Hyatt acquires Exhale spa brand, reaffirms focus on branded wellness

In early June, Hyatt made known its desire to split off from Expedia over contract arrangements, but the separation is being called off after a round of talks.
Grand Hyatt New York

It hasn’t even been a year since Hyatt acquired wellness resort brand Miraval, but the Chicago-based hotel company isn’t done building its wellness portfolio yet. Yesterday, it acquired the Exhale spa and fitness company, which has 25 locations throughout the U.S. and the Caribbean. Through this new deal, Hyatt will offer Exhale locations and programming at its hotels, and will help the spa brand itself grow with more free-standing locations apart from the hotels. Hyatt did not disclose a price for this acquisition, but it paid $215 million for Miraval in January—a testament to the growing value of wellness in hospitality.

“Hyatt is looking at wellness as a meaningful strategic platform for us to enter, simply because our customers really demand that,” Steve Haggerty, Hyatt’s global head of capital strategy, franchising and select service, said. “It's a response to that customer need that has fortuitously lead us to these two brands and these two management teams.”  

The deal, Haggerty said, will not fundamentally change the way in which Hyatt operates its hotels. Instead, it is designed to attract an increasingly lucrative market. “What we have here is an experience that we believe is something that [people] might be looking for when they travel, particularly those folks who engage in wellness when they're at home,” he said. “Exhale has storefronts in markets where our key customer base lives. And now [we’ll be] able to serve them when they travel. So it's it's an additive experience to the overall stay with a standalone brand that is renowned for mindfulness and in the fitness area.”

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In Exhale

“We wanted a strategic partner that could take this brand to a larger global audience,”  Annbeth Eschbach, Exhale’s CEO and founder, said of the deal. Hyatt was a good fit for the company’s growth plan, she continued, thanks to shared values—and Exhale was already familiar with the demands of hotel guests.

“Half of our current locations are in hospitality-based locations,” Eschbach said. Notably, the brand has a presence in several non-Hyatt hotels, including the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica and the Gansevoort Park Avenue Hotel in New York.

Fans of Exhale’s services seek out hotels that already have Exhale centers in order to maintain their wellness routines away from home, Eschbach said. “That's one of the big trends trends that we can see. More and more people today want to continue the routine they've established at home on the road. And so it is not as much a demographic as it is for psychographic.

 

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“And then what's even better is that Exhale will continue to be preserved as a distinct, special, unique wellbeing brand,” Eschbach said of the company’s future. Exhale will operate separately from Hyatt, and the whole senior team and all of the company’s services will remain in place, she said.

Going forward, Haggerty said, Hyatt plans to expand Exhale's storefront locations, particularly in markets where Hyatt’s target customers reside and want to experience this kind of wellness. “And then we will selectively incorporate Exhale spas and certain Exhale experiences to our hotels where appropriate across the brand portfolio.

Wellness Growth

While the two recent deals focus on the same theme, the customer experience between Exhale and Miraval will be very different. “The differentiation is obviously in how they approach wellness,” Haggerty said of Hyatt’s two new acquisitions. “In the case of Miraval, it’s the destination spa environment. In the case of Exhale, it’s how we how we think about day-to-day wellness and serving customers in more urban environments on a day-to-day basis.”

“Our purpose is to care for people so they can be their best. That's our North Star,” Mark Hoplamazian, president and CEO of Hyatt Hotels Corp., said earlier this year regarding the Miraval buy. “As a company, we are focused on the high-end traveler, and we identified wellness as important to them.”