By Larry and Adam Mogelonsky
Longevity hit the mainstream earlier this month when National Geographic (available on Disney+) launched its six-part miniseries, “Limitless with Chris Hemsworth” touching on life-extension techniques like stress management, intermittent fasting and extreme temperature exposure amongst others. Most notable perhaps was the episode where the actor had his genome sequenced to reveal that he is a dual carrier of the APOE4 mutation that puts him at elevated risk for Alzheimer’s, with a cellphone-less trek through nature proscribed as a preventative activity.
The thought here is that the sights, sounds, smells, physical exertion and mental exertion (and digital detoxing) help to reset the brain and initiate neuroprotective chemical pathways. In the episode, it’s hinted that most novel experiences act in this manner to varying degrees, which means that great travel experiences can likewise be seen a form of staving off end-stage diseases like dementia. (Still, the two of us doubt that this will work as a marketing tagline!)
So, while the idea of journeying to a natural setting to calm one’s mind is nothing new, it’s zeitgeist-y stories like this popular TV show, as well as Hemsworth’s subsequent announcement that he will be taking a break from acting following the APOE4 diagnosis, that will serve to renew demand amongst travelers for nature immersion in the pursuit of greater well-being or the perceived anti-aging benefits.
Knowing that this nature therapy is trending, how can any hotel seize the day, regardless of whether you are rurally located or not? Below is hardly an exhaustive list of what’s possible, but rather the intention is to inspire you by revealing the host of options for you to pick from that can match your target audience’s appreciation for these types of experiences as well as your capex budget.
- As a rather direct interpretation of nature therapy, develop programming for your guests to get out in a natural setting, like a horticultural tutorial, a la carte picnics, outdoor exercise class or even something far more esoteric like Uitwaaien which roughly translates from Dutch as taking a therapeutic walk in wild, windy weather
- Similarly, the idea of forest bathing is becoming popular where a guided hike or group meditation amongst the terpene-laden aerobiome of a forest offers substantial health benefits
- For urban properties, and especially after COVID-19 brought attention to this matter, high quality ventilation (like HEPA filters) that fill guestrooms with clean, purified air are becoming marketing points unto themselves and key booking drivers for urban hotels
- Urban hotels can also aim to bring nature inside with live plants, living walls in the lobby, biomimicry in selected artwork or art installations, themed wallpapers, green-spectrum décor (the color our brains most associate with nature), or types of biophilic design or tailored scents of pine, citrus and aromatic flowers that can be disbursed on demand through in-room devices
- Nature has long been incorporated into cultural design styles like Feng Shui (Chinese), Godai (Japanese) or Hygge (Scandinavian) that often emphasize exposed woods, stone, the presence of water, proper flow in furniture orientation, ample natural light and optimized bed spaces
- New science is also emerging around the concept of negative ionization therapy where the friction from recurrently running water (like that of waterfalls, heavy rainstorms or ocean waves) generates negatively charged ions in the air that calm our bodies, and this effect can be artificially recreated with small devices that can be hidden away in guestrooms
- On this notion of resetting a body’s natural charge, earthing or grounding – the simple act of touching your body to solid earth unencumbered by rubber-soled shoes or socks– is becoming a popular practice and ripe messaging fodder for any rural property
- All this talk of being amongst nature or next to running water, other more esoteric forms of wellness like halotherapy – the breathing of tiny, restorative salt particles – can also serve to differentiate your wellness program or as an in-room, on-demand offering
- With the awareness around the detrimental effects of artificial blue light from computer screens on sleep habits, smart lighting or night lighting is becoming a highly sought-after room feature so that travelers can program LEDs to shift into the amber-red hues to help set wind down or, alternatively, get a jolt of blue light in order to power through jetlag
- Building on this idea of smart room tech is the progression towards a connected room that incorporates IoT devices that can restore a guest’s sleep patterns to a natural state and offer a host of other wellness product integrations, namely the aforementioned smart lighting, aromatherapy devices, smart mattresses and temporally modulated thermostats
- Ancestral living also extends into your fitness programming through what some call primal workouts or high intensity interval training (HIIT) where the principle is that short bursts of varied, full-body heavy lifting help to maximize the metabolic benefits of exercise
- Finally, getting back to nature obviously includes a rethink of your F&B strategy, incorporating not only more organic ingredients and paleo-friendly dishes but also nose-to-tail cooking whereby organ meats (however unpalatable they may seem at first) have been shown to be jampacked with key minerals or vitamins far above many fruits and vegetables
The bottom line here is that wellness for hotels is growing, and its tendrils will soon creep into every department and operation. Know what trending, develop a plan then implement along that roadmap.