As more delegates are incorporating green juices and yoga wear into their lifestyles, venues and planners look for ways to embody wellness in their meetings programmes.
“There’s a rising expectation that you should be able to attain and maintain wellness everywhere that you go – at home or at work or when you travel,” said Jeremy McCarthy, group director of spa, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group.
“Traditionally, the meetings experience is inherently unhealthy," McCarthy said. "You sit in a meeting room for three days, and you’re being Powerpointed to death, and you’re drinking too much caffeine and eating sugary snacks, and maybe going out at night for lavish dinners with too much alcohol, and not getting enough sleep.”
To alleviate delegates’ stress and exhaustion, the hotel group came up with a Mindful Meetings programme where all properties in its portfolio will begin to incorporate wellness into their packages as requested. While packages are customizable, this could mean welcome energizer booster shots upon arrival, or 30-minute activities such as meditation or yoga.
“We’ve also done meetings where we’ve asked people to remove their shoes and they can put slippers on so it’s a bit more relaxed. All these things can be customised,” said McCarthy.
‘Digital detoxing’ too is requested where delegates surrender their phones, and put on eye masks and headphones that play tranquil music. They might even hire an in-house spa therapist for neck and shoulder massages between meetings.
“We’re trying to build a little bit more space into the meetings process to give people that time to reflect, time to move their bodies, and to keep their energy level up. Those things would have an impact,” said McCarthy. “Our goal is that our meetings participants will come out feeling fresh, energised, and ready to act.”
He adds that feedback from delegates have been positive, with them saying that just five minutes in a relaxing environment can make an impact to productivity. However, these programmes are not easily adopted by all planners, as clients’ brands and content could vary.
“What we see in the meetings space is that a lot of planners don’t necessarily want to break out from what is expected because anytime you do, it’s a risk,” he said.
“But I think there are lot of companies nowadays that are looking at meetings as a chance to model that behaviour, to put a different spin on meetings. Those kind of organisations are the ones this programme is really targeted at. They want to see a little bit more creativity and bring in fresh ideas."
Similar programmes have also been demonstrated by Como Hotels and Resorts’ Healthful Meetings and Events, Hilton Worldwide’s Meet with Purpose concept, Marriott Shanghai’s Wellbeing Meetings Package, and 137 Pillars Hotels and Resorts.
Hilton, for instance, has executed programmes such as “Puppies & Ice Cream” during meeting breaks, where shelter pups are brought to the event venue for delegates to play with. Other programmes include ‘Repeat Roses’ where they make floral bouquets for charities using recycled flowers from past events, and ‘Yogurt and Yoga’, yoga sessions followed by yoghurt parfaits.
137 Pillars' luxury status allows small groups of C-suite delegates to engage in wellness by way of 'sleep therapy' which was designed with the long-haul traveller in mind. "During the SLH Regional Conference, 45 delegates took part in the sleep therapy and were thrilled with the results," said Christopher Stafford, COO, 137 Pillars.
For Como, a group that uses wellness at the centre of its brand, corporate retreats and incentives are common. Delegates get juice menus throughout the day to encourage cutting back on coffee, and healthy food is served throughout the trip. They can also return home with a cookbook filled with healthy recipes to maintain the ‘lifestyle’ outside the hotel.
“We just want to integrate educational wellness into meetings so that people can come away having learnt a little bit about wellness,” said Dominique Backhouse, group public relations manager – Asia, Como Hotels and Resorts.