Wellness & Health – New Definition of Luxury & Lifestyle

by Vaibhav Garg

INTRODUCTION

Wheatgrass smoothies, celery juice, green tea, grass-fed meats, all-natural skincare, flax & chia seeds, Ayurveda … they’re all cyphers of the new luxury taking over the upper echelon of society: wellness. There is a paradigm shift in the definition of luxury and modern lifestyle as the next generation starts to come into its own. Aspirations and desires around a wellness lifestyle or perceived wellness lifestyle (healthy selfies) are becoming indicators of luxury and a life well lived. This paper showcases Gen Z trends as well as global market trends in health + wellness and its implications on the hospitality industry.

BACKGROUND

Rising health-related societal concerns linked to today’s modernized lifestyle of convenience eating, increase in workplace stress, depression and sedentary employment have alerted individuals, businesses, and regulations to the importance of promoting positive wellness awareness, health maintenance and fitness resources – a shift from solely reactive to a more balanced proactive and preventative lifestyle approach to health care. Growth across the wellness, healthcare and fitness industry demonstrates that people are making significant investments in perceived health and wellness solutions.

WELLNESS QUOTIENT TRENDS

It used to be that one would show off a new car, a new designer handbag or perhaps a smartphone. But today “health bragging” has become the only acceptable way to make a statement of how privileged one is. The phenomenon starts with gastronomy and fitness but is actually an all-encompassing lifestyle. Fitness has become another arena to compare and contrast personality and lifestyle with others. It’s a social topic where people talk about what new classes they’re taking or what diet regime they are on.

Wellness & Health, the buzzword of this burgeoning lifestyle trend is definitely being used as a status symbol as people are investing in themselves as a product. To be able to flash an outfit, they want to have the flash body that goes with it and social media plays a big part in communicating with a wider circle of socialites through photos has generated more image consciousness.

People like to feel a bit superior because they feel they’re more aware, educated about health & wellness and are prepared to adhere to their discipline. Posting shots of running club or early morning yoga class is worn as a badge of honour. Before, it wasn’t cool to talk about the fact that you were on diet but now, people are owning it. However health and wellness consciousness is just not about one exercise though, people are personalizing their health & wellness efforts and doing whatever suits them.

People are doing the mental arithmetic, once people would buy food for value but they’re now thinking, what it’s going to cost in weight, rather than just the face dollar value. It’s like making an investment in self; one can go into a health food store and come out $200 poorer, but it’s a self – realization because there is an evolved mind-set that justifies the spend leading a longer, happier, healthier life.

When one spends big on experiences that supposedly are good, there seems to be less guilt than when it is just a physical luxury item. People are realizing they can’t look like a celebrity just by buying similar clothes, they need to embody the whole lifestyle to get that glow plus, it’s a much more trendy to post about a morning farm visit and yoga class on social media, than just a selfie on the couch.

WELLNESS & HEALTH: BASIC TREND OR GENERATIONAL SHIFT

Wellness, Fitness and Health consciousness is a social topic and people talk about where they’re going for a workout or what new healthy meal or smoothie they’ve tried, they also talk about what new classes they’re taking. “Feeling good” is the new ultimate luxury and while we can’t all get rich, we can all get healthy, or at least try. This evolved consciousness is beyond generation gaps and people are realizing that health attributes and healthy living are facing a paradigm shift as people who are health and wellness conscious are striving to live until their 80s or 90s – and yes, they might believe they’re a little superior because they’re more aware, educated about food and health and are prepared to adhere to their discipline and schedule. Today as we look around us, people are personalizing their fitness and wellness efforts and doing whatever suits them. There has been a shift in the mindset of what a luxury and evolved lifestyle is and in the past while one would make him/herself happy buying a luxury handbag, now he/she spends means and ways to be happy within themselves, rather than rely on retail therapy. Today your wellness and fitness regimen of choice says a lot about you. And just like there are Smart car types, phone types or expensive digital gadgets types, there are also yoga types and health and yoga camp types; exercise has become another arena to compare and contrast your personality and lifestyle with others and that’s just beyond a trend as it is impacting all generations in this era. Energy is a key component of contemporary health and wellness lifestyles across all consumer age groups.

WELLNESS & HEALTH:  GEN Z EXPECTATIONS & IMPACT

Gen Z (1995-Present) is already exerting its influence on the marketplace—and some haven’t even been born yet: Gen Z already makes up around 24 percent of the US population. This generation moves seamlessly between digital behaviors and real life. They are already highly proactive participants in health and wellness and they know a lot (or think they do), and they think a lot about being ‘balanced.’ More so than any other generation, Gen Z looks to exercise as a way to treat or prevent illness, and it is particularly relevant for emotional and stress-related issues. For Gen Z, technology is fun, entertaining and useful. These young consumers are learning about what is healthy from their parents and from school. They are engaging with technology across all parts of everyday life. Outside of direct family, Gen Z is more likely than all other generations to look to their online social networks for advice and bragging about health and wellness.

On the other hand, progressive health and wellness consumers are increasingly influential in redefining food culture and are a window on to the future of health and wellness as health, wellness and sustainability are starting to converge at the most progressive food retail and food service outlets and while the food and beverage industry plays a vital role in meeting the expectations of these evolved consumer demands, activating health and wellness at retail and in food service means more than mere execution; it involves “strategic choices”.

WELLNESS & HEALTH: HOSPITALITY V/S HEALTHCARE

In the past two decades, most consumers and companies were looking to solve primarily baseline health and wellness conditions or find new approaches to them and those approaches fell into one of two sections. The first section was health condition management, and consumers were looking for food and beverage products that would help them treat or prevent specific conditions. The second section was about weight management. At the time, consumers were very much in a reactive mode to their approach. However, today, as our lifestyles evolved with an increase in health and wellness consciousness, consumers are very much proactive—and even progressive—in their approach to health and wellness which has open avenues for not only hotels or wellness /fitness centres but everything that encompasses our life. Wellness isn’t about only physical well-being, wellness is the state of optimal well-being and starts with self-care.  It’s not simply the absence of illness, but an improved quality of life resulting from enhanced physical, social, mental, emotional, spiritual and environmental health.

Integrative Wellness is the next big thing to talk about and there has been a shift from medicine vs. wellness to truly integrative healthcare opportunity and experience. It’s a new outlook to merge traditional medicine and wellness to clinical wellness. For the healthcare industry it’s a shift from disease management to a prevention-focused mind-set while integrating Medical centre + wellness/complementary/integrative centre to promote physical and mental health transformed by good wellness behaviours like diet, exercise and mindfulness. Besides this, in China, Norway and Singapore doctors are being remunerated and recognized for preventing disease. As a global trend, wellness will also incorporate medicine, for instance Mandarin Oriental Bodrum has a partnership with the Mayo Clinic for its Healthy Living Program that started early this year in 2016 to promote an integrative wellness concept.

HOTEL & WELLNESS OPERATIONS: MEETING THE EXPECTATIONS

Hotels today are becoming commercial lifestyle centers appealing equally to non-resident guests to come and experience at the premise be it relaxation, fitness, wellness, shopping or any other social engagement activity. Wellness encompasses all aspects of self-well-being and being happy. Hotels are 24/7 operations with a wide scope and array of services to offer not only to resident guests but also to those who will close by the community, neighborhood or social zone. Hotels would now include and focus on services and options that ease the quality of life of those around them.

Wellness enthusiasts on the other hand, like most travelers or wellness seekers, are looking to do more with less. This means greater outcomes despite shorter stays, which may be delivered through supplemental and add-on programs that maximize results within a limited timeframe. This also means that travellers are looking to access destination spas or wellness centers closer to home, so as to maximize limited travel time. With this shift in consumer behavior and preferences, hotels are strategizing their business models from outside thinking to inside producing i.e. moving away from thinking of what their clients want, to now inventing what they want and in so doing, inventing the business model of tomorrow.

Given the unique offerings of health and wellness in hospitality segment, which clearly differentiate it from traditional hotels and resorts, it stands to reason that the critical success factors necessary for the development of an authentic wellness platter for the discerning wellness enthusiast, some suggestions  and recommendations are as follows:

All key facilities (product) and components (service attributes) must be included in order for programming to be successful. Shortcuts cannot be made if the true intent is to develop a competitive, internationally benchmarked, revenue generating wellness space in a hotel/resort. Authenticity is the key to success. The entire infrastructure must be designed with human scale in mind. Guests must be able to intuitively and comfortably flow from one area to the next with ample space (both indoor and outdoor, if possible) for relaxation and private reflection. Taking from the sustainability perspective, more and more, hospitality projects are employing triple bottom line strategies and environmentally conscious building practices wherever possible. Energy conservation, locally sourced materials and talent, and attention to carbon footprint are some of the more commonly recognized and employed considerations, though new sustainability efforts, designs, and technologies are constantly entering the marketplace.

WELLNESS & HEALTH AT THE WORKPLACE

A “wellness culture at the workplace” is more than just words: it is defined not only by an array of programs that encourage and support health and wellness for employees—from stress reduction to improved diet—but also by physical and environmental features such as better-quality, safe, hygienic, healthy, cafeteria food and pleasant, relaxing spaces for breaks and relaxation. The benefits of a wellness culture at workplace extend beyond office walls and organizations that build a wellness culture thus acquire a workforce that is not only more focused and engaged, but that sees that culture as benefiting their careers.

Workplace stress remains a serious problem in many workplaces and can take a toll on their employee’s health and productivity and may interfere with their ability to pursue a healthy lifestyle.  A wellness culture magnifies the benefits that employees gain from their participation while driving increased engagement, especially if they offer a wide range of choices. The cost of not building a wellness culture—on employee happiness, stress levels and, dramatically, engagement with the employer’s mission and goals. In addition, distinct differences emerge as to what employers and employees consider the most effective approaches to wellness. Employers place far greater emphasis on stress management programs, for instance, while employees are much more likely to cite flexible work schedules.

On the other hand, from talent acquisition and retention perspective, the role of Human Resources in an organization is to recognize the issue of talent scarcity in the wellness segment, namely as it relates to hiring and retaining skilled team members capable of delivering internationally benchmarked service at a luxury standard. Given the intensely intimate nature of health and wellness services, securing the right talent is of paramount importance in determining long-term success. Thus, training and long-term retention must be a high- consideration when looking into this aspect.

SUMMARY

Wellness is the state of optimal well-being and starts with self-care.  It’s not simply the absence of illness, but an improved quality of life resulting from enhanced physical, social, mental, emotional, spiritual and environmental health. In the area of health and wellness awareness; it all comes down to a giant contemporary demand for advancements in pro-active health. There are many reasons why the wellness industry is, and will continue to expand. What is killing us today are lifestyle diseases. The major causes of early deaths have shifted from infectious diseases to chronic lifestyle-related conditions, 70 percent of which are preventable through eating right, exercise, supplementation and effective stress management.

Bragging on social media about wellness, health and lifestyle is the new luxury statement and there has been a major shift in the way we look at our lives and in an “unconventional” way. It’s about personal satisfaction more than just a brag. Today there are many social media and fitness tracking applications that are emerging with a thrust into our lives advocating new gen lifestyle flair. People are following these new trends greatly and widely across age groups with evolved and matured mindsets. So when it comes to selfie posts and personal photographs (self-posing or check ins) It’s usually a confluence of health, body image, peer affirmation and self-actualization. As millennials craft their social media persona, body image becomes a primary concern. 73 percent of millennials exercise to enhance their physical appearance. People who post status updates about their diet and exercise routine or travel diaries appear to be more narcissistic and they use Facebook and other fitness social networks like H, Pump Up, Instagram and Burn This to share their workout selfies, to broadcast the effort they put into their physical appearance.

It’s not simply overexposure but a new trend towards an improved quality of life resulting from enhanced physical, social, mental, emotional, spiritual and environmental health and it impacts and influences everyone.

About the author

Vaibhav Garg serves as Advisory Board Member at the Cornell Institute of Healthy Futures – Cornell University, New York (a partnership between the School of Hotel Administration and the College of Human Ecology, believed to be the world’s first academic center to combine hospitality, health policy/management, and design).

Well-established at Cornell University, Vaibhav is involved in hospitality service research initiatives & programs and has presented his research papers at renowned international universities, business schools, and hotel associations from Maldives, Asia, Europe, China and United States.

At AccorHotels, Vaibhav is responsible for implementing Talent and Culture activities at all its operating and pre-opening resorts in the Maldives. His key role is to promote Values and HR Group Strategy, acting as an AccorHotels “ambassador” in the Maldives. Vaibhav holds a dual appointment as an Executive Assistant Manager at Mercure Maldives Kooddoo, overlooking hotel operations and administration while anchoring and partnering the community development projects with the United Nations Development Programme in the Maldives.

Vaibhav has worked with various international resort companies in the Maldives since 2010 and in his hospitality career of over 16 years he is well exposed in the Luxury, Upper Upscale, Upscale and Budget segment brands of hotels & resorts in India and overseas. He is instrumental in driving key functions like Business Excellence, Strategy, CSR, Human Resources and Training.