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Hotel CEO describes how COVID altered guests' behavior

·3 min read

President Joe Biden declared recently that the COVID-19 pandemic is over, but it may have changed some people's behavior permanently.

One hospitality industry CEO says the virus completely altered consumer expectations. In a recent episode of “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” Rosewood Hotel Group CEO Sonia Cheng said that her customers now care more about their health.

“The revelation is the sum of the consumers' behavior has changed. They're more focused on personalized experience,” Chen told Yahoo Finance. “They care about their own well-being. They care about lifestyle, they love to travel, they miss travel.”

For some people, a global pandemic might have reinforced the importance of staying healthy. For instance, 62% of 1,158 Americans surveyed last year by market research firm Ipsos believe their health is more important to them than before the pandemic.

A view shows the Choupette room designed by German designer Karl Lagerfeld at the Hotel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel in Paris, France June 29, 2017. The Paris's landmark Hotel de Crillon, which was built in 1758, reopens in July after a four-year 200 million euro ($222 million) revamp. Picture taken June 29, 2017. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
A view shows the Choupette room designed by German designer Karl Lagerfeld at the Hotel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel in Paris, France June 29, 2017. The Paris's landmark Hotel de Crillon, which was built in 1758, reopens in July after a four-year 200 million euro ($222 million) revamp. Picture taken June 29, 2017. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

This increased concern for health has been accompanied by a boost in the wellness industry. A 2021 report by the Global Wellness Institute projected that wellness tourism would see an average annual growth rate of 20.9% between 2020 and 2025. The same report predicts that the total global wellness economy — which includes activities like visiting spas and healthy eating — will increase by a strong annual rate of around 10% through 2025.

“At the big-picture, long-term level, the case for the wellness concept and wellness markets post-pandemic looks very bullish," Beth McGroarty, vice president of research for the Global Wellness Institute told CO, a U.S. Chamber of Commerce publication back in August 2020.

In addition to a more pronounced interest in health, Cheng says that her hotels are currently seeing the effects of pent-up travel demand. When COVID struck, international travel practically ceased, and skies founds themselves filled with empty planes. Full-year global passenger traffic results for 2020 showed that demand fell by around 66% compared to 2019, according to the International Air Transport Association.

But post-COVID, airlines have begun to recover. Accredited travel agency air ticket sales totaled $39.8 billion in 2021, a 69% increase from 2020, according to a report released by Airlines Reporting Corp. in January. According to the same report, the number of passenger trips in 2021 grew by 50% year over year, totaling 174 million compared to 116 million in 2020.

To accommodate the inflow of customers, Cheng says Rosewood Hotels has created several new products that target health and well-being — including Asaya, one of Rosewood’s new wellness concepts. Rosewood’s Asaya offers customers treatments ranging from fitness tests to naturopathic treatment sessions, including special treatments for pregnant guests. The hotel chain also recently released a private membership called Carlyle and Co., which offers tailoring and and a private barber, among other services.

“We’re pivoting our strategy of developing Rosewood to be beyond just a luxury hotel leader,” Cheng remarked. “But we want it to be a comprehensive lifestyle leader, where we are diversifying our portfolio.”

Rosewood Hotel Group, a privately owned subsidiary, manages five brands including ultra-luxury Rosewood Hotels & Resorts in North America, and Asaya, according to the company website. The company has 41 hotels in 19 countries and nearly 30 new properties under development.

“So we’re really extending our Rosewood ecosystem where we can impact people's lives and give them a curated personal experience wherever they are,” Cheng reflects.

Dylan Croll is a reporter and researcher at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @CrollonPatrol.

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