Hotels in Malaysia provide guests a safe space to sleep better amid pandemic

As people seek to escape from the increasing stresses of every day life during the pandemic, hotels are stepping up their game as providers of wellness care. - Unsplash

In a bid to unwind, Adam Idris would check-in to a hotel in the city about three times a year. He enjoys a good staycation where he can relax in a plush room and gets pampered.

These days, however, “staycation” has taken a whole new meaning for Adam, who hails from Selangor. He now regards his hotel stay as a form of escapism from the harsh realities brought on by the coronavirus.

“It’s a from of escape, especially from work and after being cooped up at home, ” he said, adding that he likes being able to relax with family and friends in a comfortable room.

A hotel staycation, according to Adam, has been a good avenue to help him unwind from the stress of the pandemic.

“Cabin fever is real!” he said, adding that he also looks forward to a hearty hotel breakfast served during a staycation.

The idea of a hotel as a place to relax and rejuvenate is not new. After all, wellness is an important offering in the hospitality sector.

But the importance of hotels as purveyors of mental and physical health have been further underlined as people globally grapple with the stress of living amid the pandemic.

  Even hotels in the city are providing resort-like experiences to guests. —  Element Kuala LumpurEven hotels in the city are providing resort-like experiences to guests. — Element Kuala Lumpur

Getting away

A survey by the World Tourism Association revealed that over 24% of respondents would be “extremely likely to book a wellness vacation within the next two years”.

Another 78% of respondents, in the poll that surveyed over 3,000 consumers from 48 countries and territories, indicated that they already included wellness-specific activities to their travel itineraries when restrictions are lifted.

Travel and hospitality experts believe that hotels could potentially play a bigger role as proponents of wellness in a post-pandemic tourism landscape.

Hospitality consultant Louis de Vilmorin, in an opinion piece, wrote that health and wellness could be a growing hospitality niche in a post-Covid-19 landscape.“The health and wellness sector could well be the answer to post-Covid-19 redevelopment needs and looks set to be one of the new vectors of growth and profits for hospitality destinations, ” he said.

  Many hotels are enhancing their wellness offerings with yoga sessions to help guests rejuvenate. — The Westin Langkawi Resort & SpaMany hotels are enhancing their wellness offerings with yoga sessions to help guests rejuvenate. — The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa

WTS International president Todd Walter, in an interview with Hotel Business, said that a focus on health and wellness can be and is a key differentiator for the hospitality industry.

The company provides management and consulting services to spa, fitness and lifestyle facilities.

“More than anything, I think the pandemic has increased people’s awareness of and attitudes toward their own health and wellness. Focusing on health and wellness is a conscious, proactive choice, ” he said.

According to Todd, health and wellness comprehensively include the body, mind and spirit.

“A silver lining to the pandemic is that it has given us time to focus on these areas. It has forced physical distancing, but it has also forced innovation and challenged us to find new ways of doing things.

“I believe a hotel’s health and wellness offerings will be even more important in the consumers’ decision-making process on where to stay in the post-pandemic world, ” he explained.

Helping to unwind

The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa managing director Frank Beck believes that the pandemic has changed the concept of wellness among travellers.

“The pandemic has brought awareness on the importance of health to the public. People are more motivated than ever before to explore new lifestyle behaviours that promise better immunity, stronger bodies, and longevity, ” he explained.

With this renewed interest in wellness, Beck said hotels should create opportunities to help guests “sleep, eat, move, feel, work, and play well” during their stay.

  According to  Beck, a good bed is important in improving guests’ sleep quality.  — The Westin Langkawi Resort  & SpaAccording to Beck, a good bed is important in improving guests’ sleep quality. — The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa

According to Beck, hotels offer an environment where people would be able to rejuvenate from today’s increasing stresses of life.

“Knowing that their well-being is taken care of helps them to rejuvenate from the pandemic fatigue, ” he said.

Hospitality players have caught up with this surge in demand for a wellness holiday. Globally, it has been reported that hotels have adopted new strategies to grow wellness offerings.

Many hotels are introducing yoga sessions, fitness classes and spa experiences to help guests relax during their stay.

Another way hotels are helping guests unwind, according to Beck, is by offering a better sleep experience. This is achieved through the help of calming essential oil scents in the room as well as uniquely designed beds.

  Scents and  essentials oils are  used by hotels to provide guests with a more relaxing experience amid the pandemic.  — PixabayScents and essentials oils are used by hotels to provide guests with a more relaxing experience amid the pandemic. — Pixabay

Beck said scents and good beds aim to ease the guest’s tension and promote a more revitalising slumber.

It was recently reported that the pandemic has had a negative effect on the sleep patterns of the world’s population.

Experts believe that better quality slumber can be achieved by eliminating stress.

“We recognise that the best way to help travellers escape from the stress and enjoy their time away from home is to create opportunities to enhance their well-being in active and fun ways, ” Beck said.

Hotels can do this by offering better turndown services as well as recreational activities to release feel-good hormones.

According to Beck, he has seen an uptick of guests who sign up for wellness packages.

“More and more travellers are reconsidering overall what it means to be well in the age of the pandemic. Their key focus is to re-adjust to their ‘new normal’ and wellness practices have become one of the most important aspects of living well, from healthier eating and meditation to stress reduction and fitness, ” he said.

Safe escape

In the presence of the coronavirus, hotels would also need to factor in elevated health and hygiene standards in their premises these days.

If anything, peace of mind is also achieved through reassurance that one won’t contract Covid-19 – or get sick from other causes – during their rejuvenating stay.

“To provide peace of mind to guests, every room, suite, and villa in the resort is equipped with sanitising wipes, face masks, and hand sanitisers, ” Beck said.

The five-star resort has implemented elevated cleaning protocols and advanced cleaning technology throughout its public spaces. Rooms are also thoroughly disinfected according to strict hygiene protocols.

The way Element Kuala Lumpur general manager Nikie Mok sees it, hotels need to provide a safe space for guests to better destress.

“With the pandemic limiting options for travel to only domestic explorations for now, hotels have become a safe escape and pleasant retreat for locals to relax and rejuvenate. Hotels can be a safe haven and offer respite for a much-needed short break with a change in environment, ” she said.

  A healthy  gut is key to better wellbeing and  some hotels are  curating healthier menus.  — PixabayA healthy gut is key to better wellbeing and some hotels are curating healthier menus. — Pixabay

While Mok hasn’t observed a surge in the sales of wellness packages, she said the pandemic has pushed guests to be healthier.

“On our end, due to the social distancing measures and temporary closure of communal facilities, guests are not taking up as many wellness packages. Yet, we have seen an increase in guests making healthier choices especially dietary picks, ” she said.

Another trend is the “working from hotel” movement.

“With current pandemic challenges, hotels have also seen a rise in ‘working from hotel’ guests, where we have transformed our rooms and suites as workspaces for those who need a quiet, functional, and comfortable area to work from, ” Mok explained.

Work aside, Mok believes hospitality players can do more to further encourage this renewed interest in wellness.

“Hotels can suggest and promote wellness activities located within a short distance from the venue such as cycling, jogging and hiking at nearby locations, ” she said.

On Adam’s part, he is hoping for an enhanced wellness experience the next time he checks in for a staycation.

“I love a good gym workout at the hotel! So if premiere hotels in the city could have all the basic gym equipments, and has proper maintenance, that would be nice, ” he said.

** The movement control order is currently in place in Malaysia, with stricter SOP and regulations introduced. The National Security Council has recently announced that staycations are allowed during this period, provided you only stay at a hotel or homestay that’s located within your district or zone.

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