How Hotels Are Handling Wellness Right Now

Spas and gyms swiftly shut down after the outbreak of COVID-19, and many took their offerings online with do-it-yourself spa treatments and virtual workouts. But as hotels around the world reopen, they are reshaping how they do in-person wellness in the midst of the pandemic. After all, wellness is needed now more than ever before as people seek to cope with stress and to counteract a suddenly sedentary quarantine lifestyle.

“We are seeing heavy demand, more than I thought initially would happen,” says Chris Erickson, hotel manager of The Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City. “What we’re finding is people were unable to go to Mexico, Puerto Rico — pick a sunny destination — Hawaii, and they want pampering here, and they need it. There’s a heavy desire in the local market for self-care.”

This is the last installment of Forbes Travel Guide’s three-part series about how the luxury hotel experience has evolved during the coronavirus. First, we shared what it’s like to stay at a property now. Then, we examined the creative culinary efforts, ranging from hotel buffets to happy hour. Today, we take a look at the way hotel spas, fitness centers and golf courses are changing with the times and what you can expect during your next visit.

The Spa

One of the most important parts of your visit comes before you even step foot in the spa. The reminder call you typically received from the spa 24 hours before your appointment has morphed into a mini tutorial. The staff at Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star The Grand Spa at The Grand America Hotel runs through its safety protocols, discusses social distancing and informs you that a mask is required at all times, except when lying face down on the massage table (as per Utah guidelines).

“Knowledge is key,” Erickson says. “It’s hard to demonstrate the team cares when you’re wearing a face covering, and perhaps your glasses are steamed up. But I think oftentimes we can set the tone by really communicating effectively prior to arrival.”

The 23-treatment-room spa is operating at 50 percent capacity and staggering appointments to prevent crowds. Instead of lingering in the lounge, locker room or other facilities prior to a service, you will be ushered directly into the treatment room, where your robe and slippers await.

While the eucalyptus steam room, menthol dry sauna and private whirlpool remain closed at Four-Star Sunstone Spa at Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage, it still offers a number of amenities, including limited lockers, showers, a coed lounge, a spa pool and VIP spa cabanas, which have two whirlpools for all guests. Also available are the lounges with grounding, zero-gravity chairs that are said to help reduce inflammation.

Be sure to nosh before you go. Both spas have suspended the usual snack service, but they do provide bottled water (Sunstone also serves tea).

The Spa Treatments

While people flocked to get their hair cut and nails polished when restrictions eased up, there’s a whole new set of spa treatments gaining traction in response to the coronavirus.

Anantara Spa has crafted a new massage lotion with immunity-boosting, antibacterial ingredients such as clove oil, citrus aurantium (bitter orange) peel extract, eucalyptus oil and rosemary. The special oil is used in the signature massage at Anantara Spa at Anantara Siam Bangkok Hotel and other company outposts in Thailand.

Boasting the largest luxury spa in South Florida, Carillon Miami Wellness Resort is curating high-tech touchless wellness experiences for its July 1 reopening. Try sleep therapy with the Gharieni Spa.Wave System bed, which employs music, sound waves and vibrations to lull you into a state of deep relaxation. Or sit in a special suite for halotherapy, in which breathing in salty air gives you a detox.

The Miami hotel’s Prism Light Pod resembles a tanning bed, but rather than fry your skin, the red light therapy is supposed to accelerate natural healing at four to 10 times its usual rate. The pod aims to alleviate chronic pain, inflammation, nerve damage and autoimmune conditions, as well as improve skin tone and wrinkles.

Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village in suburban Los Angeles debuted its own “touch-free spa menu,” which includes a Hyperice massage (a percussive device, not a therapist’s hands, unfurls your knots), reiki and a sound bath experience (chimes, gongs, drums and singing bowls produce a meditative experience).

More traditional spa treatments have been adapted, too. “Our modified massages have done extremely well,” says Daniel Spencer, director of Sunstone Spa. He’s referencing the spa’s customized rubdowns that are performed face down only (so you never have to face the therapist while in close proximity) for 40 or 60 minutes. The therapist pairs a crystal-infused oil with the type of massage you need. For example, deeper body work and inflamed muscles and joints may call for an oil infused with arnica and a turquoise sage gem to reduce any tension and inflammation.

While some traditional services have become impossible in the age of COVID — for example, couples massage can no longer be done at The Grand Spa because it doesn’t allow for social distancing — others that aim at healing are growing more popular. “Our CBD massage is the most highly sought after right now,” Erickson says. “People really believe in CBD, and they really believe it can relieve stress…I think it aligns well with the unusual nature of where we are. It seems to be kind of more of a healing service.”

The Gym

For its sizable 17,000-square-foot gym, Four Seasons Hotel Westlake Village adapted its staffing to carefully monitor its 50 percent capacity, says Victoria Nickle, executive director of the hotel’s California Health & Longevity Institute. It spaced out equipment to ensure that everyone has a six-foot buffer, and some pieces were taken out of service to allow for more space.

Upon entering the gym, you will receive small magnetic strips to fasten onto machines when you are done using them. This will alert the staff that they are ready to be sanitized. In addition, the gym undergoes rounds of rigorous deep cleaning and disinfecting during the day and overnight. Yoga mats and blocks are available, but the hotel recommends bringing your own to avoid cross-exposure.

To be extra cautious, the fitness center is stocked with disinfectant wipes that you use to clean equipment before and after use. Local guidelines dictate that you are required to wear a face covering while in the facility except when engaged in exercise.

“I think this is a valuable opportunity to enhance the gym experience to really home in on safety and sanitation as we know it,” Nickle says. “I think that it is important — now more than ever — to give personalized care and attention to our guests throughout their experience with us. Traditionally, gym-going has always been about improving your own health, now it is also about protecting the health of others in your community.” 

The Four Seasons plans to bring back workout classes slowly to accommodate social distancing. Luckily, the hotel sits on 12 acres — plenty of outdoor space for alfresco classes (a large meeting room will serve as a bad-weather back-up).

All of the usual locker room amenities are available, but instead of having everything on display, attendants will hand out customized mini-kits. Towels, water and fruit also are on offer, but you have to request them from the attendants, too.

For those squeamish about returning to a communal gym, the L.A. hotel encourages you to try Fit with Four Seasons, a series of workouts on the Four Seasons app that you can use in your guest room or at home. During the lockdown, the hotel conducted virtual personal training sessions as well as nutrition and life balance consultations, and it will continue to do so.

Mandarin Oriental, Miami has found another alternative to a high-trafficked communal gym: two new wellness suites that can be rented out for the day. Converted from former guest rooms, the mini fitness centers are outfitted with an elliptical, a treadmill, free weights, yoga mats, medicine balls, fresh fruit, juice and water. The suites also have a balcony and a bathroom for showering.

The Golf Course

You still can play a round on Wynn Las Vegas’ prized 6,722-yard, par-70 Wynn Golf Club, which was unveiled in October with a new design by golf course architect Tom Fazio.

Social distancing isn’t a problem on the course’s 129 acres, so you won’t have to don a mask. But there are some pandemic-era rules. Foursomes will no longer get filled, unless they are from the same household. There’s only one player allowed per golf cart, unless the group is made up of immediate family, and each cart comes pre-stocked with a welcome packet of tees, ball markers, a scorecard and pencils.

Caddies use their own cart and will refrain from handling guest tees, markers, scorecards and pencils. Inserts have been placed into the golf hole cups to make fetching the balls easier.

There isn’t any self-service at the coffee and fruit station, but an attendant is present to take your orders. All food and drinks come in single-use containers.

To allow for further distancing between the players, tee times have been increased to every 20 minutes. And according to the hotel, they fill up fast. Non-hotel guests can book 30 days ahead of time, and hotel guests can book 90 days.

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