Are we in the Era of Hospitality 4.0 or Hospitality 1.1: Where does wellness fit?

To state the obvious wellness has gained momentum in the last couple of years. This is not independent from the growing of both the mass and the celebrity media in many countries. Not surprisingly real estate developers and owners expect high(er) returns on their investments containing some sort of wellness component(s). Are they right to do so?

Wellness can be understood and translated in rather many different forms and ways. 

  • Traditional luxury would translate ‘wellness’ as something pretty and appears to be exclusive defined by tangible components.
  • More alternative luxury approaches would incorporate less mainstream ideas such as lemoga (lemur yoga) or massage setting under a hot spring waterfall.

We can always come up with a new treatment, an expensive skincare product or unique exotic ritual inspired by first nation heritage that can become the new trend and can find its way to the market at a luxury property. Have you tried perineum sunning, yet?

All this said, to be able to recognize how the true meaning of wellness can meet new luxury we need to revisit some fundamental characteristics and approaches of hospitality.

As we all know the term and concept of hospitality is derived from the Latin word “hospes”, meaning both visitor and stranger, i.e. hospitality has its roots in ancient history. In every culture throughout history of humankind providing hospitality always meant providing shelter, comfort, safe environment and kind looking after.

This leads us to the first disruptive contradiction. Why, all of a sudden, wellness and/or wellbeing has become a major interest of hospitality players? Should not hospitality as a concept fundamentally mean providing services that improve the wellbeing of guests? Since the wellness/well-being domains can and should be translated and adapted in many different ways hotels have so far had unlimited options in creating wellness-oriented services, and brands. So, why now? Because it is a fashionable buzzword?

The second challenge may be even more disrupting to the current approach in hospitality. Even in the most acclaimed hospitality schools students learn that nothing has really changed in and about hospitality since the Ancient times. I tend to believe that this is in the very core of the problem. Why? There are extensive discussions and analyses about industrial revolution 4.0. Sectors, industries, governments, companies have been working on to find out how they can adapt and comply. Where does hospitality, and especially luxury hospitality stand, then? Does the sudden wellness-interest represent hospitality 1.1 with tweaking about wellness issues here and there, or the industry is ready to step up its game and enter into hospitality 4.0?

One of the characteristics of new luxury suggests that ‘Real luxury does not complicate but simplify the life and is highly subjective’. In and more likely after an unprecedented world epidemic any kind of travel, especially to a foreign destination can easily be considered as luxury. We know from numerous studies that any form of travel contributes to the wellbeing of the traveller positively. However short lived that positive impact maybe.

We are going through significant changes on how new luxury maybe defined and understood. Having free time is luxury. Not being online is luxury. Being able to travel is luxury. Having access to serene nature is luxury. Even being well may appear as luxury! Apart from the mainstream, global brand driven understanding of luxury there are numerous new interpretations of luxury depending on where we are and who we are.

Where does wellness feature in all of this? The ‘new’ extended understanding of luxury is conceptual and not constructed. It is not lead by the tangible but more of the intangible. This is where wellness, or more appropriately wellbeing brings great opportunities, and then, consequently better financial performance. Wellness as we see it today is, to most part, is little more than the commercialized adaptation of wellbeing. Materialized in products, such as wearables, sports gear or even a bread maker!

Luxury hospitality players may learn from established brands that traditionally specialised in one or more aspects of wellbeing. They can also learn from standalone anchor properties, but also from properties and concepts that are really far from the traditional understanding of luxury. Lifestyle entrepreneurs in wellness (or wellpreneurs) can inspire brands, properties and service protocols. The figure below indicates a couple of examples how differently luxury can be understood, and then consequently been translated to a certain wellbeing element. Certainly, the art of creating and selling wellness-improving services is the ability of proper identification of luxury-motivation pairings.

Taking the 4.0 approach not the wellness department is the one that brings additional ROI. That is the 1.1 approach. The conceptual (re)definition of luxury brings the higher TrevPAR and RevPAR figures. Wellnessified value propositions are interwoven to every aspect of hospitality. If you stay in hospitality 1.1 then you remain believe in wellusions.

Wellness is not a luxury necessity, but more so a necessary luxury.

About the author
László has been working in the field of travel and health for 25+ years. He is an experience engineer, strategist and trainer, and wellbeing intelligence expert. He has gained experiences in the private as well as in public sector environments both in medical and wellness tourism. László is one of the very few people in the world who has been active in every aspect and domain of health tourism.

He is an economist and art & design manager, and holds masters degrees and a PhD, and is a Certified Management Consultant. László has been lecturing and running tailor-made trainings and masterclasses in over 40 countries all around the world. He has been actively involved both in industry as well as academic arenas and authored numerous industry reports and specialist books and publications. He was the project lead on the path making report for UNWTO & ETC titled Exploring Health Tourism, as well as a pioneering study for Global Spa Summit titled Wellness Tourism and Medical Tourism: Where do spas fit?

László is a hot spring and wellness enthusiast and holds a Diploma in Forest Bathing!