Spa Report: Lines blur as hotel spa offerings, wellness trends relax

Savvy hoteliers are providing a sense of relief to people who manage to make a getaway—be it for a weekend, a  week, or longer. Having an on-property spa component is one way owners and operators have created an oasis for guests—and often locals—to achieve that elusive sense of relaxation.

In the near future, consumers will have more destinations where they can chill out. According to CoStar data, 76 hotel projects with spas are under construction—40 branded and 36 independent—across the United States.

These range from an adaptive reuse of a landmarked theater in Brooklyn, N.Y.’s Coney Island to the 168-key Pendry Cincinnati to the 208-key InterContinental Bellevue at The Avenue in Seattle, slated to open in the first quarter of 2024.

Even as these projects come online, what constitutes a spa “experience” has shifted to include travelers’ captivation with wellness, from the air they’re breathing to the products being used to spa menus to the overall Feng Shui of the space they are in.

Grand Wailea Resort
A renovation at the Grand Wailea Resort in Hawaii included an updated spa and wellness experience. (Grand Wailea Resort )

Industry veteran David Mariotti, division vice president of management company Remington Hospitality, noted that at the company’s six properties with proprietary spas, such as One Ocean Resort and Spa in Florida, experiences are centered around creating a holistic and rejuvenating environment for guests.

“We understand that wellness is a multifaceted concept that encompasses physical, mental and emotional well-being,” Mariotti said “One way we accomplish this is to prioritize the quality and variety of our spa services. We offer a range of therapies, including massages, facials, body treatments and alternative healing practices.”

In addition, the company promotes overall wellness via common areas, outdoor environments, rooms and various amenities.

“Our spa spaces are designed to promote serenity, allowing guests to unwind and disconnect from the stresses of daily life,” Mariotti said. “Our hotels and resorts offer modern fitness centers, meditation spaces and relaxation areas, providing opportunities for physical activity, mindfulness practices and relaxation techniques. We also extend the wellness theme into our restaurants by offering local, healthy dining options that can be customized to support dietary preference.”

He noted guests have expressed that the attention to detail inside and outside of the treatment room helps them to unwind and fully enjoy the entire spa experience.

Toward this, Remington has incorporated soundproofing, hypoallergenic products, eco-friendly fabrics for spa linens, robes and towels, air purifiers and essential oil diffusers as well as natural elements such as plants, organic materials and water features to create a serene atmosphere with soft lighting, calming colors and soothing music.

Haley Payne, head of commercial at Pure Wellness, which installs air purifiers in hotels, said that hospitality environments need to be adaptable.

“The idea behind wellness is to be flexible, so it carries over into all aspects of the guest experience,” she said. “If the guest is a wellness-minded traveler, they want their experience to be the same throughout their stay—from guestrooms, spas, outdoor living, food and beverage and even work or meeting environments.”

Suite Retreats

According to Marcel Thoma, GM of the 244-key Mandarin Oriental, New York and area VP of operations of Americas, the hotel’s parent company, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group always has placed a high value on wellness and has the most Forbes Five-Star spas of any hotel brand. “Several years ago, the group renamed the spa division to spa and wellness, highlighting the importance of wellness to us,” he added.

Another initiative was creating the wellness concierge—not a single associate, but a team. “Our wellness concierge is comprised of our spa and wellness leaders who connect with guests to learn how best to provide them with a personalized wellness experience during their stay, customized to the guest’s preference and abilities,” the GM said.

The Mandarin Oriental, New York has a dedicated wellness concierge.
The Mandarin Oriental, New York has a dedicated wellness concierge. (Mandarin Oriental, New York)

The hotel offers a “Suite Wellness Retreat,” a two-night guest package that includes a curated private wellness session with a personal trainer, in-suite spa treatment, healthful food and beverage options and access to the hotel’s wellness facilities, including its 75-foot-long indoor pool.

Additionally, and with the assistance of the wellness concierge, guests may choose from among mindfulness meditation, a restorative workout, tai chi, yoga practice or Pilates session held in their suite, the fitness center or nearby Central Park.

“Wellness is a universal human theme,” Thoma said of the proliferation of spa and wellness programs.

“People want to live long, meaningful lives marked by quality experiences. Beyond mere prevention, wellness is the proactive pursuit of an optimal state of health and vitality. The rising access to information about health and wellness, coupled with the current culture for self-care, has encouraged people to be more conscious of their wellness; and in so doing, has prompted hotels and brands to give priority to wellness experiences,” he said.

Resting and Recharging

A recent Hilton report found that 50 percent of respondents believe their travels this year needed to address their mental or physical wellness and that the number one reason people want to travel next year is to rest and recharge.

“While this focus on wellness isn’t new, it’s certainly been accelerated, and is no longer a trend but a travel imperative,” said Jessica Shea, VP of wellness, retail and leisure operations for Hilton. “We see wellness as a collection of personal, small decisions that people make every day to feel and be at their best.”

Wellness is a strong part of Hilton’s Waldorf Astoria brand. The 794-key Grand Wailea—A Waldorf Astoria Resort on Hawaii’s Maui Island owned by BRE Hotels & Resorts, a Blackstone-fund-owned hospitality platform—recently underwent its first extensive renovation since opening in 1991.

The multimillion-dollar, propertywide refresh included rooms, suites, lounges, food and beverage outlets and a reimagined spa and wellness experience carved from the property’s former Spa Grande into the new, 50,000-square-foot proprietary Kilolani Spa, which is slated to debut in the first quarter of 2024.

“Wellness programming is a luxury for many when they’re traveling, so offering a robust treatment menu and a state-of-the-art experience at a luxury resort like Grand Wailea felt like a natural addition and a perfect way to round out our property-wide refresh in 2024,” said Managing Director JP Oliver.

Shea observed as consumers seek new and deeper ways to experience wellness, “we are seeing a true blend of what may have been previously considered a wellness center or a traditional hotel spa,” and that Kilolani Spa will offer a variety of experiences.

“From holistic, multi-day retreats inclusive of sleep, movement, nourishment, spa and mindfulness experiences for the avid destination spa-goer to more traditional massages and results-oriented facials with mindful components … All guests will have a one-of-a kind, cultural experience through the spa’s Hawaiian moon concept, design, unique Hawaiian hydrotherapy circuit and signature treatments steeped in traditional Hawaiian methods and healing ingredients.”

Many European destination spas incorporate on-premises medical facilities as part of their wellness programs and Oliver noted earlier in the refresh process Grand Wailea partnered with Hawaii’s first-ever biostation facility, which features personalized treatment plans around anti-aging solutions.

“This facility is equipped with advanced methods to prevent and treat age-related issues, including highly advanced testing, bioidentical hormone therapy, nutrient therapy, sexual-health programs, medical aesthetics and weight loss,” he said. “Kilolani Spa will focus on advanced therapeutic techniques from leading wellness practitioners as well as treatments inspired by the island’s natural healing properties and phases of the moon to holistically feed mind, body and soul. Ultimately, Grand Wailea will have something for everyone in the wellness realm.”

According to Oliver, the Kilolani Spa will have a hydrothermal area, wet lounge, waterfall showers, a vitality pool, a scrub room and an infrared halotherapy sauna, as well as treatment, relaxation and quiet lounges.

The spa also will have the only hammam in Hawaii, with four treatment rooms, and a scrub-and-wrap massage experience that uses products sourced from upcountry Maui.

A full-service salon, with a private bridal and celebration suite, will have a dedicated retail space, a shop filled with locally sourced items and a grab-and-go café.

“Maui is a special destination, so it was an absolute privilege to apply our operational and ownership experience to an iconic property like Grand Wailea,” said Heather Gleason, SVP and head of communications at Revantage, a Blackstone Portfolio Company that provides services to Blackstone’s real estate investment structures and investment entities.

“We look forward to sharing this new experience at Kilolani Spa with our guests and couldn’t be happier that we’re able to unveil the new space at a time when travelers have such an appreciation for holistic wellness offerings,” Oliver said.

Similarly, Remington’s Mariotti observed, “advancing spas in a wellness direction is a forward-thinking approach that not only meets the evolving needs of the guests but also positions spas as a destination for comprehensive well-being.”

Ultimately, it comes back to hospitality’s not-so-secret weapon—people—in how well guests feel about their wellness “vacation.”

“We understand each guest is unique and personalize each experience for and with them. This level of attention and service contributes to the overall well-being of the guest, even before the actual treatment begins,” Thoma said.