Will Wellness Work for Your Group?

No question, planners know the pros and cons of holding a meeting in a luxury destination spa. They’re less certain when the subject turns to a wellness spa, however, “wellness” being one of those positive-sounding terms that can cover a whole range of possibilities. There’s a good chance though that the menu of options at a luxury wellness spa facility would include meditation, stress reduction, yoga, energy balancing, nutrition counseling, and the like—as well as the usual variety of massages, facials and other holistic body treatments.

After a long dry spell following the recession, spas overall are now back as money makers for luxury hotels and resorts. In January, in fact, lodging industry consultants CBRE reported that spa revenues at U.S. hotels jumped 5.6 percent last year, a good two percentage points more than increases in guest room revenues.

The wellness segment certainly contributed.  Hyatt Hotels Corp., for one, sees a future in wellness, in January paying $215 million to acquire the Miraval Group and its “Life in Balance” wellness programming. In addition to a Tucson headquarters property now being upgraded, Miraval operates facilities in Austin, Dana Point, Calif., and Lenox, Mass.

For their part, CEOs and other senior executives like the idea of wellness spa meetings because it holds the promise that attendees will come away from the experience being more productive at work (and live a more healthy, balanced life generally) as a result.

Planners would probably share this enthusiasm, but as with any spa meeting destination factor in these concerns:

  • How deep is interest in wellness programming among the average attendee? If a single massage might suffice, and your group trends toward the traditional (water sports, golf, and the like), consider that some wellness  activities can be found at most resorts.
  • How intense is the business agenda? Could the focus on wellness inadvertently create stress when it conflicts with wrapping up business sessions? On the other hand, could the offerings bring down the temperature in the room and open minds to new possibilities?
  • Would an executive retreat be a better fit? Consider whether the group needs a wide-open calendar in a wide-open space to accomplish its goals.
  • Spa food can be delicious as well as nutritious. But for attendees looking forward to filet mignon and an open bar, healthful spa cuisine may miss the mark.

Bottom line for planners: Know your group.

Photos: Courtesy of Miraval Resorts by Rich Roberts.

Bruce Serlen

Bruce Serlen

Bruce Serlen is a veteran travel writer, based in New Jersey, who has written extensively on meetings management and hotel operations. Most recently, he was executive editor at Hotel Business.

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