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Hotel companies extend wellness initiatives to staff

  • Author:Laura Koss-Feder
  • Source:hotelnewsnow.com
  • Release on:2017-07-30
Hotel companies extend wellness initiatives to staff

GLOBAL REPORT—It’s nearly impossible to check into a hotel these days in any segment of the industry and not find a fully-equipped fitness room. In fact, a whopping 85% of hotels offer fitness rooms, according to a 2016 survey by the American Hotel & Lodging Association. Adding to this overall wellness move has been the proliferation of healthy dining options on hotel restaurant menus.

Since wellness and fitness have become a staple for hotel guests, the hospitality industry globally has followed suit by increasing the offering of employee wellness programs—both formal and informal. And, hoteliers are seeing these plans pay off in the form of happier, healthier staffs who are better serving their guests and adding to the bottom line.

For instance, the guest satisfaction scores at the 175-room Courtyard by Marriott Pune Chakan in Maharashtra, India, went from 67% in 2015 up to nearly 80% this year, said Nasir Shaikh, the hotel’s GM. He attributed this to a rise in employees feeling better and serving their guests better, which stems from Marriott International’s TakeCare employee wellness program.

Each property tailors the global program to its staffs’ needs. At the India hotel, the wellness initiative has included smoking cessation, transcendental meditation to help manage stress, a yoga workshop and a dance/fitness class, Shaikh said. He added that about 70% of the hotel’s 171 employees have taken part in various activities during the 18 months that the property has taken part in the TakeCare program.

“When our associates have a sense of wellbeing and feel better appreciated, that translates in to how they do their work,” said David Rodriguez, EVP and global chief human resources officer at Marriott International.

Tips for starting a wellness program
Rodriguez said it’s important for a hotel’s GM and leadership staff to be involved in wellness initiatives, to set an example for employees.

“The executive committee at any hotel has to be the role model and live this philosophy of wellness for this to work,” he said.

Fun contests and healthy competition amongst staff also can go a long way to encouraging participation in a wellness plan.

The 353-room Ritz-Carlton, Chengdu in Chengdu, China, has a 5K run every Friday night, a weekly yoga class for employees, and sponsors Saturday bike riding, said Vito Romeo, the hotel’s GM.

The property also has ping-pong competitions.

“I recommend listening to what your employees want to do and find enjoyable, and then be consistent by providing this on a regular basis,” Romeo said.

The 804-room Hyatt Regency San Francisco wanted to do something novel to promote healthy lifestyles for its 400-person staff, and asked its employees what was important to them, said Emma MacStay, the hotel’s colleague experience director.

Last year, the hotel utilized a web-based fitness platform called Count.It, which connects with wearable tracking devices, to begin a fitness challenge for employees, MacStay said.

This was started by the hotel’s colleague purpose and brand team, which focuses on how to best care for staffers, she said, adding that “it was really fun and very engaging.”

The program was so successful, MacStay said, that two sister properties, the Grand Hyatt San Francisco and the Hyatt Regency San Francisco Airport, joined in. The Grand Hyatt “won” the challenge, with employees averaging nearly 10,000 steps per day during the month of October 2016. There are plans to repeat the program towards the end of this year.

In other wellness initiatives, the Hyatt Regency San Francisco also held a 5K race as a fundraiser and replaced a cafeteria soda machine with one that sells healthier options such as milk, water and Italian sodas.

Don’t break the bank
The Hyatt Regency San Francisco spent less than $5,000 for its whole program, MacStay said. Rewards for staffers included gift cards.

The Ritz-Carlton, Chengdu offers simple and inexpensive gifts for staff fitness competitions such as backpacks, T-shirts and movie theater vouchers.

Another way to save on costs is to utilize existing on-property facilities such as fitness centers.

While there’s no formal wellness program at InterContinental Hotels Group’s Even hotels, the brand does encourage employees to take advantage of their Athletic Studios before or after their work shifts.

At the 202-room Even Hotel Brooklyn, employees also can participate in a weekly, 45-minute yoga class taught by an employee who is also a yoga instructor. (The class is also open to guests.)

“This is a great benefit for them (employees) because it saves them the cost of paying for a monthly gym membership, which can be expensive, and the hassle of trying to find a good gym,” said Chandra Badola, GM and chief wellness officer at the 42-employee hotel. “It’s a benefit for those who take public transportation and those who drive to work, because they can work out and wait out the traffic.”

The hotel hopes to add a second yoga class soon due to high demand, Badola added.

“If you are spending a lot of money on a wellness program, then you probably are approaching it the wrong way,” Marriott’s Rodriguez said. “You can be creative and still have a program that is cost-effective and works well.”