Hotels Were Rolling Out Tools to Help Calm Travelers. Then Coronavirus Hit.

Hotels have always been in the business of providing a good night’s rest, but a growing number of brands are adding tools to help guests chill out and get to sleep.

And that was before the anxiety caused by the coronavirus.

“Well-being is top of mind for everyone today, and we think that’s going to continue in the future,” said Mia Kyricos, senior vice president and global head of well-being at Hyatt Hotels. “If you think about the world we live in now, it’s 24/7. We increasingly have demands in work and life.”

Starting April 1, Hyatt is rolling out a partnership with the Headspace meditation app. Guests will be able to get content on relaxation and sleep-guided meditation through the Hyatt loyalty program mobile app. The chain will also offer content from Headspace via TVs at its hotels.

“We’re starting with 200 properties and rolling out from there, growing globally,” Ms. Kyricos said. “There’s a real interest for people to practice self-care.”

Data from the National Institutes of Health bears this out. A survey found that the number of American adults who reported meditating in the previous year tripled from 2012 to 2017, jumping to 14 percent from roughly 4 percent.


The wellness offerings may also provide an opportunity for hotels to increase revenue, according to a study released in December by CBRE, a commercial real estate services and investment firm. With a glut of new rooms projected to cut into hotels’ profits, owners and managers were looking for alternatives to raising room rates even before Covid-19 curbed travel and dampened demand. A CBRE analysis of 159 hotels with on-site spas found that, in 2018, spa revenue rose at a higher rate than overall operating revenue.

“Spas have really expanded beyond the four walls,” said Jenna Finkelstein, a director at CBRE who focuses on the hotel industry. “More and more, wellness is becoming a major decision factor when choosing a hotel.”

Last fall, Calm, an app that delivers meditation and nature sounds, announced a partnership with Novotel, one of the brands of the French hotel conglomerate Accor, to give guests guided meditations for relaxation and sleep. Starting this year, in a phased rollout, guests at Novotel hotels around the world may sign up for a free two-month subscription to Calm’s premium tier of content.

“Big brands in many industries, but specifically in travel, are listening to their customers and realizing that wellness is more important to them,” said Alex Will, chief strategy officer at Calm.

“I think people are just searching for help with sleep and relaxation in general,” Mr. Will said. “It’s just tiring. We have this always-on lifestyle now. It just creates a huge amount of stress and strain on the body.”

“Travel is becoming increasingly more stressful,” Mr. Will said.

The growing awareness that sleep is an important part of staying healthy has increased the interest in technology that can help people fall and stay asleep.

“Broadly speaking, travel and sleep are major-use cases above and beyond our partnership with Novotel,” Mr. Will added. “The thing we hear a lot from our users is if you can’t sleep, it makes everything else feel very hard in day-to-day life.”

Although these initiatives predate the coronavirus pandemic, they are well-positioned to address travelers’ current fears, said Ms. Finkelstein of CBRE.

“Especially with coronavirus and everything that’s happening, you are starting to see people either pull back on travel or be a little more cautious when they travel,” she said.

In-room relaxation offerings, she added, were particularly well-suited to dealing with the worries of fearful guests. “Anything you can do to limit contact with other people but still have some sort of experience related to wellness is especially good in the immediate climate,” Ms. Finkelstein said. “Providing that safe space for relaxation — that’s one immediate way to solve some of these travel-related anxieties.”

Ms. Finkelstein characterized the trend as an offshoot of the digitally enhanced in-room fitness offerings a number of hotel brands have started in recent years and connected it to the rising interest in wellness and self-care. “A lot of these fitness brands have almost a cult following, if you will,” she said. “When people are traveling, what they don’t want is for their routine to get disrupted.”

Amenities promoting sleep also are an extension of the hotel industry’s arms race in bedding goods like mattresses and pillows, said Phil Cordell, senior vice president of new brand development for Hilton Hotels & Resorts. The availability of meditation and sleep guides is the next logical step, he said. “It’s an extension-slash-evolution of how some of the thinking has been over the past few years.”

Hilton is starting a new brand called Tempo that will offer in-room relaxation and sleep content via TV as well as printed literature when its hotels open starting next year. (Construction began earlier this month on the first one in Louisville, Ky.)

Mr. Cordell said that improving “sleep hygiene” was a major goal for the Tempo brand. “We have a million demands on our time when we travel,” he said. “It’s hard for us to disconnect the brain sometimes. Sleep shortfall is one of the biggest challenges we face today.”

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