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  • Writer's pictureRyan Haynes

Hotel Partner - How to incorporate the Wellness and Spa asset into a hotel

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

In this episode, we’re joined by author and wellness consultant Sonal Uberoi and Journey Hospitality’s commercial director – Elli Regan to discuss how hotels can expand its offering into wellness.

Drawing from Sonal’s book – The Wellness Assett – we explore the wellness market, the value for hotels and hear from the guests experience of working with hotels worldwide. In this Hotel Partner episode we get a framework for commercialising wellness and the technology that underpins the delivery.

We cover:


1. Value of spa and wellness to the leisure and hospitality market

2. What it takes to be a spa or wellness hotel

3. Sonal’s ESSENCE model

4. Role of technology

5. Advice to engaging staff

Here is the link to get the book: https://www.spa-balance.com/the-wellness-asset-book/


Discover how to incorporate spa and wellness into your booking funnel. Visit onejourney.


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Programme Notes


Ryan Haynes:

Hello and welcome to Travel Market Life. In this episode, we are going to be looking at how to incorporate wellness and spa asset into a hotel. We're going to be joined by Sonal Uberoi author and wellness consultant. She's written The Wellness Asset, How Wellness Can Transform and Future-Proof Your Hotel. She's also the host of the podcast Wellness and Hospitality and has worked for Four Season Hotels and software, luxury hotels and resorts. We'll also be joined by Elli Regan, commercial director at Journey Hospitality, with over 20 years of experience in the hospitality industry specializing as a wellness consultant and coach worldwide. She's been a member of the board at the UK Spar Association and has been general manager for wellness properties, including pre-opening projects and has worked for Hilton Worldwide and a minor hotel group.


Ryan Haynes:

We'll be discussing the value of spar and wellness to the leisure and hospitality market. What does it take to be a spar or Wellness Hotel Son's essence model? The role of technology and advice in engaging staff


Ryan Haynes:

Well, hello Sonal. Thank you ever so much firstly for joining us here. Now you've worked within the spar and wellness industry for quite some time and now a consultant in this, in this space and you've actually written the book, the Wellness Assets. What drove you to actually write this book in the first place? Why was it so important?


Sonal Uberoi:

Hi Ryan. Thank you so much for having me on the podcast. I guess the pandemic was a fantastic moment to actually say this is either now or never. I wanted to share with hoteliers that wellness when done well really does make business sense and it is an important part of their entire asset ecosystem. So, it forms like it's in the core, it's in the essence of hospitality. Hospitality is an extension of wellness and wellbeing.


Ryan Haynes:

Now we're going to be coming to your essence model in just a bit, but firstly, what do you see or, or how do you sell the value of spar and wellness, particularly to leisure properties in the industry?


Sonal Uberoi:

Wellness is an asset that has tangible measurable value, and it has intangible value. Traditionally, wellness does not have this track record of stellar performance most total as report one to 3% of the total sales from wellness-related offerings. And they focus only on that small tangible aspect. What they don't focus on is all that intangible and indirect value. A wellness asset actually provides, for example, increased ADR, increased occupancy, and increased average spending per guest. You're just tapping into a more discerning client. So, when the focus is shifted, instead of looking at just one to 3% of total hotel revenue, they actually see it forms part of a good 30, 40% more in rates, increase in actual expenditure from the client's shouldering seasonality.


Sonal Uberoi:

So, this is the kind of focus that I take when we are selling wellness to the hospitality industry. And it's also a fundamental part now, particularly when we are facing such a shortage in talent because now employees care about wellbeing more than ever.


Ryan Haynes:

Thank you. Now Elli, I mean you've been championing this with Journey Hospitality, really the role of Spell and wellness within hotels and you've actually shared this book of Sonal’s with all your customers. What do you see as sort of the challenges that hotels really have to, to really invest in that asset and, and bring it to life in, in, in a way that's going to be both commercially viable and also deliver that guest experience that they're looking for?


Elli Regan:

Hmm. I think that with regards to where we start off and we look at where spa wellness ha has actually come from as an industry within the hospitality industry, when I started off in Hospitality Spa was actually didn't have its own GL code, you know, it was sitting within in a p and l, it was sitting within other, along with laundry and valet services. And across the last 20 years or so, it's really stepped out on its own. It's got its own form for commercials, it's got its full p and l and what I've found working along with spa managers and spa directors across the world, is they are getting more involved when it comes to the financials within budgeting for spas.


Elli Regan:

So, it's been amazing to see the progression of the spine industry.


Ryan Haynes:

I mean, surely becoming a spar is just easy, right? You just get a jacuzzi and here we are, we're a spa hotel. But no, Elli, you, you've been responsible for a lot of pre-opening projects, so you've really been behind the scenes setting a lot of this up. What do you see as sort of like, the main challenges of trying to sell this within the hotel and getting everyone behind you and trying to get that investment and focus commercially?


Elli Regan:

Yeah, it's interesting because I've got the book right in front of me as well. If only we had this book way back at the beginning because it has been a struggle to allow, you know, investors or property owners to really have respect for the bond wellness industry. And it's not just how, where can we place this spa? Can we convert a hotel room or what can we do? It's so, so, so much more and that's why I love Snell's book and how she's positioned the wellness asset, the essence model, to be able to completely back what we are of an industry. You know, it's not just about ancillary revenue stream, it's about its own entity and its own commercials.


Elli Regan:

If we look at challenges, I think the solid execution of a wellness project and a full conceptualization of what you're trying to achieve is so important rather than looking at what the trends or the fads are of that current time, something that's going to last, something that's going to be able to bring in that revenue and not lose its touch across the way. I'm sure Sonal, you would agree with me, there are lots of parts of your book that focus on that.


Sonal Uberoi:

Yes, no, I definitely think having that solid concept, you know, your certainty of purpose, your why, your value system, that kind of anchors you. And I think also an important part of the concept is also to understand, to look back at ourselves fresh from the consumer's point of view. How are they living that experience? Sometimes, you know, it's not only hospitality but generally brands in general, we just talk about how wonderful we are, but we stop to understand or stop to see ourselves, how are our guests experiencing that entire experience, their journey with us from pre-arrival to post departure.


Ryan Haynes:

Well, let's talk about that. Let's delve into this essence model. The great word that you've chosen there for yourself for, for this model here. So, Sonal really plays into the wellness concept. So, starting with the letter a


Sonal Uberoi:

Expectation, so there are seven key stages in order to convert your wellness idea into a profitable wellness asset. And they're divided into four phases. So, in the phase one plan, we have the stages of expectation and that's also known as your perfect concept framework where we are taking the wellness idea and converting it into the right concept for your particular property. Then we go into story and story is not our story, our story is our hero story, which is our guest's story. So, we are looking at a concept from our guest’s point of view and then that's done with the plan phase. Then we enter into implementation.


Sonal Uberoi:

We start off with a system that is your special way of doing things. And then once we've defined how we do things that are different from the door next door, the hotel next door, we actually are then able to pull together a lean and ideal team, which takes us to the execution stage and with execution we finish the implementation. But I'm sure Elli, you'd a hundred per cent agree that it's very easy to create, easy to create a concept, then implement it, but then what happens six, seven months down the road, a new trend comes and then hey, we leave our old concept and one run behind the new toy we've got. So that's how we've got navigation, which is the course correction framework and that ensures that we are keeping on track with our big-picture goals and not becoming a trend.


Sonal Uberoi:

And then we go into consistency because ultimately what we want is to set up our teams to consistently deliver truly and naturally remarkable experiences to our guests. And then once we've got a plan, implement, and iterate in place, then where the magic happens in engagement. The last all it is that icing on the cake. It's where we go the extra mile to truly curate special moments and that's when we get exponential in our outreach. So just imagine today each person probably has between all the social platforms, let's say 7,000 followers, some far more.


Sonal Uberoi:

Just imagine if one person actually spoke to 7,000 followers and even 3% converted what that looks like on our profit and loss. And that is, that only happens when you're actually truly transforming their experience in some shape, way and form. And how do we do that through wellness our tools?


Ryan Haynes:

Amy, as you say it, what I find fascinating is that second part, the story part of things, you know, who does that belong to? The hero there? I mean Elli, in all the hotels that you've worked for, how many times have you gone into and, and you start to do the opening and it's been focused actually on that guest and that guest experience versus just the amenities that the hotel's got?


Elli Regan:

I must say that there are quite a few, but when you think of a guest experience from a hotel perspective, it's normally to do with rooms and F&B and that's where we come in to ensure that they're having that full, the full wellness and wellbeing guest service journey. And it's not just focused on spa, gym, water, sports, and beach pools, it's also incorporated into the rooms. It's also incorporated into, you know, the sense within the hotels, what's happening in the food and beverage outlets,


Ryan Haynes:

Sonal, I mean we with that taken on board, you know, putting that guest story at the centre I guess also really helps the hotel staff understand the, the wider experience that they're delivering throughout that and, and how that they can augment that service that, that the guest can expect.


Sonal Uberoi:

Absolutely, it's, I think, you know, knowledge is power. The more we know about our consumers, the more we know what our guests like. We are empowering our people to actually personalize the experience for the guests. It's that knowledge of knowing that they have the right information at hand to actually deliver the guests the experience they're looking for. It's actually quite simple. They tell us what they want, they have the information, and we can give it, our team should have been able to access that information and provide it to our guests. And that's also part of the system making things work right from the get-go. It's not about finding extraordinary talent to do extraordinary work.


Sonal Uberoi:

It's sometimes finding ordinary talent when I'm saying ordinary, normal as human beings to do extraordinary work.


Ryan Haynes:

Now talking about systems, I love a bit, love a good system, I love talking about systems as we do in travel market life, a lot around the hospitality tech ecosystem. So, for you son, how important is the role of technology in the delivery of wellness?


Sonal Uberoi:

That's a fantastic question, Ryan. You know, sometimes in our industry we have this kind of, I don’t know, identity crisis. We think that, well I wouldn't say it's an identity crisis, an internal conflict. We think technology is here to take the human touch away and I couldn't further disagree. I think it actually gives us super information to further personalize and really make that human touch truly magical. And I think this is where technology plays such a key role. I mean it's there to make our lives more efficient.


Sonal Uberoi:

It's there to actually enhance the well-being of our people. They're not stressing, they're not pulling their hair out, trying to figure out where do I get this? Or you're not trying to get someone to sign 500 checks, you know, just for one little treatment. It's, we are just, you know, what makes an experience seamless, you need technology and technology only helps us actually deliver remarkable experiences.


Ryan Haynes:

So over to Elli then, you know, what sort of tech is enabling wellness and spar in hotels and, and really driving those commercial opportunities for the hotelier?


Elli Regan:

Yeah, well look, if we look at, you know, spar tech as a whole globally and where we're at, it's definitely, it definitely has been under-serviced and it, it's ripe for e-commerce innovation at the minute. And hence how I got to be sitting here today. I ended up launching one of our products in a property in London and I absolutely loved what it was all about and exactly what you've said. So now it allowed it, it released the people to deal with people to be there to connect. You've mentioned, you know, in your essence model, being able to have that time to go that extra mile for the teams that are working in the spas and in the hotels.


Elli Regan:

So, onejourney is an e-commerce platform allowing you to book your room, spy your restaurant, and buy some retail, all in one seamless transaction all online. So, as you, as you said, you know, you're not arriving at this bar, to the hotel, stressed out, not knowing what to book and taking up the time of the, the reception team to be able to explain it and maybe only having to book one treatment at that time. So, you're able to do this often in the comfort of your own home, you know, lay out your plans, take full control of what your hotel experience is going to be like, and it also allows you to be able to book more than one treatment or, or more than, than one thing within the hotel.


Elli Regan:

From an operational perspective, what this platform does is it allows you to see what business or on the books it allows you to be able to prepare better, be able to prepare for your inventory, both professional and retail products, being able to see where you can increase revenues once the clients are actually there. We've got spa extras, so you know, you'll be able to see if they want their champagnes or their health drinks and everything's already pre-ordered, so you know what you need to either order from an f and B inventory perspective. Also, staffing levels, being able to see if you need more staff to be able to accommodate direct bookings that are coming in at the same time.


Elli Regan:

So where was this system 20 years ago? It definitely wasn't there, but it's, it, it's now been in the market for a few years within Journey Hospitality we've got over 650 hotel partners. So, it's really exciting to see how it is impacting the operation of hotels for both the client and the team members.


Ryan Haynes:

I mean, I was going to say, I mean we are so used now to having to make bookings. I mean I even have to make a booking for what was formally a walk-in Barber, you know, it's, it is that guest experience. I mean I was skiing a few months ago and they had, it was a spa hotel and I had to go to the reception whenever I wanted to visit the spa to find out if it was available to ask them what availability they have for massages and you know, it was constant backwards and forwards between us looking at the timings. Whereas if you could do it on your own autonomy, then obviously you could perhaps get to a resolution faster. You find exactly what you want, and it does make that whole process a lot more seamless.


Elli Regan:

Yeah, definitely. And jumping into a question that you asked previously about challenges that I have come across in, within the hotel industry and in the operation quite a number of years ago and one of them was around online systems that, you know, we were trying and out at the time and it wasn't pulling on live availability. So actually, you were making a book, but you weren't really, you were making a reservation. So, then you had to have a spy receptionist call you up to confirm the time, confirm availability and book it all in. Whereas now with the integrations that we have within One Journey and any of our products, it allows inbound calls to decrease massively, you know, we've got a 25% reduction of inbound calls across onejourney hotels as a whole 62% increase in revenue.


Elli Regan:

You've got an increased average order value and 75% of the orders that come through one Journey are more than one module in the basket. So more than one item within the basket. So, it's, it's amazing to see where it has come from previously. Another challenge would've been the lack of integrations. So no, no systems spoke to each other, whereas now what we have built is a platform that actually integrates with various room third parties. We've got Core by Premier Software, which we have recently acquired, which is amazing. So that's our spa partner and then ResDiary, for our tables’ integration.


Elli Regan:

So, it's actually having the systems that are speaking, which will then decrease the amount of manual labour within the actual hotels and spas to be able to do follow-ups.


Ryan Haynes:

Much needed at a time when we are very short-staffed and trying to find the right level of experience.


Elli Regan:

Yeah, absolutely.


Sonal Uberoi:

We're getting systems that can make our lives more efficient and increase revenue and also, you know, take the strain of the profit and loss and take the strain of our teams while.


Ryan Haynes:

We stick on teams there for a second. Two pieces of advice from both of you two hoteliers on how to really change the mindset of staff and really get them engaged in a wellness offering.


Sonal Uberoi:

I've been reading a lot of Brené Brown‘s work and I encourage everyone to take the Bold Leave to be brave.


Elli Regan:

I think it's about transparency. Transparency and what the overall vision is, what the overall goal is. Being able to have a consultant, you know, at the level an experience that has got all of the tools to be able to provide and you can actually get them in this book. And that boils down to education.


Ryan Haynes:

Elli, thank you ever so much. Sonal, wonderful to hear about your essence model. I really appreciate your contributions today.


Sonal Uberoi:

Thank you so much


Ryan Haynes:

So that was so now Uber I author and wellness consultant, don't forget to check out the Wellness asset in the link in the description. And that was Elli Regan, commercial director at Journey Hospitality. Thanks for joining me, Ryan Haines on Travel Market Life. Check out all our other episodes through LinkedIn on our page there or our website and sign up for our newsletter on www.TravelMarket.Life. Thanks for listening. Ciao for now

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