This newsletter is divided into two parts: (1) Macro outlook, outlining and assessing the impact of economic, geopolitical, societal, environmental and technological changes on the industry; (2) Micro insights supported by concrete examples of trends and changes occurring within the industry. We think that the combination of the two will allow you to transform risks into business and investible opportunities. The convergence of hospitality and wellbeing priorities is shaping disruption and innovation alike. The hospitality industry encompasses all businesses that provide specific and non-essential services to customers. It is broader than the travel and tourism industry stricto sensu and includes businesses such as restaurants, beauty clinics and theme parks, to name a few.


Our macro outlook analyses the leading global trends and their potential impact on the industry.


GLOBAL GROWTH AND WAGE INFLATION – With the global economy growing at its fastest rate since 2011, the global output is moving from being below potential to being above it. In other words, excess capacity is shrinking or even evaporating (like in the US and the UK), sparking fears of inflation. In particular, wage growth of some magnitude (2.9 per cent in the US, Y-o-Y) is a concern for companies heavily dependent on labour costs, like in the tourism industry. Stay tuned! Inflation expectations are up in many countries around the world and occasional bouts of wage inflation are possible, but it is important to remember that in the long-term, potent structural factors will restrain price inflation: ageing, technology and inequality put a lid on it.

MONEY AND WELLBEING – Income is normally correlated with happiness, but there are huge academic and non-academic debates about the precise nature of the relationship between money and wellbeing. Does happiness rise indefinitely with income, or is there a point at which higher incomes no longer lead to greater wellbeing? New research sheds interesting light on this conundrum, showing the existence of “satiation points” beyond which greater household income does not generate greater happiness. The study, conducted on more than 1 million people around the world found that in every region of the globe, after accounting for a person’s age, gender, and marital status, people with higher incomes are happier. But it also revealed that there is a level of income at which happiness no longer increases with more money. It varies by region, with Australia and New Zealand at the highest level (USD 125,000) and Latin America and the Caribbean at the lowest (USD 35,000). The world’s average satiation point is at UDSD 95,000.

FINANCIAL WELLNESS PROGRAMMES –Financial stress, a primary cause of anxiety for many people, has a strong negative impact on wellbeing. In the US (where financial insecurity is more acute and widespread than in other rich countries), some companies are starting to pay their employees to better organize their financial lives, hoping this will lower their stress levels and improve their productivity. As a result, more and more companies from industries as different as insurance (Aetna), banking (SunTrust Banks) or transportation (Pitt Ohio: a trucking company) are now offering various incentives to help their employees address their financial concerns. For example, they match student-loan repayments and offer cash and other inducements to those who reduce debt, fund emergency-savings accounts, attend financial-education classes and meet with advisers. We believe that “financial-wellness” programmes conceived to teach employees basic money-management skills and to help them get out of their financial hole will eventually become an integral component of workplace wellness programmes.

SLEEP AND PRODUCTIVITY – The issue of sleep quality is fast becoming a central issue in the hospitality industry. New research and the concomitant data about its macro impact will make it even more relevant. Insufficient sleep is having a measurable detrimental effect on productivity. The UK could add GBP 24 billion to its economy if its citizens slept properly, i.e. at least six or seven hours a night.  Insufficient sleep results in hundreds of thousands of lost working days, estimated to cost the UK economy GBP 40 billion each year. The challenge for employers in the hospitality and wellbeing industry is to not only recognise the importance of sleep, but also to play an active role in its promotion and to walk the talk by designing and building brighter workspaces; combating workplace psychosocial risks.

CHIPOTLE: THE CANARY IN THE WELLNESS INDUSTRY MINE? – It is ironic that Chipotle had to turn to a fast food executive to fix its existential problems: sustained wage inflation, supply chain issues, expensive ingredients, rising prices, slowing growth and squeezed profitability. These are all the pain points that led to the creation of the fast food industry in the first place: it may be vilified in wellness circles, but fast-foods stocks tend to outperform the rest of the industry. The conundrum is this: can the new CEO restore the profitability of the business without sacrificing the exclusive offering that makes it unique? This begs a broader question for almost any business in the hospitality and wellbeing industry: is scaling a viable proposition? Does it make business sense? The answer is: less and less in an expanding economy. The era of scaling scarce goods (spas, high-end gyms, boutique fitness classes, organic supermarkets, etc.) when labour costs increase as a percentage of revenues may prove unsustainable.


GEOPOLITICAL RISKS: THE NEXT BIG ONE – We said in the last issue that big geopolitical risks will make many headlines in 2018, but will be largely irrelevant for the hospitality and wellbeing industry. Indeed, we see little risk of a war on the Korean peninsula or between Iran and KSA (the two predominant geopolitical risks at the moment), and we think that local disturbances will only affect the hospitality industry at the margin. There is, however, a big risk looming on the horizon to which investors and business executives do not pay (in our opinion) enough attention: that of a second Arab Spring. All autocratic states in the region are becoming squeezed between a rock and a hard place: their deteriorating fiscal situation makes subsidies as a means of mitigating social unrest increasingly unrealistic, while greater repression is fuelling social discontent. The Middle East suffers from the world’s highest youth unemployment rate: around 30 per cent of 15-24 year olds are jobless: a combustible situation and a recipe for social unrest. The region is a typical example of a situation in which the youth bulge has not only ceased to be an opportunity for growth but has even become a catalyst for pent-up anger. No one can predict when the 2nd Arab Spring will happen, but the current status quo is unsustainable. Unless the private sector starts absorbing new job entrants, the situation will deteriorate.


MILLENNIALS AND WELLBEING – The younger generations (particularly in the rich world) work and consume in a way that has far-reaching and positive implications for the hospitality and wellbeing industry. Two patterns stand out. (1) Compared to the previous generations, they tend to favour free time over wages, seemingly willing to sacrifice some income in return for increased life satisfaction. (2) They place greater priority on sustainability and ethical issues both at the core of the wellbeing offering. As an example, 58% of US millennials claim they only buy brands that invest in, or support, causes they care about. This explains the recent decision of several prominent American companies to end their relationship with the National Rifle Association after the Florida mass shooting.

According to the OECD Better Life Index, which ranks countries on how successfully households mix work, family commitments and personal life, the Dutch come first in terms of best work-life balance, having just overtaken Denmark. What is their secret? They don’t work very long hours (devoting around 16 hours per day to eating, sleeping and leisurely pursuits), have very low rates of youth unemployment, high literacy levels, below average levels of child income poverty and high levels of life satisfaction in childhood. Work responsibilities also happen to be shared among families, with the number of women in employment reaching 69.9% today (well above the OECD average of 57.5%). The Dutch also have a strong sense of community (with 90% of people saying they know a friend or family member they could count on in times of trouble). Overall, it is remarkable (and telling) that the top 10 countries are all Europeans, with 8 of the 10 being EU countries.

LOSS OF MIND AND WELLBEING – There is at the moment a lot of soul-searching on the effect that technology has on wellbeing. A new book – “World without Mind: The Existential Threat of Big Tech” – by Franklin Foer (a fellow at the New America Foundation) goes as far as stating that the biggest threat posed by tech is the loss of mind. The big tech companies and myriads of tech start-ups alike wish to redesign humanity, by moulding it into a new reality in which man and machine merge. We would then go beyond becoming the “tools of our tools” (as in the digital economy) to become “our tools” (in an AI, machine-learning powered economy). We can debate the conclusions of Foer and its philosophical implications, but what is now clear is this: much of tech, and social media in particular, are destroying trust and truth, while exacerbating loneliness. This is what creates such a deep hunger for physical connections: we crave authentic communities, a sense of belonging and ‘natural’ (i.e. not intermediated by tech) relations. This is where wellbeing comes in: paying attention to its meaning, being aware of its importance – as more and more policy-makers and individuals do – is the easiest way to restore a belief in humanity.

LEADERSHIP AND EMPLOYEES’ WELLBEING – The quality of a company’s  “management” has a decisive effect on workers’ wellbeing. Recent research shows that having a boss considered by the staff as highly competent rather than incompetent, has twice as positive an effect on job-satisfaction as the difference between being high paid and low paid. It should come as no surprise that having a boss whom we believe can walk the walk rather than just talk the talk, should shape how we feel about our work in a decisive manner. Bad bosses spread misery, but quality management systems do not pay enough attention to the issue.

The point above is part of a broader picture that explains why more than a third of British workers think their jobs are meaningless (the figure must be roughly equivalent in many other countries around the world). Survey after survey shows that in today’s gig economy, jobs generate more stress than in the past while becoming increasingly precarious. In too many companies, overwork is the norm and activities done outside of the office (hobbies, raising children or reading a book) denigrated. When conditions are such, workplace wellness programmes are unlikely to make a meaningful positive contribution. Yoga vouchers, table tennis, meditation sessions and baskets of organic fruits can only go so far when the workplace culture is toxic. Companies in the hospitality and wellbeing industry must show the way and promote good practices…

A GREAT BOOST FOR OBESITY TAXES – Mike Bloomberg and Larry Summers (former Secretary of the U.S. Treasury and former Director of the National Economic Council) recently formed The Task Force on Fiscal Policy for Health. It will bring together prominent policy-makers and health leaders from all over the world to address the growing health and economic issues of non-communicable diseases with fiscal policy tools that are currently underutilized by governments and their leaders. It will examine the evidence on excise tax policy for health, including barriers to implementation, and make recommendations on how countries can best leverage fiscal policies to yield improved health outcomes for their citizens with the added benefit of bringing in additional revenue. In short: a major boost for obesity taxes across the globe and very good news for wellness!


EUROPE AHEAD IN THE EPI – The 2018 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) published by Yale University ranks 180 countries on 24 performance indicators across ten categories covering environmental health and ecosystem vitality. These metrics provide a gauge at a national scale of how close countries are to established environmental policy goals. The EPI thus offers a scorecard that highlights leaders and laggards in environmental performance, gives insight on best practices, and provides guidance for countries that aspire to be leaders in sustainability. Once again, Europe comes well ahead. The top 10 countries are all Europeans (Switzerland is no 1, followed by France), and there are 17 European countries among the top 20. In the field of sustainability, Europe excels – a fact that will provide enduring support to the hospitality and wellbeing industry.

PLASTIC RECYCLING ACCOUNTABILITY – Plastic is not the world’s worst environmental problem, but it is becoming increasingly vilified. Stemming the plastic tide is now a global policy priority to which the hospitality and wellbeing industry must pay greater attention. The reasons are twofold: (1) Plastic pollution litter will increasingly have an adverse effect on tourism and its sub-sectors, as customers become more sensitive about the issue. (2) Companies risk a reputational backlash if they are perceived as not doing very much. Large businesses like Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola or McDonald have already committed to recycle more and use more recycled plastics, but many players are still lagging behind. This could end up as a costly mistake: investors and customers alike – particularly the younger generations – will soon demand ‘plastic recycling accountability’.

LOCAL RIGHT TO BAN – Germany’s top administrative court just ruled that cities should have the right to ban diesel cars. This decision will have far-reaching consequences that extend beyond the car industry and Germany’s borders because it portends a much broader global trend: in many places around the world, local authorities are starting to take the problem of air pollution by the horns; increasingly willing to intervene to fight air pollution (that globally kills 7 million people every year). The appeal of good air quality to consumers is bound to increase and to become a determining factor in the choice of wellbeing destinations.


PHENOTYPING: A JUMP IN THE UNKNOWN?  – A number of companies (from giants to start-ups) are entering an emerging field of research called phenotyping that tries to estimate our wellbeing based on our interaction with digital devices. Facebook seems to be most advanced: it is now using AI to scan posts and live video streams for signs of possible suicidal thoughts. In acute cases where worrying signals emerge, Facebook will notify local authorities and emergency workers. Irrespective of the possible medical merits of such a move on mental health, phenotyping raises profound moral, ethical and legal issues for which nobody has a response yet. Could it increase user distress? Once a user is characterized as suicidal, will it be forever? What happens if a hacker gets possession of the information for malignant purposes? The research is at such an early stage that it is impossible to tell whether phenotyping will mitigate or rather exacerbate stress. For the hospitality and wellbeing industry, one immediate consequence is the following: protecting users’ data will become paramount. In the years to come, customers will pay increasing attention to how their data is protected. The industry will have to adjust by possibly anonymising data. New technologies like emerging cryptographic protocols (called a zero-knowledge proof) make this possible.[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text el_class=”barometer-title”]


Our micro lens looks at how convergence and interdependence are becoming more prevalent within the industry.

Hotels & Lodging

BOUTIQUE LIFESTYLE MEETS CASINO MEGA: Boutique hotel design may not be an obvious fit for the casino models with rooms scaling into the thousands but  hybrid modelling is repositioning the frontiers between hospitality, community and wellbeing, Vegas included. The Sydell Group is one such example, breaking the mould with its 2,700 room joint venture with MGM Resorts in Las Vegas. The former Monte Carlo Resort will become Park MGM and will house a 292 room NoMad hotel within it. The mission is to translate the boutique lifestyle success of the Sydell Group (brands such as The Line, The Ned, Freehand and the NoMad ) into a synergistic style concept (at scale) for the Park MGM and its 2,408 rooms. Creating boutique style familiarity on this scale will be a game-changer in redefining the models that not only work but resonate with consumer desire in such a mega scale environment. The ideas of intimacy, personalisation and genuine community that characterize this model could mark a turning point for the behemoths of the industry.

GREATER DISRUPTION EXPECTED: The reach of Airbnb’s impact is growing globally with the addition of Beyond by Airbnb (an amalgamation of last year’s ‘Luxury Retreats’ acquisition and the Trips product) and Airbnb Plus (previously piloted as Airbnb Select). This combined force constitutes stronger competition for the conventional hotel market. The latest additions to the Airbnb brand offering illustrate that the now 10-year-old disruptor continues to strengthen its hold on the hospitality market and suggest that its potential impact on the sector remains vastly underestimated. Their percentage of total room supply was significant in 2015 and is still growing (New York 19.5%, LA 13.5% and 22% in the whole of the UK). Although, in the US at least, the feared disruption to the hotel industry is not (yet) evident: RevPAR rose 3% in 2017 amidst an increase in hotel room supply from new build (expected to peak in 2018) together with increased demand for emergency accommodation as a result of hurricanes Harvey and Irma.  The real issue is how the Airbnb threat plays out over the next few years, in an environment likely to combine a peak in hotel supply and declining RevPAR (2019/20).

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES OF AIRBNB: The effect of Airbnb growth on property prices and rent levels is already forcing locals out of tourist centric towns with all the contingent damage to local communities such exoduses entail. In addition to finger pointing on account of these societal issues relating to real estate values and rent levels, the platform economies (of which Airbnb is one of the stars) are now increasingly attracting the attention of fiscal authorities because of a growing reality that they are avoiding taxation. There is now a move on the part of some national tax authorities to amend the current situation in which little or no tax is levied on companies such as Airbnb, Uber, Amazon, Facebook etc. The ‘platformers’ argue (in the case of Airbnb)  that they provide space for C2B and B2B activities on the internet and do not  have a physical presence in their countries of operation in contrast to the traditional hospitality industry. This issue of tax avoidance will not go away. Governments worldwide are working on new fiscal regulation devised to tax the internet in an appropriate fashion. This, combined with a growing awareness of the societal and (in local terms) economic erosion that platform economies provoke, could go someway to re-levelling the hospitality playing field in favour of the traditional  hotel industry

THE CURATED HOUSE – ‘locally integrated social space with rooms was a phrase coined at the recent IHIF event in Berlin to describe the hotel product of today. It was suggested that the word ‘hotel’ is no longer fitting and  boutique lifestyle brands were hailed as the new panacea. It raises the question of whether traditional models will simply cease to exist? Increasing numbers of brands in the boutique sector support this notion of  curated integration that includes co-working space, community gentrification, strong neighbourhood connections, wellbeing orientated programming and more frequently club membership. In London there is a proliferation of venues – similar to the aforementioned concept model, The Curtain (£1k membership fee, joining fee of £250), Ten Trinity Square (with residences – opening 2019) and The Ned (£3.5k pa membership fee) – all in the City’s square mile or trendy Shoreditch. This hybrid hospitality scene shares with Airbnb an approach that capitalizes on offering its patrons a sense of ‘belonging’ and also echoes the local community outreach that Accor has pioneered.   Although wellbeing is not always ostensibly on offer, the combined elements promote wellbeing without talking about it.

SOHO HOUSE IPO IN US. Across all hybrid models, the allure of a sense of homeliness, familiarity and belonging has been identified as an anchor ingredient. Founded in 1995, the Soho House model based on membership and specifically targeted at creative industry executives captured its own niche market. The need for a more accessible version of the same ‘belonging and membership’ model, without the £3.5k membership price tag, is sharpening the offering of regular coffee shops, café lounges and work spaces. This could prove to be competition for the more expensive members clubs. The success of  co-working space companies such as WeWork (who, in contrast to Soho House offer a ‘private club that anyone can join’) shows  that the market is more than ready for socially interactive environments in a multitude of forms. The intention of Soho House is for a stock market flotation later this year to raise capital for expansion. It is said to be valued at USD2bn and reportedly (as yet) profitless. Comparatively, WeWork founded in 2010, was valued last year at USD20bn and already profitable in established locations. The key lesson that the traditional hospitality industry can learn from these two contrasting models is that a sense of belonging is an eminently marketable commodity. New hotels are already including members’ clubs as part of their model – this places a new emphasis on locally sourced footfall alongside transient guests. In today’s society increasingly composed of people living alone, the need to belong somewhere (real not virtual) is an opportunity to be seized upon by the hospitality industry.


FOOD ‘KARMA’ – This Swedish company has developed an app to address the issue of food waste. The Karma app enables grocery stores, restaurants and cafes to sell off their surplus food before it goes out of date, to a ‘hungry’ public at a substantial discount. In Sweden, Karma app users now number 250,000 accessing the surplus offering of 1,000 restaurants, cafes and grocery stores in 35 cities and towns. On 15th February 2018 Karma launched its app in London starting with 50 locations across the city. Via the app, participating stores and eateries upload details of their surplus food. Customers then browse, order and pay for the food before collecting it at a specified time. According to Karma, partners can increase their revenues by up to £30k annually, from food that would otherwise go to waste. The opportunity such a system offers the hotel industry is huge – in terms not only of enhanced revenues but also in terms of perceived and real contribution to the local community.


AUSTERE MEETS INDULGENT – The world renowned Lanserhof brand, a leading European medical spa group, has partnered with the iconic Dover Street Arts Club in London’s Mayfair (opening Q4 2018). This cohabitation may initially appear unlikely but the coupling of perceived deprivation (Lanserhof use a fasting regime as a baseline) alongside hedonism has long existed within the industry. This example has some resonance with the previous point – the Lanserhof offering in London is an everyday lifestyle programme (rather than a residential retreat) and focuses on improving the individual’s health in a holistic and effective (but not necessarily easy) manner. The proliferation of retreat brands such as Miraval, SHA and Lanserhof reflect a rising demand for impactful programmes of this kind.


LONELINESS INTERVENTION – The informally published results of a trial social intervention scheme in Frome, Somerset in the UK, show that when people with health problems are supported by community groups and volunteers as opposed to being left to cope alone, the number of emergency admissions to hospital falls spectacularly (a scientific paper has been submitted to a medical journal and is awaiting peer review). For the three years of the scheme whilst the emergency hospital admissions rose 29% across the whole of Somerset, they fell by 17% in Frome. Groups were formed to help people plan care and be aware of the support available – including handling debt (financial wellbeing) and housing issues through to social integration. The core of the infrastructure is similar to a social prescription model but with more support beyond the GP surgery. The results indicate how impactful the countrywide scaling of such a model could be. For the hospitality and wellbeing industry there is a complementary narrative already touched on above: the potential of the local $ and a new focus on those millions of citizens who do not travel but are on the doorstepof venues and want to feel that they belong.

AMERICAN HEALTHCARE REVOLUTION – Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan have announced a collaboration to form an independent healthcare company for their employees in the US. The revelation had an immediately negative effect on the value of shares of major health companies (UnitedHealth Group and Anthem) as well as insurers – their model is described as ‘a focus on technology to provide simplified, high-quality health care for employees and families.’ This also raises the question of the role of the recently acquired Whole Foods (for all stakeholders) as possible venues for clinics and pharmacies potentially benefitting Amazon employees in particular. Amazon’s announcement could be seen as a sign of growing awareness of the need to take better care of lower paid workers, and that wellbeing in the workplace matters both for societal and economic reasons.


EXTREME WELLBEING TRAVEL – This particular tourism is an amalgam of adventure, personal development, escape and transformation that is rooted in the  life survival basics segment (bottom) of Maslow’s hierarchy of need. From challenge and endurance to fear and self-mastery, The Extraordinary Adventure Club (founded by an ex Royal Marine in 2012) is a radical example of a totally bespoke itinerary that offers “travel as a transformational tool to effect change”. The programme lasts a minimum of six months and begins with total disconnection (from all things tech) at an HQ base in a remote part of the Scottish Highlands (clients visit alone rather than in a group). Assessment by an extensive clinical team follows, along with total delegation of all aspects of organisation including choice of destination and experience content.  The price tag begins at £175k. This could never be described as economically accessible but the process and results are designed for a market of HNWI whose desire is to be challenged in situations that mimic an environment or provoke a state that may be holding them back in order to overcome, resolve and move forward.  Luxury is not a fundamental part of this category. Rather, it is more real, immersive, impactful and unforgivingly results driven – responding to a desire for the unpredictable and the unknown. The formula (accepting the high expense and the extreme measures) at its core is one of humble life skilling. Why is this relevant? Wellbeing matters to the individual in all spheres of life: at work, travelling, with family or during periods of sickness. Therefore the demand for experiential offerings that imitate more closely the real challenges life can throw at us will grow. As a result, the traditional spa model will need an overhaul – life skilling, resilience and survival formulas will replace (or a least complement) relaxation and indulgence both in narrative and design.


INCREASED CO-HOUSING BUILD AS A POOR HEALTH MITIGATOR – A new narrative about the potential contribution that building design can make to the ageing and loneliness debate is emerging. Scandinavia (Denmark leads the way) continues to pioneer  the idea of co-housing communities. Originally conceived to include 25 multigenerational households, each with their own private quarters as well as shared community space (there are now 50,000 people living in co-housing). Copenhagen is currently rolling out a prototype that combines 360 nursing home units, 150 homes for young people and 20 homes for senior citizens called The Solund of the Future. Its design seeks to encourage and enable interaction with nature and other community members. We know loneliness is not confined to old age and there is increasing evidence (described in a previous point) of the important part community can play in mitigating the heightened risk of more serious illness.  This model is gaining pace both in Europe and the US, where (in the US) 160 communities have been established in 25 states over the last 25 years. The wellbeing label has perhaps been overused and, as a result, wellbeing related investments are not always billed as such. However, undoubtedly, co-housing shares a common raison d’être with the hybrid boutique models we’ve been discussing: providing a response to the need for human connection and a sense of belonging – all of which contribute to an individual’s overall wellbeing!

MUST-WATCH ISSUES – In the coming weeks, ‘must-watch issues include:

Our macro outlook analyses the leading global trends and their potential impact on the industry.

  1. Data privacy and the tyranny of algorithms on social anxiety – in China, a new ‘social credit’ system will come into effect by 2020 where everyone will be rated on the basis of data about their real-life and online behaviour. The West is not immune – insurers already offer deals to those willing to have tracking devices fitted to cars to submit data. As surveillance based insurance becomes standard, the question how and by whom this data is to be used and how it is to be ‘policed’ is fast becoming one of today’s most crucial issues. Note the current revelations about Facebook and Cambridge Analytica and the allegations that ‘covert data harvesting is routine’.
  2. The USD. The growing US deficit compels us to revisit earlier calls about USD appreciation. In the short to medium term, the opposite will happen: the federal budget bill signed into law will most likely accelerate USD depreciation. As a weaker USD makes US-produced goods and assets cheaper relative to those from overseas, US inbound tourism and inbound tourism in countries whose currency is pegged to the USD should benefit (so far it hasn’t in the US).
  3. Wage appreciation. For most businesses in the hospitality and wellbeing industry, labour costs constitute an important part of total costs. Hence, wage inflation can be a killer at a time when global growth is reducing excess capacity and therefore favouring wage inflation.

Each bullet point is based upon extensive research and conversations with our network.

For real-time/in depth analysis on any of these issues, please contact us:

The authors;


Thierry Malleret

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