The recent rise in wellness travel, and a bigger focus on wellbeing in general, has significantly shifted the way the hospitality industry operates. A few pieces of aging cardio equipment and a smattering of dumbbells tucked away in an unused conference room may have worked in the past, but that scenario isn’t acceptable for today’s traveler.

Hyatt understands the importance of a holistic wellness offering, and that’s why Hyatt considers opportunities to support the wellbeing of guests in the experience of each of its hotel brands. Sarah Klymson, Vice President of Product and Brand Development at Hyatt Hotels, is a catalyst of this process.

“A focus on wellbeing is a moral imperative,” said Klymson. “It is fundamentally necessary and the demand is already evident. As people return to travel, guests are going to expect their wellbeing, and components that support it, to be fully considered.”
Prepandemic numbers showed the explosive growth of wellness travel. And, despite 2020 being an extremely tough year for hospitality, there’s reason to be optimistic about wellness travel continuing its steep upward trajectory. Surveys point out that the wellness traveler is excited to pack their bags and hit the road again.
A study in mid-2020 by the Global Wellness Institute surveyed more than 2,000 respondents. Of those, 42% said they intend to increase their wellness travel after restrictions are lifted and travel fully resumes.
“People are craving meaningful experiences,” explained Klymson. “They want to have the opportunity to not just go to the fitness center and run on the treadmill, but try a class or program offering that exposes them to something different. We’ve watched previous trends, such as the shift from big gyms to boutique fitness experiences. I think hospitality is going through something very similar. Not everybody wants the same experience when they go to a hotel. Travelers are going to want more curated, crafted opportunities that are geared toward making connections and offer them the opportunity to prioritize what is most important to them while traveling.”
The challenge, one that Hyatt gladly accepts, is creating wellness experiences that reside seamlessly in each of its 19 distinct brands. Each brand needs to convey a different message and craft a unique experience for the wellness traveler.
“Instead of thinking about wellbeing or wellness as being an additive layer to our brands, we’re allowing our brands to tell their own wellbeing story through their own voice,” added Klymson. “This creates experiences that are more personal, versus a one-size-fits-all concept.”
Each of Hyatt’s brand standards requires a fitness center, but that’s just a small part of the total wellness experience. “Creating spaces with intention” guides Klymson’s design process. This approach means designing spaces that consider how they will support one’s wellbeing, and then taking inspiration from a series of design principles that guide the design of the spaces. Some of these principles include incorporating the grounding effects nature has on physiology or embracing contrasts when designing for wellness.
The central focus in all of what Klymson does is the people her work touches. Whether it’s offering a variety of unique programming offerings in the fitness center, providing guests with the opportunity to choose healthy dining options, or design touches that have a positive psychological affect—wellness is personal.
“What we want to do is create connections with people, not as consumers, but as whole people so there’s an emotional connection,” added Klymson. “Wellness is so personal. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. I think that’s something we’ll see moving forward, not doing a rollout of experiences, but more personal experiences. The concept around personalization has always been in the luxury tier, but on some level this idea of customization and personalization has the opportunity to cross all of our brands, from luxury to select service. The unique and personal nature of wellbeing is what makes it impactful and meaningful to our guests, offering an authentic perspective on how one can grow and cultivate your wellbeing while traveling with Hyatt.”