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How to ride the recession – future proofing your hotel with wellness

Past economic downturns have seen a reduction in travel, and a squeezing of the market. The latest economic squeeze comes on the back of the pandemic, compounding stresses already felt by the travel market.

But it’s business travel that isn’t rebounding as hard as before, according to business and wellness expert Sonal Uberoi of Spa Balance, and savvy hotels can still make the most of buoyant leisure travel market committed to ‘only living once.’

Here are her top tips on how to future proof your hotel and ride out the recession.


Sell an experience

People buy more than just a bed to sleep in. They buy an experience. When we put the emotional, psychological and experiential aspect of wellness front and centre of a hotel, customers are drawn in on a deeper level, and have a connection with your space and place that goes beyond the functional.


Make your space a retreat

A retreat doesn’t have to be yoga sessions and smoothies. It’s about providing a welcome break. Cost of living and financial worries for consumers in the UK and US will be causing people to be worried and stressed at home – and so want to feel something entirely different through wellness. Convey through your communications how staying with you will be an escape. A great example is Birch Community, where guests can work, sleep, eat and retreat. Birch bills itself as as a place to find mojo and magic.

Differentiate yourself

Ask yourself what makes you different – and don’t make it price. In fact if you’re offering something of value it’s ok to charge accordingly. Instead differentiate yourself on value of the experience- your guests don’t care about the list of traits, features, history, services, and characteristics of your hotel or resort; they care about your values, your purpose, how you interact with your community and local environment, and how you have threaded wellness into the fabric of this ecosystem of wellbeing. Think about how they can feel part of your tribe.

Build a community

A great hotel experience doesn’t stand alone. Cconnect with other suppliers in area – local food, wineries, running tours – and make people feel that by coming to you they get more than just a bed. This helps you create bundled wellness packages so you don’t have to reduce rates but can in fact up them through this process known as rate obscuring. One resort Spa Balance worked with tripled its average daily rate (ADR) and daily spend, doubled its occupancy rate, and is consistently voted one of the best hotels in the Iberian Peninsula, by fully building a wellness brand.

“Innovators future-proof their hotels by diversifying their reach and considering the defining key moments – from before their guests arrive to when they have left – and they explore non-traditional revenue streams to continue to engage with their guests and sell more.” says Sonal.

Find your people

Customer loyalty goes a long way – ask yourself who are your most valuable customers and find out what it is that makes them tick. Through values-based messaging, invest in creating that tribe of guests who want to be part of your brand. Look at the data and gather feedback – and act on it.

Invest in your teams

The travel industry is currently facing a staff shortage. Great people were laid off during the pandemic – and now don’t want to return. The wellness of your teams is so important, as it’s only happy and healthy people who can create an experience where guests also feel happy and healthy. Consider how each person fits into your model for wellness, invest in their training and support, and build a culture where wellness is embedded in everything you do.

Hyper personalisation

Baby boomers love to travel, and young people want to get away. We are actively catering to multiple generations, so a cookie cutter approach won’t work. And people want to feel unique, special, like their experience is one of a kind. Through wellness hotels can use their tools that help us cater to the diverse wellbeing goals and lifestyles of guests.

Think beyond international

Make yourself a go to destination for local people who need a break, as well as international tourists. Success comes from broadening your audience profile, without diluting your brand. There will be people in your city, county, country who want to experience what you have to offer, so tailor your marketing to them.

Think circular to be better

We need to be giving back – to people and places. It’s more than just being sustainable. Think about how to reduce waste in operations, design, redesign, and how you can give back to people, community, environment and guests by considering wellbeing at every stage of the journey.

Sonal Uberoi says: “This won’t be the last recession, and hotels need to invest now to the make next one easier. And what they need to invest in is wellness. That underlying and sometimes seemingly ephemeral concept that infuses everything that you do, from brand strategy to hotel architecture to service offering. It’s not ephemeral, but with very tangible steps, every hotel can be a place of wellness. ”

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Sonal Uberoi, Spa Balance

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About Sonal Uberoi Sonal Uberoi is a global wellness expert and the founder of Spa Balance, a boutique consultancy specialising in wellness concepts for luxury hotels. Sonal Uberoi is the author of the best-seller The Wellness Asset: How to Transform and Futureproof your Hotel as well as the ebook How to Open a Smart Spa, a comprehensive guide on the intricacies of opening a spa. She is also the host of the Wellness in Hospitality interview series where she has interviewed more than 80 hoteliers worldwide. She has sat on the Board of the Spa and Wellness Association of Africa (SWAA), where she helped develop and maintain internationally recognised standards in spa education in Africa. Sonal is also part of the Global Wellness Institute’s Consultants Initiative. She has deep knowledge and insight of the wellness industry gained from over 15 years of experience of having worked on 40+ projects in 20+countries and four continents. A unique finance background from Goldman Sachs and a cross-disciplinary skill set combined with worldwide experience make Sonal the go-to expert for business optimisation solutions. Her clients include the award-winning Abadia Retuerta LeDomaine, SHA Clinic’s urban wellness concept Esenza by SHA, Natura Bissé, Indiba, Sofitel Luxury Hotels and Meliá Hotels International. She is known for delivering award-winning and profitable spas around the world, particularly under her branded concept Spa Sommelier. Sonal’s proven track record and global outlook make her a popular speaker at international trade conferences. You can follow Sonal on LinkedIn where she regularly shares expert industry insights. About Spa Balance Spa Balance specialises in developing wellness assets for small, independently-owned hotels. Spa Balance is a Madrid based boutique consultancy that specialises in developing wellness concepts/assets for small, independently-owned hotels. Over the last 15 years, Spa Balance has worked with private owners of unique properties to help them create the legacy they want to want and make the impact they want to their people, their guests, their community and their environment for generations to come. The boutique consultancy helps hotel’s tap into the full potential of your their wellness offering and bring in a more discerning guest, build a loyal and committed customer base, attract and retain quality talent and increase profitability, without breaking budget.Spa Balance is known for delivering award-winning wellness assets under their branded concept, Spa Sommelier.

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