The name game: Defining wellness and well-being

Wellness and well-being are increasingly important aspects of hospitality, so it's important to understand the concepts. Photo credit: Getty Images/anyaberkut

Wellness has become the word du jour across industries beyond just hospitality, and its popularity has led to an explosion of variances when it comes to defining the term. When I say wellness, chances are you think of fitness, healthy eating, maybe even sleep or mindfulness. And when I say well-being, you may have a more immediate sense of how that should feel, but not necessarily how to get there. The confusion occurs when the terms are used synonymously, which is increasingly the case in the world of hospitality.

Wellness and well-being are related but not synonymous. I see wellness as dedicated habits to prevent ailments or sickness, and well-being as the outcome you’re trying to achieve. The former is more closely associated with prevention and the latter is more associated with happiness, which is dependent upon many more things.

At Hyatt, we see wellness as the road—what you do every day to take care of yourself—and well-being as the destination you are always striving to reach but often struggle to arrive at or stay for very long. Along this road are considerations like the food you put in your body, the relationships you keep, the care you take to be more mindful, the steps you take to manage stress or how you move, strengthen your body and more. There are detours, of course, both within and outside our control—like work, relationships, the weather or the environment—that steer us off this road. But with a little commitment and care, one can reach the desired destination of well-being.  

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The Implications of Wellness Tourism

According to research recently released by the Global Wellness Institute, wellness tourism or travel associated with maintaining or enhancing personal well-being is growing twice as fast as global tourism. What’s even more compelling is “wellness tourists” spend 50-180 percent more per trip than the average tourist.

This means it’s now more important than ever for the hospitality industry to understand and embrace what wellness means to consumers of their brands as guests increasingly look to hotels to serve as their homes away from home. And with leisure and business travelers both eager to bring their healthy (and indulgent) habits on the road with them, we can expect pressure on industry leaders to think beyond how we’ve narrowly defined wellness to date. Today, it’s clear that wellness is permeating the walls of the hotel, not just the walls of the hotel gym or spa, given the growing quest for well-being in today’s hyperconnected, time-starved world.

The global wellness economy—now $4.2 trillion in size—has seen advancements in everything from fitness to nutrition, complementary alternative medicine and even real estate. At the same time, consumers are becoming more sophisticated in the historically less tangible states of mind, emotional or even spiritual well-being. This makes offerings of wellness, whether via physical facilities, branded programs or service rituals, more exciting and yes, more daunting. Like it or not, our own industry’s quandary when it comes to vocabulary alone proves that wellness and well-being mean different things to different people. How we bring these distinct experiences to life, therefore, must vary based on the unique needs and motivations of our guests.

A Guiding Philosophy Can Help

I’ve worked in the business of wellness for nearly two decades, and my single greatest piece of advice is to identify a starting position or philosophy for well-being to help guide the development of wellness-related offerings, products and services. It also can serve as a framework to evaluate and market what already exists, and ideally, should be developed and stress-tested with a cross-functional team of marketers, researchers, brand architects and operators, both internally and externally.

At Hyatt, we’ve identified three “landmarks of well-being” with the goal to positively impact how our guests and colleagues feel, fuel and function. It’s a profoundly simply way to consider their emotional, physical and mental well-being, while acknowledging that their personal roads to well-being do indeed vary from work to play to life.

What’s Good for Your Guests Should Be Good for Your Colleagues

What I find most compelling about the position I hold today is that it’s not just guest- or commercially focused, it’s people-focused and designed to address the well-being of all stakeholders from our guests, customers, colleagues and owners. As a result, our philosophy for well-being, and how we realize it through our wellness-related offerings, should be designed to do the same.

For example, in an industry that’s designed to run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, there aren’t enough moments to say thanks. Expressing gratitude to your colleagues both for a job well done and for their dedication, just as you’d tell a guest how much you appreciate them for staying with you, is equally important and I would argue, equally as impactful to their personal well-being.

The road to well-being in our industry will see us reach different destinations and results, but the collective effort stands to build a more progressive, thoughtful approach to hospitality for both our colleagues and guests. After all, our ultimate calling is the care and service of others.

Mia Kyricos is global head of well-being and SVP at Hyatt Hotels Corporation.

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