TREND: WELLNESS TAKES ON OVERTOURISM
Rise of the Urban Wellness Resort
Overtourism – The World’s Newest Wellness Destinations: Cities
Even in the world’s most crowded cities, people need a respite. It may seem counterintuitive to place a wellness hospitality property smack in the middle of a major metropolitan area. But the fact is, several of the world’s top wellness brands are moving beyond their roots in idyllic locations to set up shop in big cities. Aman is already in Tokyo; Six Senses recently opened in Singapore; and both wellness brands are coming to New York City in 2020. Kerzner International Holdings Limited recently announced it is evolving its One&Only portfolio to include One&Only Urban Resorts. The first will open in Dubai. Fivelements, which runs a famed Balinese eco-wellness resort, has launched a wellness day center concept in Hong Kong. According to Andrew Gibson, co-founder of the Wellness Tourism Association, “These examples of new wellness ventures in urban locations are a result of the overwhelming global interest in wellness and the increasing evidence that being healthy is not a preserve for the wealthy.”
Each of the companies mentioned is approaching its urban strategy differently. Aman’s urban properties appear to operate more like standard hotels, albeit with large spas and other wellness components. According to Roland Fasel, COO of Aman, the city hotels are designed around the brand pillars of high-touch service, creating experiences that derive from the local DNA, a holistic wellness component, uncomplicated luxury and understated elegance, and generosity of space. The orienting ethos of it all, says Fasel, is the idea of welcoming people into a home, which applies whether a guest is in the middle of nowhere or smack dab in the core of the Big Apple.
According to a press release, “One&Only Urban Resorts will challenge the conventional city hotel. In a buzzing and busy city, a place to escape the bright lights is always needed, a place to unwind; all urban resorts will offer beautifully designed green spaces to provide a serene sanctuary year-round.” Each urban resort will house a One&Only Gym, cycle and yoga studios, and a spa that is open around the clock.
Six Senses’ city properties will offer creative wellness programming, including options for social wellness. According to Anna Bjurstam, vice president, spas and wellness at Six Senses, “For example, in Singapore, where space is more limited, it’s about designing an immersive experience throughout the hotel through the content we are creating.” In such properties, where space is tight, she says, “wellness shows up in different ways.” For example, the Six Senses Duxton hosts a resident Chinese doctor, who provides complimentary consultations for guests. According to Six Senses CEO Neil Jacobs, Six Senses in Singapore will also be developing a restaurant menu with Chinese medicinal offerings.
But Six Senses New York will be wellness on steroids (to mix metaphors). And one of the most revolutionary aspects of the New York property will be its attention to social wellness. “We are aspiring to tackle one of the biggest threats to wellness—loneliness—by introducing our first Six Senses Place, where hotel guests and members can be part of a community,” Bjurstam said.
A dedicated member and guest-only space will include a bathhouse, a clinic, a shared workspace, halls for wellness lectures and other events, and a restaurant. Members and guests will also have access to blood tests, biomarker testing and other scientific treatments. And of course, there will be a very large spa.
Meantime, Fivelements developed a standalone urban retreat in Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay. Yoga & Sacred Arts retreat has just opened, and the center will feature holistic practices aimed at fostering self-exploration, mental and physical health, and overall wellbeing. Designed to cater to urban wellness tribes, it offers an array of yoga and dynamic sacred arts practices, plant-powered nutrition, and integrative wellness programs. There are plenty of bespoke therapies, including bodywork, intuitive healing, energy work and wellness coaching.
Forecasting the Future
- Wellness retreats will continue to open where the people (and affluence) are: cities. Consider: the urban population has grown from 751 million in 1950 to 4.2 billion in 2018—and the UN forecasts that it will rise by another 2.5 billion in 2050! More travelers will choose serene wellness destinations when they visit cities, and more people nearby will stay too: Not everyone can get to that remote island resort.
- Many of the new urban wellness resorts will be part hotel, part membership club, and part wellness residences, creating a whole new kind of wellness community and a smart business model that means extraordinary properties that get funded easier.
- Look for big growth where urbanism is booming: for instance, Asia and North America.
This is an excerpt from the “Wellness Takes on Overtourism” trend in the 2019 Global Wellness Trends Report.