CBRE, an international real estate and hospitality consultant, sees hotel developers continuing to shift their preference towards developing products and services that cater to the rising wellness tourism demand with increased focus on local guests as international tourist arrivals remain stifled and Thailand’s tourism landscape continues without the familiar sight of its international visitors.
The wellness trend can be witnessed through several key aspects: firstly, the age range of the spa tourism clientele is getting wider and it is not limited only to those wishing to prevent chronic disease or recover from medical conditions, but also includes active working-age guests wishing to maintain their health. Secondly, hotels rebranding into health and wellness and upwards in chain scale positioning are becoming more common. Thirdly, spa packages within travel incentive programs and eco-friendly wellness hotel products are increasingly being developed and marketed to men, and offering specialised wellness-type products has been the marquee approach in capturing the rising demand for wellness hotels with an intention to build stronger brand value. A good example is Thailand’s Anantara Hotel that took home 12 awards and was named the World’s Best Hotel Spa Brand at the most recent World Spa Awards in 2020.
The adoption of wellness programs and accommodation bodes well for Thailand where bywords such as warmth, service and wellness are already ingrained into the local Thai culture with its herbal remedies and traditional acupressure. Hotel developers can use this natural advantage to create niche offerings emphasising each brand’s individual characteristics within wellness tourism.
Mr. Atakawee Choosang, Head of Capital Market – CBRE Hotels, Thailand mentioned, “Riding on the global wellness trend, Thai hotel developers and operators are placing emphasis on offering wellness products and programs which reflect the local identity as well as providing new benefits and experiences catering to the local demand until international tourists return, further classifying Thailand as an international travel destination for wellness tourism.”
However, the potential development for wellness tourism is also expected to be different depending on the location. For example, Bangkok hotel wellness products will likely focus on offering express wellness packages and promotional programs that target urban lifestyle-driven consumers, while the Northern region hotels may be more attentive in offering longer-length, extensive programs infused with Lanna culture. In the South, more culturally integrated wellness activities and products will likely come about.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected the tourism and hotel industries, which begs the question, what will be the impact of COVID-19 on wellness accommodation offerings? While the intent of wellness accommodation is towards preventative care and rehabilitation, it will be interesting to see if developers and brands that already are focused on these health-driven offerings will subsequently attempt to dive into medical treatment-oriented accommodation to which the COVID pandemic is more aligned. More complicated medical licensing and certification should pose challenges, however, should recurrence of COVID-19 become the “new norm” developers and brands that decide to engage may have a first mover advantage.