As employee wellbeing becomes even more important in a post-pandemic hybrid workplace, resorts and facilities are welcoming a new wave of health-conscious group travel.
By Michele Laufik | October 12, 2022
This article originally appeared on BizBash.com. Main Photo: Courtesy of Hilton Los Cabos
Remember when offering bottles of green juice at morning meetings seemed revolutionary? Now corporate groups are taking ice bath classes and breathwork sessions as part of full-on wellness retreats. And it’s not just high-level executives going on ayahuasca-fueled vision quests in their pursuit to biohack their way to immortality.
With remote work the new standard and employees less than enthusiastic to get back into the office, the need to reconnect via offsites and retreats has become even more important, with concentrated interaction being just as effective as spending days together in an office. And following the pandemic, improved physical and mental health among employees seems like the biggest ROI.
The global wellness travel industry is projected to reach $817 billion this year, and is estimated to reach $1.3 trillion in 2025, according to the Global Wellness Institute. To keep up with demand, several high-profile hospitality brands are expanding, including the Ranch Malibu, which will open the Ranch Hudson Valley in summer 2023 to cater to New Yorkers.
“Over the past three years, many individuals turned to nature and outdoor recreation to find connection and mind/body health—regardless of their fitness level and experience prior to the pandemic,” said Diana Navarro, business development manager for REI Co-op Experiences, which offers guided outdoor activities and skill-building lessons in Arizona, Seattle, and San Francisco.
“It is such an important part of every company culture in this hybrid world, as organizations focus on taking care of their employees,” said Katharine Sharpstone, managing director of Trip Tribe Wellness, a company that specializes in crafting wellness experiences and retreats for corporate clients. “Both employees and clients are demanding wellness to be a major part of the agenda as it makes their employees more productive and it helps to build deep meaningful relationships with their clients.”
Like most offsites nowadays, most wellness retreats aren’t geared toward the rise-and-grind mentality. With an emphasis on personalization, planners are customizing experiences to fit a range of attendees and their ability levels. After all, not everyone’s idea of wellness includes 5 a.m. hikes.
“In the spirit of inclusivity, it’s great to consider activities that are not too difficult or intricate,” Navarro said. “It’s also good to keep in mind that while customizing activities can offer exciting results, this can also take away from the intended experience. Sometimes simply hiking in the desert and learning about the amazing flora and fauna is a once-in-a-lifetime experience of its own.”
Norma Mazon-Howard, complex director of group sales for Hilton Los Cabos, which offers activities including yoga, beach bootcamp, SUP, meditation, and boxing, said “what used to be a second thought has now moved to the forefront,” with wellness going from a nice-to-have to a must-have for any type of event.
She also said that “planners need to know their attendees to really tailor the wellness offerings and activities. If a group is very active, then we’d present a hiking or biking adventure as opposed to, say, a morning stretch. Another thing to keep in mind is whether the trip is an incentive or not. An incentive trip usually means the purpose is to relax and reset, so we’d suggest options like beach meditation or yoga. Overall, the biggest thing is to do research on your attendees,” adding that she might send a group poll in advance to help create a curated experience.
Companies “understand more than ever the need to take care of their employees and clients both physically and mentally,” Sharpstone said. “We make sure to do it in an entertaining and educational way. For example, bringing in celebrity wellness talent to a retreat adds a fun spin that gets everyone really excited to be there. We’ve also had companies have us bring in spiritual drummers, aura readers, and coaches for the increasingly popular sport of pickleball.”
At the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale, alternative touchless therapies include a Himalayan salt room and a wave bed for binaural acoustics, which purportedly can boost focus and concentration, promote relaxation, and reduce stress and anxiety.Photo: Courtesy of Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & SpaTrip Tribe Wellness recently curated a mindfulness session for a company offsite, complete with an aromatherapy component as well as a customized organic hand-crafted massage oil and a sound bath. “In some cases, we set up post-retreat one-on-one sessions with executives interested in continuing their wellness journey,” Sharpstone said.
Also, more and more resort properties are branching out far beyond the usual yoga sessions, with some tapping into otherworldly offerings.
For example, the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa recently introduced a full moon meditation series where guests can enjoy a 30-minute class that includes a calming meditation session and healing sound experience that utilizes the energy of the moon, all hosted in the hotel’s new outdoor garden space.
“Due to increased demand and awareness of alternative therapies, we have added several wellness options that include a broad spectrum of offerings,” explained Angee Smithee, director of the hotel’s on-site Spa Avania, adding that the property now offers meditation options via an app, in room, and at the spa, as well as touchless therapies like a Himalayan salt room, wave bed for binaural acoustics (which purportedly can boost focus and concentration, promote relaxation, and reduce stress and anxiety), and in-room percussive devices for massage therapy. The property also boasts a private fitness suite—a bookable one-hour experience with equipment like a Peloton bike and Precor treadmill.
But despite all the wellness bells and whistles, Smithee said that, since the pandemic, the “No. 1 request remains human touch. Groups are coming back to the spa, and the No. 1 requested service is massage followed by facials and body treatments.”
Taking cues from the public baths of ancient Greece and Rome, Remedy Place, which recently opened a new location in New York, following its West Hollywood debut in 2019, calls itself “the world’s first social wellness club.” Featuring a monochromatic sleek aesthetic, the space contains high-tech equipment like specially designed hyperbaric chambers and services such as a breathwork ice bath class.
When it comes to team building, Remedy Place founder and CEO Dr. Jonathan Leary—a concierge wellness doctor who has worked with leaders in the music, film, and sports industries as well as C-suite executives—thinks that the most powerful experience is Remedy Place’s vitamin injections filled with NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide IV therapy is a type of intravenous treatment that can stimulate cell regeneration in your body) “to give them a boost.” He also recommends intense group holotropic breathwork sessions “to help people to open up and be more vulnerable, and then cheer each other on through an ice bath class. The camaraderie and heightened clarity/natural high is so powerful, and the outcome is always very special.”
Plus, as more folks forgo imbibing at events, many companies are looking for a sober yet social experience. Leary hopes that Remedy Place can fill that space. “The thought of overindulging in food and alcohol is only going to inhibit the employee bonds and work against their health,” he said.
Available for private events and even solo sessions, Remedy Place also has the capabilities to bring offerings off site as well. When planning a bespoke corporate experience, Leary said that he and his team try to “understand the work environment, team dynamics, and stressors they endure. … It is very important to get to know the group, so that you best know how to help them. At the end of the day, we want to create an experience like no other that not only leaves them feeling incredible, but one that makes the team more united.”