You Don’t Need a Wellness Retreat to Be Well

Wellness tourism is on the rise and hotels are responding with million dollar renovations to their wellbeing offerings.

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The travel industry may be in flux as society’s latest trends change before we are able to catch up, but for the past decade, wellbeing by way of diets, exercise programs, sleep education and lifestyle changes seemingly prove wellness is not so much a “fad” as it is here to stay.

Currently at the forefront of travel motives, wellness tourism is a $639 billion market according to the Global Wellness Institute. The Institute also reports that wellness tourism is projected to reach $919 billion by 2022.

While new hotels, particularly those of the boutique model, embrace the opportunity to create innovative wellness offerings, existing hotels are focusing their renovation budgets to curate wellness offerings to their already established guest.

This March I had the chance to stay at Swissôtel Chicago and experience their take on wellness as the global brand advances their mission, “vitality for body and mind.” The property’s general manager, Ted Selogie tells me that though the hotel recognizes their audience for business travel, they couldn’t ignore the wellness necessity during their recent renovation. “Guests are increasingly indicating that it is important for them to maintain healthy lifestyles while on the road, and they are also willing to pay a premium to do so.”

Thus, Swissôtel Chicago decided to put wellness above the rest (literally and figuratively) by introducing a five room, Vitality Suite—the new penthouse. We didn’t want to focus on just gadgets or gimmicks, but on a holistic approach that seamlessly touches many aspects of the wellness experience,” says Selogie.

The 1,700 square-foot-room is the brand’s first Vitality Suite in North America, but third across the brand. As Swissôtel develops their Vitality program, this suite is a brand staple, emphasizing wellness in hospitality is moving beyond the previously emphasized wellness retreat, spa treatment, healthy menu alternative or gym offering. “The focus is overall wellbeing versus simply fitness,” adds Selogie.

In the Vitality Suite, this wellbeing is interlaced into technology; jet lag reducing mattresses, Dornbracht showers that increase blood flow, air purification and circadian light systems and even an on demand personal trainer with a fully-equipped ‘Wellness Wall’ at your disposal (think: resistance bands and balls, weight training, fitness rings).

The Wellness Wall, courtesy of Swissôtel Chicago

“We didn’t want to focus on just gadgets or gimmicks, but on a holistic approach that seamlessly touches many aspects of the wellness experience,” says Selogie. “To help guests get the most out of their stay without necessarily being physically active.”

Though the Vitality Suite is the focal point of the $2 million renovation, the gym is also a modern addition to the property, replacing the former penthouse and towering above Chicago on the 43rd floor. Technogym, Life Fitness and Peloton equipment look out to Lake Michigan and the heart of the windy city, with the property’s personal trainer, Nicole Pernic, pleading, “No more basement gyms!”

“There is no doubt that wellness travel is one of the largest and fastest growing segments in the tourism and travel industries,” concludes Selogie. “Wellness is not a trendy offering to us but an integral part of the experience.”

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