Business travel can be bad for health, with a 2018 study by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health showing a strong correlation between frequency of travel and a wide range of health risks including weight gain, anxiety, depression, alcohol dependence and poor sleep – which in turn can reduce employee productivity and performance.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, business travellers consider health and fitness a top priority. A recent survey by the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) showed that 83% of business travellers consider a hotel’s workout facilities or proximity to walkable areas when making a booking decision, and 50% make time to exercise on every trip. The general stress of travel, unhealthy eating and lack of sleep were among their top wellness concerns.
The global wellness industry
At the same time, wellness is one of the world’s fastest-growing industries, according to a report by the Global Wellness Institute, and the hospitality industry has started to take notice.
International hotel chains such as Wyndham Worldwide, Hyatt, Hilton Worldwide and Marriott International now offer wellbeing options ranging from healthy minibars and room service options to 24-hour gyms, in-room workout facilities and running concierge services – all measures that help road warriors stay fit and focused.
Taking it one step further, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) launched the EVEN Hotel brand in 2012. “We’re passionate about wellness and providing business travellers with the tools they need to maintain their wellness routines on their terms,” explains Raul Ortiz, VP of Global Brand Marketing. “Whether it’s a quick workout before a meeting using the in-room fitness equipment or a great night’s sleep and balanced nutrition, we give them the tools to maximise their productivity.”
Despite this, there’s still much progress to be made, according to Ingo Schweder, owner and founder of GOCO Hospitality, which offers a turnkey solution for spa and wellness projects.
Hoteliers who want to address the health concerns of business travellers should focus on three key areas, he says – ensuring their guests eat well, breathe well and sleep well.
“Offer healthy food options, ideally fresh and organic. Combat air pollution by adding HEPA filters to air-conditioning units [which remove harmful particles such as pollen, pet dander and dust mites] and ensure your guests get a good night’s sleep by installing a simple switch that blocks off electromagnetic fields in the room.”
Another measure Schweder recommends is to install circadian lighting in guestrooms in order to improve sleep – an option IHG is currently piloting in a number of its hotels.
Tea Ros, MD of Strategic Hotel Consulting, agrees that hotels have started to take wellness far more seriously over the past 10 years, but that there are still some missed opportunities.
Hotels could help business travellers deal with the stresses of travel by offering recovery packages, for example. “Guests coming off a long flight will be dehydrated and jet-lagged, but they don’t necessarily know what to do in order to feel and perform better.
“Offering rehydration sachets in the room would help to address this, especially in hot and humid destinations. Ginger shots or supplements containing a combination of vitamin C and zinc would help to combat the stress that travel puts on the immune system.”
“Hotels often don’t get gym design right,” says Ros. “Equipment suppliers who are used to outfitting commercial gyms will recommend bulky, single-use machines that use up a lot of space, are expensive and aren’t very functional.”
Installing a gym doesn’t have to be a huge investment either, she adds. “Travellers who exercise regularly usually know how to work out and don’t need a huge space or lots of equipment. Smaller gyms can be equipped with cable crossovers and simple workout equipment such as TRX.
“Guest rooms can also be equipped with yoga mats and apps offering tailored workout programmes. The most important thing to remember is that business travellers are short on time so need fitness programmes that are time-efficient and deliver results.”
Hotels without space or budget for a gym could partner with a nearby fitness centre or yoga studio to offer free or discounted entry, or advise on running routes in their area.
Another benefit of offering services that improve the wellbeing of customers is an increase in customer loyalty, Ros adds. “When given a choice between booking a classic room and one with wellness amenities, many people will choose the latter even if they have to pay a premium.”
- Wellness is a booming global trend, and business travellers are expecting hotels to help them stay healthy on the road
- Accommodations are increasingly including wellbeing amenities but many don’t understand what their guests really need
- Amenities that genuinely improve traveller wellbeing can increase customer loyalty, even if it’s at a premium