longer than we’ve had Headspace on an iPhone.

Nagy: There’s a lot of the reversion to kind of some classic things, right? You know, breathing is in vogue again, but it’s existed forever. You know, the contrast therapy, you know, the Finns and indigenous people in many places have figured that out  for for a long time. But it doesn’t mean, you know, these things are super valid, but it is interesting to see how they pop into the zeitgeist in a meaningful way.

One of the things I also wanted to talk about, Harry, is with a lot of this audience, they’re doing a lot of long haul. They’re always on a plane, which is an inherently unhealthy environment. So it’s almost as if they have to think about themselves as endurance athletes. What are you seeing from the hospitality space, you know, in terms of ways to address this?

I mean, Qantas has done some interesting things with their lounges and light therapy and food, you know, cafes doing kind of plant based, easier to digest meals. But what are you seeing in the broader travel space that you find to be particularly progressive or interesting as it relates to movement around the world, you know, airlines, etc.?

Jameson: I think that’s a really interesting point. I think, you know, there’s probably two or three key drivers that are going to kind of offset the negative impacts of long haul travel. One is reduction in inflammation, two is rehydration and three is resetting circadian rhythm. I think those three things are going to decide whether you feel a bit crappy when you get off a flight or within five or 6 hours of getting off, or whether you feel good.

I think, you know, the end of the market that cares about it the most is the first and business travel end, you know, how do I make my already comfortable journey infinitely more comfortable, because ultimately those are the people who are going to pay for it. 

We see interesting kind of welcome lounge concepts. We actually did one and we have a gym opening, a health club opening in Fairmont, Doha, a property that I know that, you know, work with an amazing consultant over there who’s got a recovery lounge concept where she integrates her services with HyperIce Normatec.

And they do compression leggings when you get off way or while checking in, you can lie down, you can put your compression leggings on a little bit like the kind of compression socks that we used to wear, used to see people wearing to offset the chances of deep vein thrombosis. We’re now looking at boosting circulation. We’re now looking at reducing inflammation after using tech and kind of manual tech.

Headspace became popular because he managed to get it on all Virgin Atlantic flights. And originally it was used to calm anxiety for flying. Then they put sleep stories on there. Then they being quite smart about how people would consume different types of media that may or may not impact their ability to fall into a deep, restful sleep. 

I think the answer is no one’s really doing enough, and I think it’s a huge space.

I think actually once you’re off the flight, the real opportunity sits with the property that you’re going to or the space that you’re going to or even in transit from airport to to property, where you can intervene with some form of F&B intervention, normally a rehydration type product with electrolytes in it, and some form of trying to get your circadian rhythms set to the time of destination as early as you possibly can.

So there are kind of hints and tips that you would give a long haul traveler that none of us abide by, right? No booze, no caffeine on the flight, try not to eat the second you get on the flight, set your watch to the time of destination and then act like you would if you were in that time. But I still see huge opportunities.

Nagy: There’s a lot of open space there, you know, similar to the spaces that you’re seeing on the ground with hotels. And a lot of it also needs to be on the traveler, right? A lot of this isn’t always going to be solved by the market. You know, pick a 787 because the air pressure humidity is better. You know, when you’re transferring in Doha, go for a swim. You know, there’s a little hotel there, pay $20 or whatever, go have a swim or a little jog, as opposed to stuffing your face with butter, chicken in the lounge.

There’s a lot of little things that are also just like self-discipline. But I also think that the sea of change will come to airlines where they go from decadence. You know, even like the names of all these lounges are always like, you know, like the Admirals Club or the you know, it’s like playing to these old notions of, it was only males being business travelers, and it was all about decadence and steak. 

And, you know, now it’s you’re traveling, you’re doing long haul back and forth somewhere for only a couple of days to do a deal or whatever. Like, we need our role is to enable you in that mission as opposed to just like, get you drunk and make you fall asleep, you know?

So I love that point.

Jameson: I think it’s quite interesting too, quickly. Sorry to jump in. But to differentiate between the high performance business traveler and that leisure traveler, I think that business traveler, you know the Gold Club holder, they are all over the world all of the time. You know, I mentioned him before, but one of the partners in McKinsey, I’ve never seen a man travel like he traveled ever.

You know, the idea that you can drink for free in the lounge, right? That’s long lost on him. You get two kinds of people. People who get into a lounge and see free drinks and go, my God, this is like Mecca. And the guy who literally jumps in, blackout eye mask, ear plugs in. Let me sleep. 

And I think more can be done to cater for the person who really has to get up the second they get off that plane and go and perform at a high level. I think that that is where the true opportunity lies. And for far too long they’ve catered for, would you like a champagne, sir? Would you like another one? Would you like another one? I think actually now, if you think commercially the willingness to spend on that is removed, it’s gone. Of course I would spend on that.

Nagy: You know, it’s interesting, Harry, is is when you look at the numbers coming out of Diageo, when you look at numbers coming out of some of the bigger drinks companies, they’re seeing this sort of systemic decline coming off COVID, where everyone’s buying the very nice gins to make it cocktails at home. But I remember something you said to me, probably like seven years ago, which is with wellness, some of the healthy side of things can also be very profitable business for some of these places, right? 

Like, it’s not always you don’t always have to make your margin with the GNT in some things, you know, sometimes other health and wellness things also, you know, can be a premium offering that to do well.

Jameson: I agree completely and Diageo’s big step into that space is when they bought Seedlip famously right and they bought the nonalcoholic spirit, the rise of low and no alcohol brands, you know, not just because they want to target potentially places in the Middle East where culturally alcohol is not as widely used, but also as the generations below you and I.

You know, and I’m in my early forties and the two generations below me just consume way less than I did when I was younger and that many of us did on the way through. And it’s kind of a mindful drinking culture with half strength spirits and lucky St 0.5% beer and people like this are doing huge, huge business.

But I think something interesting, I sat with a guy at one of the global conferences for Fairmont. I presented some of the future trends, some of the stuff that we’re talking about, but also something I’m sure we might come on to, but the rise in the membership markets of hotels, etc. 

And one of the guys I was sitting with was a data analyst. And actually they’re looking at splitting the different demographics of traveler and they know that a wellness traveler spends on average about 40% more than a business or a leisure traveler, but also that wellness traveler, and this is a bit kitsch, but the more they spend in the spa, actually, the more they spend in the bar.

Somebody who’s willing to invest heavily in their health also likes to invest in the finer things in life.

So whilst they might not be drinking the huge volume that you would have seen that definitely pick lower down the list of the bottle of wine, you know, they’ll go for the really nice bottle of Bordeaux at $500 rather than three, at $100. And so you see this kind of more discerning individual who is very health conscious, who will invest in a personal training session where there are two spa treatments, they will book, you know, the suite that’s got the Peloton bike in it, or they might elevate their proposition or put the slightly more luxurious transfer, they will spend.

And that is the consumer that the luxury market is trying to attract. 

And one of the one of the key anchors for our business is providing products and services where that individual is self-selecting that environment because they know when they’re there their health is taken care of, and they will be at the two star restaurant and they will buy an amazing one or two or three bottles of amazing wine, and they drink less but they drink better and they care more.

And that is the person who we’re looking at and talking about.

Nagy: And I wanted to use this as a perfect segway. You know, a lot of your vision and a lot of what you’ve seen has kind of culminated with an incredible opening in London, which is the Raffles at the Old War Office, which is probably like the opening of the year, if not, you know, of the past five years in terms of sheer ambition.

And I wanted you to take, you know, 5 minutes or so and just kind of give us what that’s doing and why it’s different than the other kind of wellness offerings in London.

Jameson: Yeah. So Raffles London at the OWO is an incredible project. The OWO stands for Old War Office. And so this building has a huge amount of history. It was Winston Churchill’s office during the war. So at the end of Downing Street, obviously famous for being the home of the Prime minister, obviously the Horse Guard Parade. You look out the front door, you have Buckingham Palace, you look at the back door, you’ve got the Houses of Parliament, you’ve got Big Ben.

It’s as iconically London as any other space. Ian Fleming, who wrote James Bond once worked there. And so it’s going to the Bond heritage. And the spies in World War Two used to meet in this room and they’ve got this very cool little Spy Bar. 

So its got all of these little quintessentially British and English intricacies, and then they’ve bought this incredible heritage brand in Raffles, you know, iconically of Singapore, but as we know, you know, the global, you know, real feather in the cap for the Accor Group, first time to London.

The OWO is destination has got multiple beautiful F&B outlets that say outside of the Raffles Hotel, Paper Moon, Cafe Le Peruse, you know, a beautiful Japanese restaurant by Endo coming on the roof, and then this wellness offering and this beautiful subterranean kind of oasis with two key partners being Pillar Wellbeing, my health club business responsible for driving movement, recovery, nutritional services and being the real key anchor to creating a wellness membership of the whole property. But also Guerlian, their first spa offering in the UK, coming out traditionally from Paris. 

And so all of the things that you’ve described this very decadent, very luxurious, very historically credible, beautiful brand in Guerlain, but actually us coming in and saying all of the things that I’ve just told you, you are you are a modern, high performing business athlete and we want to give you all of the products and services that you need.

Imagine, you know Chris Hemsworth made that brilliant app, where he got all of the sub components of his team. We got access to his nutritionist and his therapist and his physio and his trainer and his strength coach. That’s what we’re saying if you come to Pillar. We’re kind of your ready made high performance team. And you know, we’ve got lifestyle coaches, psychologists, a plethora of different people.

But there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to do that in a beautiful, beautiful, luxurious environment. 

And so now we want to redefine. For a very long time there was a huge overinvestment. I’m not talking about any specific brand. I’m talking about the luxury hospitality industry as a whole. There was a huge overinvestment in facility and they didn’t invest and from a wellness, an underinvestment in the services that drive experience.

And so one of the analogies that we used when we were kind of building this business and speaking to potential partners was it’s like you guys are building the best kitchens in the world and then not employing any chefs. So how can you expect good quality products to come out?

You know, we’re the chefs, we’re the people who will give you this tangible experience, which is highly personalized. And this definitely does not assume what’s right for you. And, you know, I talked earlier about giving this 30 year old and 55 year old design, you know, behaviors I would give I would encourage them to do the same thing. But there would be a very deep dive individual look into what that person’s physiological makeup was, what their lifestyle was, we’d test your resting VO2, your bone density. You know, I could go into a whole, you know, another podcast on our comprehensive wellness assessment. 

And then we use those metrics as well as, you know, tapping into any open API data that we have, any open API data that you have and to be able to make sure that we track and monitor everything about you.

So we have a very small but targeted member base that will be coming in to use our facility. We’re also driving our services into the branded residential units as well as to the hotel guests. 

So really the anchor to becoming a member of our space is the health and wellbeing services. You know, you get some additional property wide benefits, but we’re seeing a big rise in memberships for facilities like that and we hope to be the anchor to that.

Nagy: And it’s also interesting, you know, as we wrap up here, there is a social component to this, right? So much of socializing in England and other places was always kind of around the pub or whatever. But what you are finding is with some of these more, well, wellness focused places, it is a place where socializing is happening, networking is happening and kind of connections are made with like minded people, right?

Because when you have people with a growth mindset, there is a kind of natural magnetism and additive space that you’re creating, which is cool.

Jameson: 100%, I think, you know, we are seeing and envisage it to happen even more so, that you’ll be doing fantastic deals in our sauna. You’ll be doing great deals in our hydrotherapy pool. You’ll be training alongside some of the most interesting and dynamic individuals within that specific space. And we’re focused on London and we’re incredibly proud to have that as our flagship.

We’ve got a really exciting pipeline of opportunities and are looking for more because there are key cities and key locations in the world where things happen, you know, those things that are driven by probably ten or 12 real key global locations. And I think it’s where we want to see where we want to be, where we’re going to be, right where we want to occupy.

And so we think that the members club and the redefinition of how the members club model will be in the future will be less about cigar lounges and whiskey bars, and it will be more about interacting with individuals, as you say, who have a like minded growth mindset.

Nagy: Well, this was awesome and it’s such a pleasure to see you. And I’m really excited to see like the growth of your projects and like the stuff that we were jamming on like ten years ago, really evolving into something so cool. 

So it’s a pleasure again. Harry Jameson, his company is called Pillar, and it’s such a pleasure to have you with us today.

Jameson: Thank you, sir. Thanks. Being a champion and for having me on. And I’d love to join you again soon. 

Nagy: Awesome. Well, thank you. This was really wonderful.

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Tags: guest experience, hospitality, skift ideas podcast, skift podcast, wellbeing, wellness, wellness travel

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