Unique programs at these hotels target the most popular New Year’s resolutions: relaxation and healthier living.
GLOBAL REPORT—Destination hotels and resorts might be seen as getaways, not just from the usual rules of work and society, but also from the rules guests set for themselves. This time of year, that includes those make-them-and-break-them New Year’s resolutions.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Some hotels offer more than treadmills and celery to help guests stick to their resolutions year-round.
Guests who have resolved to stress less in 2017 might make an appointment with Director of Serenity Laura Coburn at the Inns of Aurora, New York, a retreat in the Finger Lakes region that comprises 44 guestrooms at four properties—two restored mansions (the E.B. Morgan House and Rowland House) and two in the more-traditional hotel style.
Coburn, hired at the resort a year ago, runs yoga classes for guests, as well as workshops on relaxation using essential oil blends, Brand Manager Alex Schloop said.
“One of the things we’re doing is aligning our brand with wellness, but also mindfulness,” he said. “That’s a key word for us. Our approach to guests is getting them to be mindful, to quiet their minds, to relax. That can look like anything. It can be a high-intensity yoga class. It can also be sitting down by the fire with a book you want to read, and journaling, reading, napping. A nap can be just as restorative as a smoothie.”
The director of serenity also creates calming music playlists for guests taking part in the Inns of Aurora’s various activities. The song selections are distributed with equipment, such as yoga mats, to be streamed from the Spotify app on guests’ smartphones or music players.
At the Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa, a 109-room property on 53 acres in Paradise Valley, Arizona, yoga is combined with tennis to form Zennis—a program which Spa Manager Barbara Murphy-Shannon said promotes “relaxation, proper alignment and fluidity.”
For guests who need to disconnect to relax, the 180-room Element Boston Seaport invites them at check-in to surrender their cellphones for the duration of their stay. In exchange, guests are given a tip sheet, listing activities they can enjoy while unplugged, such as borrowing a bike to stroll the Boston Seaport, or joining in for an evening “Relax” reception at the hotel.
“Those who are able to make it through their visit without asking for their phone will receive a free stay to be redeemed at a later date,” Anna* DeLeo, director of marketing at the Element Boston Seaport, said about the hotel’s “Disconnected Stay Package.”
“Now more than ever before, we live our lives online and are finally realizing that in our desire to capture moments using our devices, we are missing those very moments as they happen,” she said. “I think as a nation we are trending toward ‘disconnecting to reconnect,’ so as to revitalize our relationships with nature, those around us and our own selves.”
The Verdura Resort, on a private stretch of Sicily’s Mediterranean coastline, focuses on fitness with programs that tone bodies and turn away temptations.
“Any program starts with a consultation that includes body-composition analysis and skin check-up, from which we will decide treatments and activities and discuss the health menu to satisfy the guests’ tastes,” said Marcello Mulato, fitness manager in charge of Rocco Forte Health programs at the Verdura.
To help guests “avoid temptations,” Mulato said, the Verdura offers to serve meals from its health menu in-room.
The Red Rock Casino, Resort and Spa in Las Vegas fully encloses fitness-inclined guests in a BodPod, which conducts body-composition diagnostics. That information is then used to personalize an exercise and nutrition plan for the duration of the hotel stay, said Brennan Evans, VP of operations at Trilogy Spa Holdings, which runs The Spa at Red Rock by Well & Being.
Those personalized exercise programs might include vertical wall yoga, in which “guests are strapped in with harnesses, performing poses and inversions against a wall,” Evans said.
Resolution: Keep it fresh
Guest feedback also goes a long way in deciding what programs the hotels offer.
The Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa and Element Boston Seaport both rely on questionnaires, which ask guests to rate the hotels’ programs, and also monitor online reviews to see what’s popular and not.
Verdura’s Mulato said he personally meets daily with guests to record their impressions.
At the Inns of Aurora, Schloop said, the front-desk staff keeps tabs on what the guests like and want.
That feedback helps to keep programming fresh, which the managers said is essential to success.
“One of the things that helps … is keeping it intimate,” Schloop said. For example, participation in the Inns of Aurora’s flagship annual wellness retreat is limited to 20 people.
“By doing so, we are able to personalize it … depending on what the guests are feeling that day,” he said. “(Coburn) personally calls each guest before they arrive, to ask them about their needs and what they are looking to get out of the retreat. So even before they arrive, we can tweak to meet their anticipated needs.”
Part of staying fresh is keeping up with trends.
At the Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain, “the spa director and fitness manager keep a close pulse on trends in the fitness and wellness industry, as well as review attendance levels for each of the classes, so that we can make adjustments as needed,” Murphy-Shannon said.
Evans said “healthy meeting options are the new norm for business travelers. ... We also know that the new millennial generation is very interested in maintaining health and wellness as part of the emerging trend in ‘adventure’ travel.”
Finding the right staff is also vital, he said.
“Recruiting the best talent is our ultimate goal … keeping in mind that education and informative and fun offerings are key to what we do,” Evans said.
Resolution: A new identity
Wellness programs have been woven into the identity of the Camelback’s Sanctuary Spa, Element Boston, Red Rock and Verdura from the beginning, the managers said.
That wasn’t the case with the Inns of Aurora, for which history has been a big draw since the properties were bought in 2001 and later restored. The focus on health and wellness, Schloop said, was a solution to a problem initially.
“Like a lot of properties in the Finger Lakes, we tend to be very seasonal, busier in the summer than in the winter. We are also fairly rurally located, with the closest major city about 45 minutes from us. … So we tried to think of ways to turn what could be a challenge into a benefit and an asset.” Schloop said.
The Inns of Aurora staff began to recognize that many guests had come there “to do nothing, to unplug and relax,” he said. “We thought we could take advantage of that, and really sell that idea. … We found that really resonated with a lot of our guests, who are executives who lead very busy lives and don’t often take a moment for themselves throughout the year.”
Now, more guests are booking during the winter, which Schloop calls “the perfect time to renew … when the seeds start to germinate, storing up energy for a new year.”
The success of the hotel’s first wellness retreat spawned others. A women’s wellness retreat for January is sold out; one in February is geared to couples for Valentine’s Day; and there’s a mother-daughter retreat planned for the spring.
The Inns of Aurora also plans to open a full luxury spa in two to three years, Schloop said. Currently, the resort contracts with an outside partner, Rasa Spa, based roughly 30 minutes away in Ithaca, New York.
“I think this will continue to grow,” Schloop said. The guests who take part in the retreats are becoming “advocates for our brand. They come back at different points during the year with other groups.”
*Correction 20 December 2016: A previous version of this story gave the wrong name for Element Boston Seaport Director of Marketing Anna DeLeo.