The world has become obsessed with the pursuit of wellness, and the travel industry is far from immune. In fact, wellness travel is one of the fastest-growing tourism industries today, with predictions that it will rake in $680 billion in 2017 alone.
Wellness travel is popular, of course, because it seeks to push "pause" on life's chaos and recharge the body, mind and soul through physical activities, relaxation techniques or the cultivation of healthy habits. But this category of travel isn’t solely for jet-setting vacationers. It can also be incredibly beneficial for business road warriors.
It’s no secret that traveling for work exposes employees to a plethora of physical and mental health dangers, from tropical diseases and circulation issues due to long airline flights, to increased stress and jet lag. And there can be a cost: When travel sidelines an employee, business deals may suffer. Absences may increase. Productivity decreases. And company health costs spike.
To ameliorate these risks, businesses should consider new company policies to integrate aspects of wellness travel into every corporate trip. Here are four steps to do that.
1. Make wellness a company priority.
Prioritize wellness business travel by budgeting for extra expenses and scheduling extra time into trip itineraries. The Global Business Travel Association found that nearly 70 percent of travelers surveyed believed that it's important to have the option of extending their business trips for some R& R. Giving employees the freedom and resources to have a little “me time” on trips will ensure they really take care of themselves when travelling.
Some travel companies have even found a niche answering the call for healthier, low-stress business travel, making it easier than ever to incorporate wellness aspects into employee travel.
Consider, for instance, how busy airports, such as San Francisco International, Dubai International, Los Angeles International and Singapore Changi, have added wellness elements like indoor green spaces, yoga rooms, quick-service spas and healthy food establishments. And some hotel chains, such as the Four Seasons, offer group fitness classes and upgraded conference rooms with nutritious snacks.
2. Customize travel for individual employees.
Wellness isn’t a one-size-fits-all endeavor. To have the greatest impact, evaluate how each traveling employee handles the various rigors and stresses of business trips -- which, according to a CWT Solutions Group study, can range from missing a flight to hailing a taxi. Then, find wellness amenities that suit their needs.
For example, if one employee suffers severe allergies while traveling, a room equipped with allergen-free bedding and air purifiers might be the way to go. If another experiences anxiety from breaking her at-home routines while she's on the road (which CWT found is more prevalent among women), a stress-reducing massage could be helpful.
Some companies have modified hotel spaces to create peaceful, healthy environments. An entire floor of Stay Well Rooms at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, for instance, treats guests to vitamin C-infused showers, light therapy and air purification systems.
3. Do the work for them.
Some aspects of wellness travel should be left to the discretion of the traveler. After all, not every employee will enjoy jot yoga, long hikes or vegan meals. However, company leaders can pick and plan other elements based on their employees' priorities.
According to a 2015 survey from TripAdvisor, travelers most value sightseeing, special dining experiences, accommodations, activities and shopping. Try booking wellness-focused hotels and airlines when possible. The EVEN hotels, for example, offer in-room training areas, cooling bed linens and standing desks. Or if that's not in your budget, perhaps you could provide a list of healthy restaurants and unique activities around where employees are staying.
When employers encourage and subsidize wellness travel amenities on business trips, that perk keeps employees focused on making healthy choices while on the road. It also tells employees that the company values their time and dedication, which can significantly boost morale, improve productivity and reduce turnover.
4. Incentivize healthy behaviors.
Being a leader is a lot like being a parent. Employers can teach their teams about actions and behaviors that promote wellness on the road, but they can’t force employees to actually follow through. However, incentivizing healthy behaviors might make them a little more likely to stick.
Entice employees with gift cards, contributions to health savings plans or even extra vacation days for using the hotel gym, choosing healthy restaurants or getting eight hours of sleep each day while they’re away.
Show -- don't just tell -- your employees the benefits of on-the-road wellness. According to the American Psychological Association, only about 40 percent of managers are involved in their companies' well-being initiatives. But 73 percent of employees with leaders who do commit to these initiatives through action believe their organization helps employees establish healthy lifestyles. So make sure you're practicing what you preach.
Wellness travel has already attracted multitudes of tourists seeking peace and relaxation. There’s no reason the concept can’t also benefit business travelers needing to maintain optimal health while on the go. Infuse aspects of wellness travel into every one of your company's trips.
That will help to keep your employees -- and your business -- in tip-top shape