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 believe that the combination of the two will allow you to keep ahead of the curve.

The convergence of hospitality and wellbeing 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 but a few.


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


ECONOMIC GROWTH AND HOSPITALITY –Global economic growth is accelerating in a synchronized fashion. According to most reputable forecasts, global growth should amount to 3.5 – 3.6 per cent this year and 3.7 – 3.8 per cent next year. It is safe to assume that the travel & tourism industry will continue to grow at twice the rate of global GDP growth, if not slightly more: it is fuelled by the fast-expanding global middle class’ insatiable appetite for travelling. This, in turn, raises the issue of “overtourism” – too many travellers crowding into too few destinations – that is bound to affect the industry growth along the entire value chain, from restaurants to airlines. It will affect investors and businesses in many different ways: (1) in over-touristy places, local taxes will increase substantially, (2) the sharing economy (complicit in bringing more people to trendy places) will suffer a backlash, (3) places that are not yet overcrowded and that have an “authentic” identity will grow much faster (Colmar will replace Venice!), (4) niche travel operators and businesses that operate in more desirable locations will gain a strong competitive edge.

ESG STRATEGIES BENEFICIAL FOR HOSPITALITY AND WELLBEING – A powerful investment trend will ultimately benefit the hospitality and wellbeing industry, which is by nature more socially and environmentally conscious than most other industries. So-called ESG strategies (those that comply with strict Environmental, Social and Governance standards) are fast becoming one of the most enduring investment trends, in high demand and outperforming most other strategies. As an example, a group of institutional investors with more than USD 1 trillion of assets under management is now demanding that 60 of the world’s largest banks take action to protect the world from the threat of catastrophic damage provoked by climate change. At an aggregate level, this is supportive of the wellbeing industry in two ways: (1) It draws attention to the issue of sustainability, often at the core of the hospitality and wellbeing offering; (2) it tends to redirect capital to companies that operate in the wellbeing space.

AIRBNB AND HOTELS – New economic research focused on a specific region in the US suggests that a 10 per cent increase in Airbnb listings leads to a 0.39 per cent increase in rents and a 0.64 per cent increase in house prices. This may not seem like a big increase, but it exacerbates issues of affordability that are currently politically and socially sensitive. If it is proven in other studies that Airbnb does increase home prices and rental rates on a global level, policy-makers and regulators will most likely constrain its development even further – a move that would be long-term positive for hotels and other “official” forms of accommodation. At the very least, policy-makers will stop the conversion of properties from long-term rental units into short-term rental units, a move that will benefit hotels. One thing is sure: the backlash against Airbnb will intensify, prompting policy-makers to act. This is the reason why some analysts are now talking about “peak-Airbnb”: the platform has reached a level from where incremental upside is limited and it faces strong headwinds.


NEOM: DOOMED TO FAIL? – When Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman recently unveiled his NEOM project (a USD 500 billion, 26,500 square kilometres futuristic city on the Red Sea), many prominent Western investors and business leaders reacted with great excitement. The “mega-mega” project seems like a bonanza for the hospitality industry, but it is replete with risks and looks like hubris from day one. We can think of many plausible scenarios that will transform it in a financial disaster. Like “The World” in Dubai or “The King Abdullah Financial District” in Riyadh, it will most likely end up as an unfinished or abandoned mega-project. Even if it were to be completed, pollution and global warming would make the city inhabitable or inhospitable. On a more general note, the spat with Iran and the anti-corruption purge launched by Prince Mohammed are a potent reminder that geopolitical and political risks in the Kingdom are bound to rise. In the years to come, the peg of the riyal to the dollar should not be taken for granted. Investors beware! In the words of one influential player: “The Kingdom is entering into uncharted waters with unknown consequences.”


WORKPLACE WELLNESS BECOMING A STRATEGIC ISSUE – In the most advanced economies, an increasing number of companies are committing to making their workforce healthier. More than ever, employers seem determined to take action to improve the physical and mental heath of their employees, recognizing that this is the best way to fight absenteeism and presenteeism, and thus improve productivity. The unmistakable sign that attitudes are changing is this: the issue of workplace wellness is now becoming a board issue, with senior business leaders asserting that they must place their employees on the company’s balance sheet in the same way as they account for cash. This is a major turning point not to be missed by the hospitality and wellbeing industry: if companies in that space don’t walk the talk, they won’t be trusted!

MENTAL HEALTH SPOTLIGHT ­– Public policy and legislation is likely to intensify following the publication of an independent review on “mental health and the workplace” commissioned by the UK government. It shows that people (in the UK) with long-term mental health problems are leaving the workforce at a higher rate than people with problems of physical health (respectively 6 per cent versus 3.5 per cent). Such results (surely not exclusive to the UK) suggest that issues of workplace mental wellness will receive more attention over the years to come. Increasingly, providing good quality working conditions will become a regulatory issue.

WELLBEING IS WINNING – The recent Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine was awarded to three American scientists (Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young) for their work on the gene that ‘drives’ the biological clock of all living organisms. Their research is crucial for understanding how the light emanating from our screens (blue-light) affects our wellbeing, taking us further and further out of synch with the biological clock that operates as our internal timekeeper. Messing with it impacts critical functions such as hormone levels, metabolism, heart rate and of course, behaviour. Simple suggestions such as turning off our computers a few hours before going to bed originate in their work and are anchored in their research. These will prompt an increasing number of wellness resorts and hotels to propose digital detox packages. On a separate note, it’s interesting to observe that predictions for this year’s Nobel Prize were going in the direction of cutting-edge new technologies such as immune-oncology, Crispr or new biofuels. The fact that the prize was awarded to a less-trendy field of research with fundamental wellbeing implications is a testimony to the growing recognition of the importance of wellbeing in our everyday lives.

THE SLEEP-LOSS EPIDEMIC AND THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY – According to Matthew Walker, the director of the Centre for Human Sleep at the University of California, Berkeley, we are in the midst of a “catastrophic sleep-loss epidemic”. In his book Why We Sleep, he asserts that sleep deprivation equates to anything less than seven hours of sleep, and shows that a strong correlation exists between sleep loss and medical conditions as different as poor mental health, Alzheimer disease, cancer, diabetes, or even obesity. Correlation can be shown to be causation. Regarding cancer, for example, research shows that after just one sleepless night (i.e. with only four or five hours of sleep), the number of natural killer cells collapses by 70 per cent. The World Health Organization has defined shift work at night as a “probable carcinogen”. In Western societies in general and high-performing companies in particular, sleep is often stigmatised, with a strong connotation of weakness. This is flawed and is set to change as the evidence-based science that good sleep favours health and better decision-making gains traction. What does this mean for the hospitality and wellbeing industry? Two things: (1) Easier access to the sleeping brain permitted by new technologies such as electrical and magnetic brain stimulators will lead to a sharp increase in sleep clinics. This service will probably have to become part of the standard offering of high-end wellness resorts and luxury hotels. (2) Increasingly, hotels will have to focus on the quality of sleep they offer (mattresses, noise, light pollution, etc.). It’s no coincidence that The Week just published a short piece entitled “Where to find… a good night’s sleep”!

FAT TAXES VERSUS THIN SUBSIDIES – As we pointed out in past editions of the Hospitality and Wellbeing Barometer, obesity is a burning issue. A new study concludes that the number of obese children and teenagers is just about to overtake the number of those who are underweight. ‘Fat taxes’ are thus becoming increasingly popular, but they have a negative distributional impact because they punish the poorest consumers, and therefore inflict pain on policy-makers (accused of favouring the ‘rich’). ‘Thin subsidies’ – seen as a possible substitute – are gaining political traction, but new research suggests that they have a similar impact as fat taxes. Because those with a higher income are more responsive to thin subsidies than those with a lower income, the rich benefit the most, which in turn widens health and fiscal inequalities. As the authors of the research state: “the policies (of unhealthy food taxes and healthy food subsidies) tend to be regressive and favour higher income consumers. Unhealthy food taxes increase prices paid more for lower than higher income women. Healthy food subsidies reduce the prices paid more for higher than lower income women.” If further research corroborates their findings, lobbyists for the agri-business industry will have plenty of ammunition to fight the obesity tax on distributional ground.


NO POLLUTION, HIGH PREMIUM – According to the Lancet Commission on pollution and health, pollution in all its forms (air, water, soil) now kills almost 10m people per year (9m in 2015, or 16 per cent of all deaths worldwide), with an economic cost estimated at USD 4.3tr or 6 per cent of global GDP (it measures the welfare loss, meaning that the real cost is higher). Most fatalities occur in China (1.8 million) and India (2.5 million). Overall, 92 per cent of pollution-related deaths occur in low and middle-income countries. The cost-benefit analysis of controlling pollution is now so obvious that policy-makers will start confronting vested interests to curb pollution, particularly for vehicles and power plants. China is the best example of that. Other countries will follow, with devastating consequences on the valuation of polluting companies. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of and sensitive to the issue of pollution. Consequently, companies at the intersection of hospitality and wellbeing that operate in an environment that is pollution-free will trade and sell at a premium. Conversely, those that operate in a polluted environment (whatever it may be: air, water, soil) will ultimately trade at a discount.

CLIMATE CHANGE AND TOURISM – At the end of September, hurricanes Maria and Irma devastated some of the most tourist-dependent destinations in the world. The damage varies from island to island: some emerged unscathed while others have been so damaged that the reconstruction of some resorts may prove un-economical. It is still early to assess the extent of the long-term damage inflicted by the hurricanes on the tourism industry in the Caribbean, but one thing is clear: as the intensity and severity of extreme weather events increases with climate change, it will trigger higher revenue volatility and an increase in the cost of capital. Destinations that are less prone to extreme weather events will benefit.


PHYSICAL EXERCISE AND MENTAL WELLBEING – New neurological research keeps adding to the evidence that moving and being physically active is good for the brain and mental wellbeing. The causation for humans remains theoretical  (because these new experiments use mice), but there is no doubt that exercise benefits neurons in unique ways: not only does it create new neurons (neurogenesis), but they also become larger and display more and longer dendrites than the neurons of sedentary mice. In addition, neurons better connect with portions of the brain involved in spatial memory – something that might delay the onset of dementia. Such observations can only increase the appeal of those segments of the hospitality industry that are placing physical activity like walking at the core of their offering. This is becoming a trend that will get more traction as the world becomes more digital and tech-obsessed, in turn favouring themes related to wellness (the antidote to tech). It’s no coincidence that eco-resorts and the outdoor industry are currently growing at double digit-rates, or that Mayo Clinic is now offering its patients a treatment programme with walking at its core.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_column_text el_class=”barometer-title”]


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


EMPATHY AND ASSET LIGHT – Hyatt have chosen, like the majority of publicly traded hotel companies, to pursue an ‘asset light’ strategy. CEO Mark Hoplamazian has described an “evolution of our capital strategy” as a “shift to a more free driven business model.” Hyatt’s intention to sell USD 1.5 billion worth of real estate is a move to free up capital. The result: more money to spend on technology, loyalty and their newest pillar, wellness.  Hyatt’s recent business strategy has displayed a focus on the need for greater client empathy, its recent acquisitions of Miraval and Exhale endorsing a direction set to continue with further wellness acquisitions. Miraval expansion includes Austin Texas, Lennox Massachusetts and a further Miraval Life in Balance spa inside a Hyatt resort hotel (yet to be announced at time of print). Hoplamazian also reports strong demand for the Miraval brand in Japan, Korea and China. Amidst this expansion Hoplamazian is aware of the need to avoid ‘cookie cutter’ upscaling, in favour of retaining authentic brand essence. Several of the worlds’ leading health and wellbeing retreat brands are expanding. Will they succeed in doing so while conserving their original appeal and DNA and without (in some cases) founder influence ownership? We think they will, to a point. Protecting the integrity of formula and delivery is the brand IP – without it, the brand loses value.

WELLBEING PRIORITY – The Accor story of acquisition continues apace. The company has recently made a takeover offer of USD 1.2 billion for Australia’s second largest hotel chain, the Mantra Group, Within a few days of the Mantra Group announcement, Accor additionally signed an agreement to buy hotel search and reservation software system Gekko, for USD 118 million. They also acquired a 50 per cent stake in the share capital of the Orient Express train brand with a view to developing an Orient Express hotel brand. Although Accor have a dedicated wellbeing team for the Accor luxury brands division, there have been no further acquisitions or notable developments since Banyan Tree (5 per cent equity). However, given the dynamic pace of acquisitions by the company, we believe that wellbeing will emerge as a priority in their luxury brands.

VORACIOUS APPETITE FOR WELLNESS IN CHINA – Chinese spending on health and wellness has grown dramatically over the last decade with a market poised to reach almost USD 70 billion by 2020. This is fuelled by a growing Chinese middle class transitioning from tourism focused on material consumption to a more experiential  (including health and wellness) form of tourism. New CEO Keith Barr sees IHG and the expansion of Even Hotels into Greater China along with the debut of their Kimpton brand into Asia as the IHG groups direct response to this burgeoning demand for wellbeing-focused travel in China. Four Even Hotels are planned to be open in China by 2022. IHG have announced plans to create a new luxury brand – believing there is still more business to be done in the luxury space. Given the embrace of wellness in the luxury space, mergers and acquisitions are likely to increase.

LOW INVESTMENT ACCESS – Note the emergence of a highly profitable model. The anecdotal evidence suggests that skilled practitioners are responding to a growing global demand on the part of HNWI (particularly in city hubs) for personalized and ‘home delivered’ wellbeing programs. Low overheads (untied to property) and personalized cost efficient marketing via social media make for attractive margins. There is opportunity in luxury properties (and others) to support and benefit from this model by providing accommodation and facility support.

 TRANSFORMATIONAL EXPERIENCE – When Accor CEO, Sebastien Bazin, recently said “standing still is not an option” he was highlighting the imperative that the industry respond to the changing nature of guest and traveller demand. He went on to recognize that to this end “capturing and using data on guests is critical” and identified that “the best differentiator today is for hotels to be able to provide a transformational experience”. In this process of understanding and meeting evolving guest demand, throughout hospitality (not only in the luxury space), loyalty is viewed as an increasingly valuable currency. Achieving and retaining direct connection with clients is now a high priority for every brand. The widespread strategic focus, throughout the hotel sector (boutique or large scale) on all aspects of wellbeing, from physical and emotional to mental and spiritual, clearly reflects a collective recognition that guests are seeking unique, connective and transformative experiences, beyond the material.

LIFESTYLE ZONE – Earlier this year a report from The Future Laboratory’s forecast that  “Luxury brands are becoming convergent spaces that facilitate culture, education and wellness, combining diverse consumer needs into a single, multifaceted lifestyle zone.” Acquisition patterns and trend development reflect this together with ever more examples of integration between luxury and lifestyle concepts and the increased wellbeing culture that this represents. Brands such as Moxy, MamaShelter and Indigo are tagged as lifestyle brands and all positioned in the affordable luxury sector. Although not representative of trophy luxury, some investors view them as a more compelling luxury proposition characterized by lower investment and higher operating margins. The parent companies of these brands, Marriott, Accor and IHG respectively, all embrace wellbeing in different ways. The acceleration of lifestyle and luxury as co-existing concepts will fuel more wellbeing focus through the trends external to hospitality but intrinsic to healthy, connective and stimulated living.

 SOPHIA AND PEPPER – In Saudi Arabia, Sophia became the first humanoid robot to be granted ‘robot citizenship’. She looked, acted and spoke like a human when she was interviewed (by a human!) on stage at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Las Vegas has introduced Pepper, a robot that although not human in appearance is able to discern a guest’s gender, approximate age and mood. In the hospitality and wellbeing space robotics undoubtedly offers efficiency advantages but should be embraced with caution if it’s not to fly in the face of the now recognized consumer preference for real human connection that is an antidote to loneliness and isolation.


NO WASTE & TRANSPARENCY – Wholefoods’ food trend predictions for 2018 are strongly anchored in nutritional value, food transparency, plant-based products and no-waste cooking. As a result of new technologies, innovation and changing consumer preferences, plant-based and alternatively sourced protein could become mainstream. The appeal of insect based products, plant ‘burgers’ and lab reared ‘meat’ is widening. Once enthusiastic meat and dairy consumers are cutting back for animal welfare, environmental or health reasons and seeking alternatives. Knowing where food has come from is an increasing consumer concern. This means growing pressure on manufacturers and distributers to provide clear labelling. Within restaurants and food outlets, the same rules apply. Guests and customers are seeking more surety about the origins of what they’re eating. This is combined with a growing consciousness of and preference for menus and kitchens that operate a zero waste policy and thus simultaneously display sensitivity to both societal and environmental issues.


PRODUCT OVER PLACE – The Hut Group (THG) has become the largest online health and beauty retailer in Europe, valued recently at £2.5 billion. In the last three months they have acquired four companies; Illamasqua for an estimated £25 million, (co-owned by Agent Provocateur founder Joseph Corre), ESPA (sold by KSL Capital Partners) in a deal thought to be £100 million plus, Glossybox and Australian beauty retailer, RY. THG are reportedly on track to a 50 per cent sales rise for 2017, this following a 67 per cent rise in 2016. The sale of ESPA to such a retail juggernaut shapes a dynamic future for product distribution, brand profile and sales but also echoes a familiar pattern. Originally (like many high-quality spa products) ESPA products were exclusive to spas. Retail sales have never been spas’ strong point. This has led many brands to seek a stronger albeit less exclusive retail position. In 2008 PZ Cussons acquired the Sanctuary Group (previously owned by HG Capital) for £75 million. By 2014 all physical premises were closed, a clear indicator of a new focus on product sales that has continued to pay off. A like-for-like comparison cannot be made between ESPA and The Sanctuary but both cases show the importance of an actual physical experience and ‘real’ connection with consumers in both building their brand profile and adding value to it. This suggests that at this aspirational brand level having a real (hi)story to draw on is important to retail success. Equally important in terms of financial results is identifying the moment at which ‘peak benefit’ has been achieved and thereafter scaling down the physical engagement.

KEEPING MINDFULNESS REAL – A growing number of academics now argue that much of the research around meditation and mindfulness has serious conceptual flaws. The market is saturated with unnecessary offerings that provide little or no value to consumers. A clean up is therefore in the offing with simplicity proffered as the best antidote. Globally, meditation has become a USD 1bn+ business, much of it based on flawed science. What does this mean for the hospitality and wellbeing sector? Most likely, the hype will fade, taking down many companies that thrived on trendiness and exploited a lack of common sense on the part of their guest or client.  Moving forward, the wellness companies (and environments where guests and consumers seek solace) that are likely to survive and thrive will do two things: (1) embrace simplicity walking, swimming, appreciating silence or admiring a landscape can be as efficient as meditation in terms of soothing our mind and (2) be authentic in their offering rather than bamboozle their clients with false claims and scientific pretences. The reality is that the culture of mindfulness can exist everywhere – a beautifully designed meditation suite or a high tech cocoon pod may attract short-term attention but integrated natural mindfulness offers greater sustainability.


 ANTIBIOTIC APOCALYPSE – The American Society for Microbiology has uncovered a disturbing trend of a rapid global spread of bacteria containing the gene mcr -1 that confers resistance to the antibiotic Colistin, known as the “antibiotic of last resort”. Today’s infections are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotic medicine. England’s chief medical officer said this: “The world is facing an antibiotic apocalypse… we could return to the days when routine operations, simple wounds or straightforward infections could pose real threats to life”. In one area of China, it was found that 25 per cent of hospital patients now carry the gene. A Swedish study followed a group of young backpackers travelling to different parts of the world – none of them had resistant bacteria in their guts when they left but 25 per cent of them had picked up resistant ‘super bugs’ by the time they returned. Already at least 700,000 people a year die from drug-resistant infections, conjuring the possibility of a health risk scenario comparable to the pre-Penicillin world of 1928.  If action is not taken, the number is predicted to rise to 10 million a year by 2050 at a cost to the global economy of up to USD 100 trillion that will also push a further 28.3 million people into extreme poverty. The common thread between this health issue and almost every other is the need for people to behave differently. This magnifies the value of knowing where food has come from and making pro-active, preventive, lifestyle choices. This calls for education and behavioural change on a large scale.

LIFE SAVER SAUNAS – A recent study conducted at the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Bristol found that men who regularly visited saunas were almost 30 per cent less likely to develop pneumonia, and taking a sauna four times per week cut the risk by 40 per cent. The study was carried out on a cohort of 1935 men aged 42 to 61 whose health was tracked over a period of 25 years. In addition to the reduced risk of developing pneumonia, the study also revealed that those who took a sauna four to seven times a week were 66 per cent less likely to be diagnosed with dementia and 65 per cent less likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease than those only taking one sauna a week. This research suggests that widening accessibility to saunas could perhaps contribute not only to improved physical health but also to mental wellbeing by encouraging social interaction thus mitigating loneliness. Underutilised spas may consider opportunities for a wider demographic.


HOTELS OBSOLETE? – Elon Musk continues to innovate and be lauded as the impresario of disruptive travel tech. His plans include the ability to journey between New York and Shanghai in 30 minutes. Although still only on the drawing board, the thought of attending a New York meeting thousands of miles away and being home for supper, is a compelling one. Time being our most precious asset, if super-fast rocket travel ever becomes a reality it will reduce hotel stays but equally will ‘give back’ time for wellbeing and lifestyle pursuit.  The capacity of the luxury sector to respond to immediate (e.g. Airbnb, Amazon, Tesla) and future (à la Musk) disruption will hinge on its capacity to provide a hospitality offering rooted in authenticity, empathy and wellbeing.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_column_text el_class=”barometer-title”]


[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text el_class=”barometer-decorated-text”]In the coming weeks, ‘must-watch’ issues include:[/vc_column_text][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner el_class=”barometer-text-column barometer-text-column-left” css=”.vc_custom_1511106360662{margin-top: 0px !important;margin-left: -15px !important;}”][vc_column_text]

  • The USD – If Trump’s tax reform plan succeeds in one form or another (which the financial markets discount at the moment – too much in our opinion), the US fiscal deficit will balloon, leading to higher yields and USD appreciation. Considering that almost half of international travellers partly base their decision of where to travel on currency exchange rates, a USD appreciation “surprise” would exercise a global impact. It would be particularly negative for emerging countries whose currency is pegged to the USD.
  • “Walk your way to wellness” – This is one of eight travel predictions for 2018 identified by Booking Com. It says that, next year, 56 per cent of travellers will want to do walking or hiking trips. This trend is gaining so much traction that we’ve written a book about it: Ten Good Reasons To Go For a Walk ( It suggests that walking will not only be positioned at the core of wellbeing, but that it will also have to become a standard offering for hospitality companies. Watch out for the different ways in which this will be done…
  • VR – Almost 65 per cent of travellers state they would like “to try before they buy” through a virtual reality experience. Like walking, this will soon become part of the standard offering. Keep an eye on who does what.
  • A closing gap – Public sector health issues such as antibiotic resistance are mapping more closely to new middle class trends – the rise of plant-based meals, transparency in labelling, awareness and pursuance of sustained health is becoming more deeply ingrained – these moves endorse a shift in culture that will become unavoidable within the hospitality industry. Whether product intention is wellness-focused or not, a more focused strategic direction towards the wellbeing of guests will become inevitable.

Check out our latest posts

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Go for a walk!

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