The global consumer wellness market is worth $1.8 trillion in 2024, according to McKinsey & Co. And many of those consumers are travelers, too.
In recent years, hotels have ramped up their wellness offerings to cater to guests’ growing interest in focusing on their well-being, even while on the road. But what is “wellness,” exactly?
“I chuckle [when I’m asked that] because we just had our annual international conference for the Wellness Tourism Association, and we started it by asking, what does wellness mean?” said Molly Anderson, board chair of the Wellness Tourism Association and vice president of sales and programming at Canyon Ranch.
“Even within Canyon Ranch, we talk about it all the time,” she added. “[Wellness is] individual, and it's unique to every person.”
While wellness might be hard to define, wellness travel is a bit easier. WTA — a network of wellness tourism professionals who set standards for the growing industry — defines the term as “travel that allows the traveler to maintain, enhance or kick-start a healthy lifestyle, and support or increase one’s sense of wellbeing.”
No matter how you define it, wellness travel is on the rise. Research and Markets expects the global wellness tourism market to reach $1.2 trillion by 2027. That’s a 63% jump from 2020, when the market was valued at $735.8 billion.
Hotel Dive spoke with Anderson and other experts in the wellness travel space to learn what hotels are doing to capitalize on one of the biggest hospitality trends right now — and what wellness amenities hoteliers can expect to see in 2024.
Built-in versus bespoke
The Global Wellness Institute has identified two kinds of wellness travelers. There are primary wellness travelers, whose choice of trip or destination is primarily motivated by wellness, and secondary wellness travelers, who simply seek to maintain wellness while traveling.
Resorts like Canyon Ranch — wellness destinations unto themselves, with on-site therapists, nutritionists and physicians — have always catered to primary wellness travelers. But more and more hospitality companies are introducing amenities to meet the needs of secondary wellness travelers, too.
“[Wellness is going] beyond the walls of hotel spas and gyms and into the more holistic approach of delivering personal and relevant wellbeing experiences throughout the guest journey.”
Global SVP of well-being strategy, design and development at Accor
“We recognize that guests want their travels to address all aspects of wellness, which we see as an opportunity to weave into the guest experience from check-in to check-out,” said Jessica Shea, Hilton’s vice president of wellness, retail and leisure operations for the Americas region. That means baking wellness considerations into hotel design.
At the recently opened Tempo by Hilton in Times Square, Hilton debuted “Power Down amenities,” a series of video content and sleep-friendly room designs made in partnership with Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global to “provide an enveloping sleep environment for unwinding,” according to Shea. The offering stems from Hilton’s findings in a 2024 trends report, which noted that the number one reason its guests want to travel this year is to “rest and recharge.” Future Tempo by Hiltons will be designed around what Shea calls “the prioritization of the sleep experience.”
Emlyn Brown, Accor’s global SVP of well-being strategy, design and development, said Accor is also moving its wellness offerings “beyond the walls of hotel spas and gyms and into the more holistic approach of delivering personal and relevant wellbeing experiences throughout the guest journey.”
“What this means at the hotel level is a greater focus on smart design, sleep quality, nutrition, and support for mental and emotional health,” Brown added. “In 2024, travelers can expect even more integration of health and fitness with mobile apps, guestroom yoga mats and equipment, outdoor running maps and experiential fitness.”
One way hotels can build in wellness offerings is through food and beverage programming, given the global market for functional foods is anticipated to be worth $586 billion by 2030, according to Grand View Research. Brown said Accor’s culinary teams are working harder to “accommodate a wide range of dietary preferences, ensuring that guests have abundant choices for nutritious dining – more plant-based choices, more low or no-alcohol cocktails, more bespoke menu options.”
Chef Stephen Toevs, Marriott International’s senior director of culinary for the U.S. and Canada, similarly told Hotel Dive that plant-based options will be on the rise this year.
Wellness travel often aligns with demand for more nature-focused offerings, according to Canyon Ranch’s Anderson. Hotels, she said, will likely be “bringing more nature inside” through design.
Some hotels have taken wellness-forward design a step further with dedicated wellness floors. The newly opened Signia by Hilton Atlanta has an entire floor of wellness amenities, including its fitness center, pool and spa and specially dedicated wellness rooms. Thompson Hotels’ forthcoming Houston property will also feature a full floor dedicated to wellness.
Beyond standard wellness amenities, hotels are integrating top-of-the-line technologies into their offerings — most often in the hotel spa.
“Technology is shaping the direction of wellness in the spa,” said Accor’s Brown. That includes amenities like infrared saunas, IV therapy and nonsurgical aesthetic procedures, including lasers and oxygen jets, which Brown said “are expected to become mainstream.”
The Fairmont Spa Century Plaza in Los Angeles, for example, offers a “biohacking” treatment that relies on several technologies: an “anti-gravity chair” that promotes relaxation; a “neuroacoustic headset” designed to calm the mind and nervous system; an infrared mat intended to regulate energy stored in the body; compression boots that increase circulation; and LED visors that promote blood circulation, generate collagen and improve cellular turnover.
Many tech-forward spa offerings became popular amid the pandemic, when “touchless” services, including using LED lights and infrared waves, were in demand, Anderson said. Some of these services were previously only available in sports facilities, she added, like hyperbaric chambers and compression boots. But now they’re moving to wellness resorts.
“People aren't waiting [...] We're seeing our demographic come down.”
board chair of the Wellness Tourism Association and VP of sales and programming at Canyon Ranch
In Fort Worth, the site of Canyon Ranch’s most recently opened club, guests can use the “vitality studio,” aimed to boost what athletes call “recovery.” In the hospitality world, the idea of “recovery” is “not just recovering after a tough workout, but that could be recovering after a long day on your legs, or it could be after a flight,” Anderson said.
Some hotel wellness offerings rely less on technology and design and more on people.
“In 2024, we expect to see a significant shift towards social well-being,” Brown said. “Travelers are seeking more ‘we’ based activities that foster connections and promote collective wellness. From communal wellness projects to group-based activities like social bathing, hotels are embracing this trend to offer guests a sense of community and shared wellness.”
Anderson, meanwhile, noted the rise in two, seemingly opposite, trends: family travel and solo travel. “A lot of people discovered solo travel during COVID, and post-COVID, they like it,” she said. “So solo travel continues.”
Families, meanwhile, are looking for more wellness travel experiences where they can connect with one another. Canyon Ranch, Anderson said, is offering a “family summer camp” for the first time in 2024. The weeklong program will offer family exercise classes, games and educational experiences.
Both trends indicate that the demographic for “wellness travelers” has shifted. When it comes to taking care of themselves, Anderson said, “People aren't waiting.”
“We're seeing that, absolutely, in Canyon Ranch,” she added. “We're seeing our demographic come down.”