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Working with hotels and wellness retreats

A smiling woman

Magalie Paillard – Zest4life Associate & Business Mentor


“Wellness travellers are said to be willing to spend 130% more than regular tourists for healthier hotel stays and wellness products and services.” McKinsey & Company, 2021

After the recent impact of the pandemic, wellness tourism is once again gaining popularity, with annual growth predicted to rise by 21% by 2025. Covering aspects of health such as fitness, nutrition, sleep and mindfulness, it is undoubtedly an area where Nutrition Professionals can play a key role.

Many of us are familiar with the traditional idea of wellness retreats and spas, however current trends are more focused on tailored wellbeing programmes, offering a holistic approach to wellness for guests. Programmes and experiences may be tailored to the individual, or themed; for example, menopause, sugar detox, mums, digital detoxes, active ageing etc.

There is also a trend towards hotels offering wellness options as part of their guests’ experience. This idea of ‘soft wellness’ might include health-focused amenities, blackout blinds and mood lighting in bedrooms, vitamin showers, in-room exercise equipment, health-focused mini bars and healthier menus.

Woman relaxing in infinity pool

Working with hotels

There are growing opportunities for a well-rounded Nutrition Professional to collaborate with hotels, depending on their skills, experience, and qualifications.

Examples of some possible opportunities may include:

  • working as a nutritional therapist/naturopath delivering nutrition and lifestyle consultations as part of a wellness offering

  • collaborating on special events by delivering a seminar/webinar or a series of seasonal talks - think about a hotel the same way you would think of a corporate

  • working as a nutrition consultant on various aspects:

    • working closely with the Executive Chef to offer guidance on wellness-focused meals the hotel may want to introduce for their guests (a culinary qualification is preferred for this type of role)

    • working with the management team on designing wellness programmes (past experience is also preferable here)

If you love travelling (and don’t mind working long hours!) then hotels and retreats can offer a fantastic opportunity to broaden your business and increase your revenue stream.

My top tips if you are just starting out within wellness tourism, are:

  • decide which types of services you would like to offer. Do you want to be an all-rounder or specialist? What are your current skill sets and qualifications?

  • decide what role this type of consultancy will represent in your overall business model

  • understand your reasons for wanting to collaborate with hotels. What are your “why’s"? This will help you communicate more professionally when you first meet with them

  • research the hotels that you are interested in working with. Spend time looking at what they’re doing, their mission statement, watching interviews with CEOs etc. You will find plenty of resources on LinkedIn. Put the same work in that you did when you created your ‘ideal client’

  • if you do not have a LinkedIn account, create one. If you have one, polish it and perhaps look at the way hospitality professionals present themselves

  • start networking, following hotel brands, and attend hospitality events/conferences online that focus on wellbeing

  • identify key people within the hotels

  • don’t be shy!

View of the sea from hotel

Working with wellness retreats

Working on, or running wellness retreats, can also be an exciting opportunity for a Nutrition Professional. But don’t be fooled by the calm, relaxed atmosphere if you’ve attended a retreat yourself… for those running it they are an intense environment that requires a lot of work!

However, if you are someone who loves organisation, can multi-task and problem solve while staying calm, and are a natural public speaker, then wellness retreats could be a great fit for you.

Here are the different ways you could get involved in retreats:

  • work for a retreat company as a nutritionist or similar, depending on your qualifications - some people are also trained chefs and personal trainers

  • run your own retreat

  • collaborate with hotels and spas. After all, they are the specialists!

I always advise working for a retreat a couple of times before deciding to run your own. This allows you to really understand the process and avoid any common mistakes. As with working in a hotel, roles that a Nutrition Professional may be asked to fill on a wellness retreat include:

  • working closely with a team of practitioners to provide a holistic experience for the guests

  • conducting 1-2-1 consultations with guests

  • giving nutrition presentations

  • guiding guests at the buffet if needed

  • eating with guests and answering questions

  • participating in activities - walks/exercise sessions/yoga

  • giving cookery demonstrations with the retreat chef

  • communicating dietary restrictions to the chef and Food and Beverages team

  • and more…

If would you like to run your own retreat at some point, you could start with a short one-day event locally and build up from there to running your own event. Working with a collaborator is a great way to start. However, make sure the person already knows and understands the business, legal and logistics aspects of it. Generally speaking, working with a collaborator allows you to share the workload, and access each other’s mailing lists and social media audiences to help boost sign-ups. It can also make the retreat more holistic.

Collaborating with hotels can also be a great way for you to start if you are not familiar with the logistics and administration involved. Let them do what they know best!

Yoga class at wellness retreat

When the time comes to start planning a wellness retreat yourself, begin by spending time thinking about the different aspects that are involved. A good place to start is understanding your ‘why’s’ - who do you want to serve? Are you aiming your retreat at your usual ideal client or everyone? Why do you want to run it?

Then visualise what a successful wellness retreat would look like to you. How do you want to feel after it has finished? How will you know if it was a success? This will guide you to select the right topics, team etc.

As well as having a clear focus for the retreat, it is a good idea at the start of the planning process to consider the ideal:

  • location and length

  • pricing

  • target customers

  • clients’ journey from the minute they book

  • retreat programme - you need enough activities, but not too many! Guests need plenty of down time as well

  • retreat format and length (check the insurance you will need and consult someone who has run a retreat before)

  • collaboration

To calculate the price of the retreat, you need to know your costs. These should include the venue, staff, food, travel from airport etc. plus a certain amount extra for miscellaneous items. It is a good idea to pre-sell the retreat so you are not funding it yourself, and be clear on your cancellation and refund policy. Use a lawyer to help you draft your contract if possible.

Once the basics are in place think about potential clients and your target audience. How can you make your retreat stand out from the crowd? As a basic time frame for starting to promote and sell spaces, I would recommend 3-6 months for local retreats, and 6-12 months for international events.

I have worked for 5* hotels and retreats internationally, and love doing so. I hope reading this post has helped you understand whether wellness tourism, in one form or another, might be a valuable addition to your business too!

If you are looking to expand your nutrition business, the Business Growth Programme at Zest4life offers advice and support on a range of alternative ways to offer your nutrition services. To find out more, book your 45 minute complimentary business mentoring call:


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