Business travellers now prioritise wellness – and 5 trends ahead

Business travellers now prioritise wellness – and 5 trends ahead

The easing of COVID-19 restrictions and uptake of return to office life is likely to spur more business travel.  But when will it resume fully to pre-pandemic days? No one can tell but one thing’s for sure: It has changed for good.

Corporate travellers have a whole list of expectations now. And topping the list is wellness. We’re not talking about relaxing visits to the spa (although those do help somewhat!). Martin Gallego, Regional Director, Sales Operations for Southeast Asia, Hilton; Todd Arthur, Vice-President for Asia-Pacific, Sabre; and Dr Walter Lim, Deputy Country Managing Director (Singapore) Fullerton Health came together at FCM Th!nk Singapore to share their observations on how the industry can incorporate the wellness needs and desires of today’s corporate traveller into their products and services.

#1 Flexibility in travel policies

The past few years have left many of us filled with uncertainty and anxiety, what more when embarking on a business trip after two years of virtual meetings supplanting face-to-face encounters? Questions we never had to ask before the pandemic: Mask on or off? What about social distancing? What happens if I catch COVID-19 when travelling? Invariably, the comfort level of each business traveller will be different.

That, in turn, leads to companies increasing their capacity for flexibility in travel programmes, especially concerning safety and security. It can be anything from transport preference to accommodation requirements.

“I think you'll see companies being a lot more flexible, tactically, with the travel policy,” said Todd.

#2 A psychological safety net

Let’s say you’re preparing for a regional trip, covering a few markets. If something happens, “what’s a trusted outpatient network I can access?”, followed by “how do I locate the clinic?” Walter is increasingly answering such questions these days. They are simple queries – much like considering flight options – yet ones that reflect the asker’s state of mind.

Essentially, people want to travel, but they want safety as well, explained Walter, adding: “We want to provide (that) intangible sense of protection.”

#3 Beyond the gym – wellness diversified!

It used to be that wellness on a business trip encompassed the spa, the gym and the swimming pool. The scope of wellness has since expanded way beyond the trio and hotels have been ramping up their wellness offerings. For one, Hilton’s Five Feet to Fitness programme includes an interactive kiosk with fitness tutorials and a gym’s worth of equipment in some rooms. At specific Hilton properties like the Waldorf Astoria Maldives, a wellness concierge is primed to whip up a personalised programme just for you.

Such extensions of wellness are a result of the rise of the bleisure traveller, a hybrid traveller who blends business and leisure. According to Todd: “We’re seeing travellers less frequently than before, but they're now staying longer. I call it grounded travel where they stay at a destination for a longer period of time. How can you provide better support to them on these longer trips?”

#4 Healthful (and mindful) eating

Historically, we’ve focused on how the foods we eat affect our physical health. But we now understand how eating certain foods can promote brain health. This development may have resulted in the emerging pattern of travellers hungering for healthier cuisines. You shouldn’t be surprised to see a wider variety of plant-based items on the menu, or healthier desserts and snacks on that tea break menu for your next meeting,” said Todd.

#5 Fluctuations in booking patterns

Last-minute bookings have been increasingly common, understandably so, considering the travel climate brought on by COVID-19. Whether it’s packing, finalising the itinerary or arranging transfers, it causes additional – and many would say, unnecessary – anxiety for business travellers.

Todd is, however, seeing signs of change in this pattern. Advance bookings can only be good news all around, as the ample preparation time indisputably boosts any traveller’s overall wellness.

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