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SPOTLIGHT ON Niamh O’Connell, Group Vice President – Wellness and Brand Experience, Rosewood Hotel Group

By Sharon Hirschowitz, Global Head of Media & Communications for The International Luxury Hotel Association
9 April 2021
6 min read
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Niamh tells us how Rosewood has prioritized the shifting needs of guests, creating virtual support programs, wellness sabbaticals interwoven with workcations, and a 24-hour intensive immersion program designed to reset one’s circadian rhythm and promote sleep.

Wellness and programming have proved to be strong trends emerging out of the pandemic. How have you responded to the changing needs of your guests over the past year?
The past year has brought unprecedented challenges for the wellness industry, as well as many others, but it has also provided an opportunity for individuals to realize the importance of and prioritize physical and mental health in response to the pandemic. At Rosewood Hotels & Resorts we are fortunate in that our existing holistic wellness concept, Asaya, a fully integrated wellness destination, allows us to grasp unique wellbeing trends, unlike many other wellness programs.

It is important for us to have a pulse on the constantly changing needs of our guests and quickly pivot to meet these new desires. For example, now as people spend more time in their homes, we have created a virtual support program. Via video, our guests can connect with their wellness practitioners or participate in a personal training session, private yoga class, or cooking demonstration in the comfort of their own home. We know that our guests must regularly practice their programs to achieve their personal transformation and we want to make it accessible even when they can’t visit Asaya in person.

At Asaya Hong Kong specifically, as work from home mandates continue to stay in effect due to the pandemic, the wellness sabbatical that blends a workcation has become increasingly popular. In recognizing that many travellers cannot establish a clean break from work and business, we developed structured routines for our Asaya Hong Kong guests that include nutritious meals, customized workshops, therapeutic consultations, and treatments in order to support one’s working lifestyle. Our program ensures guests rethink the relationship between health and technology overuse and is designed to go deeper than just relaxing or recharging. We also offer remote work packages and long-term stay promotions at multiple properties around the world that transform guests’ accommodations into workspaces so they may focus and remain uninterrupted during the day and embrace their surroundings and the luxurious amenities of the properties after hours for optimal work-life balance.

Additionally, we have seen that the increased anxiety and stressors from this past year have led to weakened sleeping habits for many people. Asaya Hong Kong also offers a 24-hour intensive immersion program designed to reset the sleep-wake cycle. The program assists in balancing one’s circadian rhythm to align one’s sleep and wakefulness with day and night to create a stable cycle of restorative rest that enables increased daytime activity, better sleep quality and works wonders for mental health problems such as adrenal fatigue, exhaustion, anxiety, depression, and other stress-induced illnesses.

Have you introduced any new wellness or guest experience concepts?
Many new modalities have become a catalyst for significant personal change and transformation. Psychoneuroimmunology, the study of the effect of the mind on health and resistance to disease is one of these new focuses. It concentrates on psychological processes and the nervous and immune systems. These programs have a sharp focus on brain regeneration and positive psychology that combines nutrition and exercise. We have seen longevity treatments become increasingly popular as well. At Asaya, our programs change the guests’ relationship with aging, offering natural ways to keep one’s body youthful through psychoneuroimmunology and longevity treatments.

In addressing these new modalities, just this month we launched Journey to Resilience, a new wellness retreat concept designed to enhance one’s ability to recover from or adapt easily to change, which is available at fourteen of our properties worldwide. The retreats focus on four main behavioral elements to resilience including positivism, purpose, resourcefulness, and compassion. In recognition of the increased stress and anxiety people’s minds and bodies have experienced over the past year, each retreat includes practices that take individuals on a journey to rediscover life and attain emotional, physical, and mental balance. Our retreats include practices reflective of local wellness traditions and the natural surroundings of each location ranging from retreats at Asaya Hong Kong to Rosewood Little Dix Bay in the British Virgin Islands to Rosewood Miramar Beach in California.

How are you keeping your staff and guests safe without compromising on your brand identity?
While personalization in the past was often viewed as a non-essential privilege, today, given the current climate, it is considered a key element to sustaining personal safety and security. At Rosewood we have always followed this belief, providing our guests with truly personalized, bespoke experiences, tailored toward their needs and desires.

The health and safety of our guests, associates, and community have been and always will be of the utmost importance to Rosewood. Last spring, we introduced Commitment to Care, our global health and safety program that offers heightened standards for hygiene and cleanliness at all Rosewood properties around the world, guided by local and international health experts. As we adapt to a new normal, we remain committed to operating at the highest levels of health and safety vigilance, providing our guests and associates with the safest, most comfortable, and flexible experience while enjoying the high standard of service expected of Rosewood. Our new protocols include increased cleaning and disinfection of common touchpoints, treatment rooms in our spas and guestrooms, the implementation of advanced technology for sanitation, wellness checks for guests and associates, and added options for contactless check-in and check-out, dining, and housekeeping so that each guests’ experience is tailored to their level of comfort.

What do you think the future holds for us in 2021?
In 2020, there was a lot of emphasis on returning to “normal” and the way things were prior to the onset of the pandemic, but I do not think we will truly ever go back to the way we lived in the past, nor should we strive to. Societies across the globe were living in a highly accelerated mode where exhaustion, lack of community engagement, greed, and an absence of empathy were all widely accepted as “normal,” which is certainly not sustainable. I believe we will see many people take the opportunity of a new year and a fresh start to create a new normal that focuses on what they truly value and make that the foundation for their life, building it into a regular routine. With this, I think it is important for us at Rosewood and Asaya to constantly evolve to address the changing needs and desires of our guests, because as developments around the world take place, the needs and practices for people’s optimal wellbeing will shift.

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