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Hotels target health-conscious travelers

Business and leisure travelers have become increasingly health conscious, and local hotels are keeping pace. It’s part of a growing national trend of “healthy” upscale hotels seeking to meet the needs of guests unwilling to sacrifice their well-being while on the road.

Guests at the Charlotte Marriott Center City have access to a recently renovated fitness center. Photo by Roberta Fuchs

Guests at the Charlotte Marriott Center City have access to a recently renovated fitness center. Photo by Roberta Fuchs

The 19-story Charlotte Marriott Center City recently furnished 22 of its rooms with more than a dozen amenities designed to pamper and rejuvenate the weary traveler. The hotel is one of six in the nation to launch wellness real estate and technology company Delos Living’s Stay Well rooms, which the company says holistically reduces the effects of jet lag and stress and enables a more restful sleep.

“We saw a need for it. Guests wanted an additional option,” explained Crissy Wright, general manager of the hotel. “We were sold on trying it.”

Part of that means catering to clients who might be highly allergic, Wright said. To that end, the Stay Well rooms provide a purification system that filters the air of dust, mites, pollen, spores and other particles four times an hour.

Maintaining natural body rhythm is an important aspect of the Stay Well program. Each room offers circadian lighting, which allows guests to dim light levels as the day progresses to signal the body to produce sleep-inducing melatonin. Conversely, light levels can be raised to induce alertness and extend the day.

For those who don’t appreciate an alarm clock’s jarring buzz or wake-up calls from the front desk, Stay Well rooms offers dawn-simulators that slowly increase levels of ambient sound and light to gently rouse slumbering clients.

Stay Well guests also have access to chlorine-reducing Vitamin C-infused shower heads, memory-foam mattresses, scented-oil aromatherapy options, and the recently renovated fitness center.

The hotel launched the Stay Well program in February, and so far, Wright said, feedback has been very positive. The rooms come with an extra $35 fee per night.

Health-inducing features such as those at Charlotte Marriott Center City are part of the rapidly expanding “wellness tourism” industry, defined as travel associated with the goal of maintaining or enhancing personal well-being.

Nonprofit think tank The Global Wellness Institute estimates spending in the industry — which spans from primary travelers who take a trip to a spa specifically for health reasons, to secondary travelers who engage in restorative activities as part of their trip — at $494 billion worldwide in 2013. That was a nearly 13 percent increase from 2012, and the institute expects that amount to grow another 9 percent annually through 2017.

Circadian lighting is featured in Charlotte Marriott Center City's Stay Well rooms. Photo by Roberta Fuchs

Circadian lighting is featured in Charlotte Marriott Center City’s Stay Well rooms. Photo by Roberta Fuchs

It is the latter cohort of secondary travelers, such as those traveling on business, who account for 84 percent of spending.

Delos Living appears to be tapping into that sector.

“Now more than ever, health and wellness is a top priority in nearly every facet of our lives, and there is a growing demand from business and leisure travelers alike for accommodations that allow them to maintain their healthy lifestyles while on the go,” said Delos Chief Executive Paul Scialla in an e-mail.

When asked the price of converting hotel rooms to Stay Well standards, Scialla said that it “depended on a variety of factors,” but that given demand for the option, the offering provided “an invaluable return on investment.”

Scialla launched the Stay Well rooms at the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas in late 2012. He said the program there was such a success that the hotel has more than quadrupled its number of Stay Well rooms to 171 from 42.

Other hotels that have recently expanded into the wellness market nationally include Intercontinental Hotel Group’s EVEN properties, which tout eucalyptus fiber bedding and gluten-free dining options, and Starwood’s Element brand.

While other Charlotte hotels haven’t opted for the Stay Well program, they have been keeping up with guests’ fitness routines.

“Guests are asking for healthier options,” said Marcela Ceccacci, director of sales and marketing at the Omni Charlotte Hotel in uptown. Many of them, she said, are business travelers.

To meet their needs, the Omni provides complimentary access to the amenities at the nearby Charlotte Athletic Club. In addition, the club will host yoga classes on the hotel’s pool deck this summer.

The Omni also offers guests sound machines to block out background noise and a get-fit kit that allows them to turn their rooms into private exercise centers. Each kit contains a five-pound kettlebell, contour weights, a foam roller, a push-up bar, and a yoga mat.

Ceccacci said the hotel also is looking into expanding the healthy-choice options it offers on its menu.

Christina Thigpen, vice president of marketing and communications at The Ballantyne in south Charlotte, also has seen increased demand for maintaining a fitness regimen. More guests, she said, are asking for time with the hotel’s on-site personal trainer.

Along with the hotel’s spa and fitness center, which features cardio and strength-training equipment and resistance pools, the Ballantyne has launched a fitness “boot camp” for guests three times a week.

“Overall, more and more people are becoming aware of being healthy,” she said.

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