The Link Between Wellness-Hospitality and Spiritual-Tourism

Well-being is trust, belonging, physiological, emotional, and deeply spiritual. There are important modes of being well that occur socially and cooperatively. Experiencing societal uncertainties with the need for rapid adaption and change has magnified a widespread need to newly manage life, Self, and personal happiness. This article shares why and what you can do to meet this important and emerging demand.

Historical context and human need

Societies of every kind have long-held spiritual, religious, and tribal belief systems at their core. These value systems, often cultural, are nuanced yet native to our humanity. Values shape our sense of place, instincts for survival, and well-being. While philosophies across the world vary extensively, these beliefs determine the base of existence and life for many people.

As the world emerges from the pandemic at different paces, there continues to be tension throughout society. We have witnessed epic levels of trauma throughout these past few years. We have been through large-scale societal and personal transformations. These dynamics have heightened our awareness of fragility and mortality. We will not live forever. These times have inspired new notions of shared responsibility, global community, and ultra-local vitality. People are reevaluating how they choose to live their lives and engage with the planet. This has also increased empathy and compassion for how people choose to treat others around them.

The context of this article is not to relay religious sentiments. The aim is to convey the deep and meaningful benefits discovered at this critical junction of change as we continue to evolve and progress as an industry. This article shares how hospitality can touch these dynamics and engage and support these high-value and needed new propositions.

Wellness-Hospitality and Spiritual-Tourism

Wellness-hospitality provides an immersive wellness experience for its guests; integrated destination spas typically bundle guestrooms, food and beverage, various assessments and consultations, treatments, and activities through curated or individually customized multiple-day programs instead of traditional room bookings. In the article A Deep Dive into Wellness Hospitality (HVS 2020), I highlight this property segment and its attributes in great depth.

Smith and Kelly (2006) “define spiritual tourism as providing the visitor with activities and treatments aimed at developing, maintaining and improving the body, mind, and spirit.”

Spiritual tourism can also be related to a sort of Pilgrimage. A Pilgrimage generally includes a journey to a sacred place. This is often described as a quest, a search for purpose, or having personal or moral significance. While experiential aspects of a pilgrimage might commonly align with retreat stay models, these features can also be deployed in conventional hotel and resort properties, given the right setting and premise.

Spiritual wellness and spiritual tourism go well together. Although one is not the same as the other, they both lead to good places. Spiritual health often becomes a lifestyle that can be enhanced through spiritual tourism. At the same time, regular aspects of spiritual practice can become creative layers for attractive membership incentives.

Factors driving compelling demand and opportunity

The foundation of every great relationship is trust. Whereas challenges in recent years have fractured confidence across various systems, organizations, and institutions, the longing for trust and belonging are evermore at a premium. It takes time to build trust. It takes trust to foster belonging. The hospitality market has a long-standing relationship with both, creating an opportunity to curate these aspects distinctively.

Data shows that religious and spiritual preferences are strongly tied to demographic and generational factors. A recent Gallup article, Religion, and Wellbeing in the U.S. by Frank Newport

describes an interesting view regarding possible modes of influence. While this article is centered on religion, other data examines the connections between faith, well-being, classical religions, and spiritual-minded practices.

The deviation from dogmatic thinking appears most evident in men and younger generations. This is likely due to an immense mix of new technologies, pop culture, etc. The list is long. The pain and consequence of immeasurable unknowns, mental health instability, and rising inner reflection and escapism are also in the mix. This momentum has led many people to seek and explore new pathways and develop new personal coping skills.

Popular spiritual destinations can be found throughout the world. Many of these places share common elements such as nature, beauty, and historical culture. These destinations exude a diverse range of energies and tranquility for different people. While nature is an obvious way to engage with the beauty of the natural world, there are places everywhere etched with rich landscapes for extraordinary exploration and spiritual reprieve.

Spiritual market performance and public appetite

The market for spirituality is not new. Many of these qualities have been thriving in various communities for many decades. According to recent statistics on meditation, the volume of people practicing meditation in the U.S. has tripled since 2012. New data also shows that over 14% of adults have tried meditation, and 7% of children in the U.S. now meditate. This growth has produced an estimated $1 billion market for meditation and mindfulness applications and services alone.

A broad range of psychic and metaphysical services are commonly included in elevated offerings for spirituality. These might consist of aura readings, astrology, tarot, mediumship, numerology, and palmistry. Data from 2021 shows that psychic services in the U.S. grew at an average annual rate of 0.5% a year from 2016 to 2020, jumping to 2.6% in 2021, generating an estimated $2.2 billion market.

Since the pandemic emerged, engagement levels in meditation practices and spiritual services have increased dramatically. Significant numbers of people are seeking answers and depth. While the wellness market includes various services and modalities, these programs produce unique and highly personal results.

Suitability and guest considerations

Natural questions will undoubtedly arise surrounding the connection between wellness-hospitality and spiritual-tourism. While these ideas are not for everyone or suitable for every property, you may wonder, is this a risky move for the hospitality market to make? Would these program propositions help or harm the brand? Would these ideas potentially alienate guests or negatively impact stays? Mostly the short answer to these questions is no. Moreover, the upside and possibilities of adding substance are vast.

Since the pandemic, mental health concerns have been a central topic in well-being. Despite the evolving qualities of the virus, the lasting impacts on mental health will be with us for many years to come. Emotions like pain, fear, and grief are some of the most natural feelings people carry with them. Yet, these are the same emotions many people strive most to suppress. Addressing these emotional topics is not always suitable or appropriate. Yet, softening the surface of emotion with practical programs can uplift while also making sense.

Whereas boutique properties and retreats are increasingly popular, this drive is positive and holds significant value for people seeking immersive and intrinsically supportive new experiences. The market’s appetite for wellness programs and spa features indicates ample room to expand these services to meet the emerging demands of wellness-hospitality and spiritual well-being. These programs are increasingly in-demand regularly through leisure and tourism. These can also support corporate wellness programs, business meetings, and group events.

The Purple Pill

If there is a red pill, a blue pill, a black pill, and a white pill, I’ve been calling spiritual wellness the “purple pill.” The purple pill isn’t religious or political. It inspires Self-Awareness. This purple pill can help unlock new experiences and support profound personal growth and healing. At the subtle part of the spectrum, there is peace and reprieve. Mid-wave is discovery, immersive learning, and new realizations of Self. The deep end presents unequivocal transformation, perspective, and empowering new life tools that impact and change someone’s life.

Soft programming and immersive options

Meditation, personal yoga instruction, creative visualization, and art therapy workshops help lay a soft foundation. Although, going deeper and curating these with distinction is where the magic happens.

Program integrations that support Spiritual-Wellness

  • Guided meditation and yoga sessions
  • Energy and chakra healing services
  • Astrology and tarot readings
  • Numerology and crystal workshops
  • Herbal and alchemy applications for daily life
  • Intention setting and manifestation exercises
  • Cord-cutting, letting go, and renewal sessions
  • Psychedelics, micro-dosing, and vision quests
  • Deep release retreats for transformational growth

Investment and profitability

It’s important to note that spiritual wellness components are not commodity propositions. These are not spa treatments or general wellness services. They require proficiency and research. These programs demand comprehensive feasibility, investment strategy, and commitment. Furthermore, the quality of these services is critical to the program’s success. Meanwhile, the range of services dramatically depends on the property’s location, the overarching goals of the business, and guest demographics.

While levels of investments vary, these programs require less capital spending on FF&E and reduce costs related to traditional design and development. These features require an investment in talent, application, and strategic planning. Developing these programs also entails a willingness to be open-minded to attract open-minded and interested guests.

These kinds of programs have been predominantly integrated into independent, boutique, and retreat model property types. Although activating select program aspects in a scalable, wide-reaching way into conventional properties has significant and rewarding potential.

From a revenue generation standpoint, these propositions have highly diverse applications. Like semi-automated amenities and services and hydrothermal pool concepts, the viability of a well-tooled program can favorably reduce payroll costs and support multifaceted RevPAR performance. Unlike manual one-to-one spa treatments (massage, facials, and body treatments) and most wellness and integrative health services, these features can be oriented for multiple participants, such as couples and groups. These also complement other property departments (food and beverage, meeting and group, bridal and recreational, and natural property components).

Legacy building and keystone opportunities

Why should the hospitality market care about the link between wellness-hospitality and spiritual well-being? The case is simple. We are an industry that embraces and supports the personal care and life experiences of others. We cultivate special moments and support lasting memories. As confidence in conventional systems increasingly falters away, we can connect new dots where the needs are.

Building a successful legacy in today’s hospitality market is based on more than rooms and revenue. Adding interesting programs that support guests in creative and vibrant ways is key to producing positive and successful guest retention. Incorporating unique selling points and consequential KPIs matters more than ever. Few things touch people more than genuine and helpful life support. This enables and empowers people. This also stimulates next-generation and intergenerational loyalty.

The hospitality market has been hit hard over the last few years, making it increasingly vital to make investments beyond today’s trends and focus on what will be trending in the future. Whereas wellness-hospitality is multidimensional and vast, program development can and should be shaped with nuance in creative and calculated ways. Personal wellness and spiritual health do not have one-size solutions. As the momentum of increasing change will be with us, the time to consider these meaningful alternatives is now.

Published by Hotel Business Review- Hotel Executive on July 10, 2022

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Three simple ways to achieve personal wellbeing, Eat real food. Have real friends. Do good things."

~ M. Mackman