DO YOU WANT COLLAGEN WITH THAT?
From wellbeing walls to fitness festivals, matcha lattes to collagen smoothies: the travel industry is adapting fast to the demands of the new health-conscious consumer. Alice Tate explores the latest in the ‘sportspitality’ revolution.
Remember when hotels having avocado on toast on their breakfast menus was novel? Oh, how things change. We’re now living in a world where the everyday consumer is looking for much more. Demand is changing; innovation is fast and well documented across social media; and fitness and nutrition are definite lifestyle choices – and ones that consumers aren’t willing to sacrifice whilst travelling.
As wellbeing continues its march (or should we say jog) to centre stage in our lifestyles, wellness festivals are becoming all the rage. Balance Festival, Be:Fit and Exhale Festival are just a few of the contenders in the UK alone; meanwhile Obonjan, the 10-week long island retreat in Croatia and THE ‘it’ festival of 2017, runs under the tagline “tune in, explore, restore”, with wellbeing (from yoga to holistic massages, sound healing and more) a key part of the concept. Restival is yet another example of the festivalisation of fitness; this fusion of “the best of festivals and retreats with… beautifully curates, intimate wellness travel experiences” had its first outing in Morocco and subsequent editions in Arizona and Osea Island.
So how can hotels respond? Answer: they start their own festivals. Take The Hoxton’s Fresh and Fit Fest, for example, an annual all-day event that runs across both the brand’s London hotels and is jam-packed with of-the-moment classes from the likes of Gymbox, Frame and BOOM Cycle); talks from nutrition pioneers including Deliciously Ella, Zanna van Dijk and Clean Eating Alice; kitchen demonstrations; and samplings and tastings, with a load of fitness influencers also added to the mix to create more buzz. The strategy makes sense: the hotel has the space, so why not use it to not only offer more to your guests but also to the local community.
Another way that hotels are really starting to focus on wellness is through specifically designed packages. Take Cambridge’s The Varsity Hotel & Spa as an example: the hotel launched Bend and Brunch in January, a wellness package for both hotel guests and locals that pairs a yoga session at the hotel’s Glassworks Health Club with a nutritious brunch at the its panoramic bar and brasserie, SIX. Then there are those that bring in buzzy new classes — take London’s Haymarket Hotel, which recently introduced FLOATFIT Yoga in collaboration with AQUAPHYSICAL, a vinyasa class on water that develops strength, balance and mindfulness.
High-end hotels are increasingly beginning to adopt the idea of ‘sportspitality’, taking things a step further by infusing hospitality with wellness through both experiences and interiors: in other words, your bedroom becomes a private gym. The ‘Vitality Room’, a collaboration between Swissôtel and Wallpaper magazine, well illustrates this idea, and perhaps, the future. Along with a soft, muted colour palette and discreet technology, there’s a ‘wellbeing wall’ with cables and weights that offers personalised workouts through a cyber trainer; a minibar stocked with mineral waters and health drinks; and a lighting system that adjusts regulate melatonin levels and help travellers get over jet lag.
There’s no doubt that for a growing number of hotels, gyms and high-tech spas are fast becoming a key selling point. For many travellers nowadays, it’s a dealbreaker: they’re looking for hotels that blur the lines between the various elements of their lifestyles. 1 Hotel South Beach last year launched their Spartan Gym, a 14,000 sq. ft. space inspired by obstacle races and with different areas for “athleticism, endurance and strength”; meanwhile, when launching The Curtain in Shoreditch, founder Michael Achenbaum called upon star personal trainer Jon Squirrel to bring his cult Vault Gym in-house.
So it makes sense that Equinox, the high-end gym giant, is branching out into hotels to become a 360-degree fitness and wellbeing lifestyle company. Having asked their members (high-flying, affluent, fitness-led individuals), 95% of whom expressed keen interest in staying in an Equinox hotel, the brand is now set to open their first site in 2018 in New York City’s Hudson Yards development. Aside from the natty tagline ‘Where the science of fitness meets the art of travel’, there aren’t a lot of details revealed as yet; however, we do know that there will be indoor and outdoor fitness spaces, multiple pools, office space, luxury condos, and premium guestrooms — and a long list of eager fitness-obsessed guests, no doubt.
With the increase in food tourism, lots of city hotels are finding themselves in direct competition with cafés and restaurants. Their response: ‘destination’ bars and restaurants that locals choose to eat in as well as guests. Take The Hoxton, Holborn as a prime example, which works with Soho House for their popular restaurant, Hubbard and Bell: it’s bustling from breakfast until dinner. In terms of a breakfast offering, people want more than eggs benny and a latte these days. They might want almond milk in their latte – actually, make that a matcha latte – then gluten-free toast, extra protein, and, oh, all vegan too. I’m being a little churlish but you get the gist… hotel restaurants need to be hot on their feet, looking to forward-thinking eateries for inspiration.
One such dining destination that instantly springs to mind is Grind, which has fast expanded to a portfolio of nine London sites since 2011. Take their breakfast menu at Clerkenwell Grind: customers can choose from gluten-free porridge, an açaí berry bowl, sweet potato harasses cakes, or a raw breakfast salad with quinoa and matcha. Grind has had a knock-on effect in the local area: The Hoxton, Shoreditch (whose restaurant is again operated by Soho House) offer a protein bowl for brekkie — that’s poached salmon, avocado, pickled red onions and lentils – whilst at The London EDITION, guests can choose from an orange-soaked oats and almond chia pot and roasted sweet potato, halloumi and pine nut pesto on toast.
This healthy-minded approach is limited not just to foo, but is affecting what we drink too. Matcha is the flavour of the day, gingerly starting to make its way on to London menus a good while after its boom in the States. Meanwhile, I’ve no doubt that Instagram-friendly turmeric lattes and beetroot lattes will be on room service menus soon enough… a few years back, you’d have been laughed at for hitting the gym and going back to your hotel and asking for a protein shake, but now, in response to clear demand, they’re making their way on to menus, from matcha protein smoothies to collagen boosts, such as Soho House’s House Press ‘Glow’ Juice, featuring pomegranate, red grape, guava, ginger, lime, rose and collagen.
A few years back, you’d have been laughed at for hitting the gym and going back to your hotel and asking for a protein shake, but now, in response to clear demand, they’re making their way on to menus, from matcha protein smoothies to collagen boosts, such as Soho House’s House Press ‘Glow’ Juice, featuring pomegranate, red grape, guava, ginger, lime, rose and collagen.
Moving on from breakfast, healthy fast food is a focus — dishes without chemicals, sugar, nor soy. For the health-conscious traveller, there’s big demand: when you’re tired and have been travelling or working for hours, you just want to call down, in your slippers, for a burger and fries, without having to sacrifice your diet. Cue rosemary-seasoned sweet potato wedges and quinoa vegetable patties popping up on many a hotel menu. Some hotels are going one step further, like the COMO Metropolitan, which offers COMO Shambhala Cuisine across their breakfast, in-room and lobby lounge menus. This is a menu designed to maximise personal performance by increasing concentration and energy levels, using local product and focusing on ingredients that are rich in living enzymes, vitamins and minerals.
This is a menu designed to maximise personal performance by increasing concentration and energy levels, using local produce and focusing on ingredients that are rich in living enzymes, vitamins and minerals.
Though booze is big business for hotel bars, they’re also adapting to a change in demand and introducing low-calorie alcohol (such as Skinny Prosecco), as well as more no-alcohol beers — Shoreditch House includes BrewDog’s Nanny State on its drinks menu, for example. This is sure to be a growing trend, and one where we can look to Scandinavia for guidance — go to any hotel in Sweden and there’ll be an array of different low- and no-alcohol beers on the restaurant menu, plus no-alcohol wines.
There’s no doubt wellness, nutrition and fitness are real drivers of change in the hospitality industry, now more than ever. And as those industries themselves evolve at speed — new vegan proteins and ayurvedic eating are just two of the buzz phrases hitting the food industry at the moment — we can expect to see the hospitality industry following suit. Are we already in the era of sportspitality? Let’s just say a cross trainer in the basement definitely isn’t going to cut it any more…