Survey: The Best Perks for Attracting Wellness TouristsMay 6, 2014 by Taylor Short
Wellness trips are growing by about 6 percent annually in the U.S., with the total number of trips taken expected to rise 46.1 million by 2017. And wellness travelers represent a lucrative opportunity for hotels, as they spend 130 percent more than the average tourist.
To explore this trend further, we created a survey to find out what kinds of health and wellness offerings would convince a traveler to choose one hotel over another similarly priced hotel. We collected 385 unique responses to each of five questions, giving us a total of 1,935 respondents. Here, we highlight the key takeaways.
Gym and Healthy Dining Options Are Best Incentives
When asked about the types of health and wellness offerings that would convince them to choose one hotel over another similarly priced option, most respondents (39 percent) said an on-site gym would convince them. Close behind was having healthy dining options available (36 percent).
Preferred Health and Wellness Offerings
On the other hand, on-site fitness classes and sports kits—which are pre-made bundles of necessary items for a specific physical activity—fell to the bottom of strong incentives for booking a hotel (13 percent and 11 percent, respectively).
A 2012 TripAdvisor survey of 1,400 U.S. travelers showed that 53 percent of respondents “often or always” exercise while on the road. And hotels are taking notice of this trend: while 63 percent of properties had gyms in 2004, this number had increased to 84 percent by 2012, and nearly all upper-scale brands (95 percent) had gyms.
Lap Pool Most Popular Gym Feature
Knowing that a gym is the most effective incentive for wellness travelers, we decided to delve deeper into gym features. We found that 36 percent of respondents would be convinced to choose one hotel over another if it included a professional lap pool as part of the gym facilities.
Preferred Gym Features
Behind a pool is having smartphone or tablet docks on cardio equipment (26 percent). At the bottom of the list is rooftop yoga or a spin class deck (20 percent) and providing on-site fitness trainers (18 percent).
While our results show that a professional lap pool can be a strong motivator for wellness travelers, it also requires certain dimensions and features to distinguish it from a recreational pool—and discerning swimmers will know the difference. If this is an investment you wish to make in your property, make sure it fits the lap pool guidelines to draw the travelers you’re targeting.
Going further, we broke down desired gym features by age. While a majority of all age groups ranked professional lap pools as their biggest incentive, of those who chose rooftop yoga or a spin class deck (the second most popular choice), most are within the younger age groups: 18 through 44, constituting a combined 86 percent.
These results are in line with yoga’s popularity, as more than 20 million Americans practice the activity, 62 percent of whom are between 18 and 44 years of age. If your hotel is popular with customers in this age group, you might consider adding yoga or spinning features.
Demographics: Rooftop Yoga/Spin Class Deck Preference by Age Group
Travelers Seek Low-Calorie and Organic Menus
Eating is something that every traveler has to do. But many travelers may not make smart food choices: while the offerings at hotels are convenient, they’re not always healthy. So we also asked about what healthy options a hotel could offer that would convince our sample to book there. Most of them (33 percent) said a low-calorie menu would do the trick.
At 28 percent each, respondents also said a smoothie or juice bar and an organic menu would be convincing amenities. Only 11 percent said a gluten-free menu would be the factor that convinced them to book one hotel over another.
Preferred Healthy Dining Options
Indeed, a recent study shows that 52 percent of U.S. restaurants plan to bolster their healthy and gluten-free menu options due to customer demand. And “organic” continues to be a leading claim on American restaurant menus. Hotels are following suit in order to attract travelers who seek these choices.
While all ages generally preferred a low-calorie menu, those who preferred smoothie or juice bars were overwhelmingly younger: a combined 82 percent of the 18-44 groups preferred it. The 45-54 age group isn’t quite so enthusiastic, and no one in the 65-plus age group chose this option. But with popular smoothie-shop chain Smoothie King planning to add another 900 U.S. stores to its existing 500 within the next four years, this drink’s popularity is only increasing—and offering it could help draw younger travelers.
Demographics: Smoothie or Juice Bar Preference by Age Group
Travelers Split Among Gym Class Type
We also asked survey takers what gym classes a hotel could offer that would convince them to book there. The results show that Zumba (31 percent), Yoga/Pilates (30 percent) and Crossfit (27 percent) are about equally popular. Spinning is much less popular with our respondents, coming in at 12 percent.
Preferred Gym Class Type
Breaking the data down by gender, 79 percent of female respondents preferred Zumba to 21 percent of males. Conversely, 71 percent of males preferred Crossfit to 29 percent of females.
Demographics: Gym Class Type Preference by Gender
This spread of preferences shows that hotels should, if possible, offer a variety of fitness class options to attract every kind of wellness traveler. Crossfit seems to be growing in popularity, and while Zumba’s appeal seems to be fading, it’s a workout women are still using.
Gym and Running Kits Are Preferred “Sports Kits”
“Sports kits” refer to bundles of items a person might need when performing a certain exercise, such as biking, running, yoga or working out in a gym. A bike kit, for example, might include a map, helmet and speedometer, and a yoga kit might include a mat, towel and water bottle. Sometimes hotels offer these kits as an extra amenity. When asked which types of kits would convince our sample to book at one hotel over another, running or gym kits topped the list, with 31 percent and 30 percent, respectively.
Preferred Sports Kits
It seems that yoga (15 percent) and biking (24 percent) kits are not quite as popular with travelers, perhaps because yoga requires little equipment, and traveling with a bike can be cumbersome and expensive.
Further, watch company Timex performed a study of about 1,400 people aged 24 to 44 in the U.S. in 2013, which showed that running and lifting weights are the most popular exercise activities overall. This is in line with these findings, and shows that travelers may prefer to continue on a trip the same exercise habits they commit to at home.
Having a gym, if the trends continue, will soon no longer be viewed as an extra amenity, but rather as an expected feature of nearly every hotel. And remember that an unclean gym is the main factor that turns people away. Keeping regular gym and pool cleanings a high priority for housekeeping staff and leaving cleaning materials near workout equipment that guests will use can help keep your wellness travelers coming back.
Hotel managers can also work with food and beverage directors to create a small alternative menu with low-calorie and organic options. If a smoothie or juice bar is too big an investment, maybe the hotel bar manager could create a few smoothie options to be advertised to guests as a healthy drink after exercising.
The results of our survey match up with overall trends of consumers becoming more health conscious. Travelers are no different, and hotels can gain a powerful advantage by offering these most popular health and wellness options.
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