Chris J. Cahill is CEO Luxury Brands and CEO Hotel Services North America, Central America and Caribbean Region for AccorHotels. Chris’ track record covers all facets of the hotel business (operations, sales and marketing) in cities across Canada. He joined AccorHotels’ Executive Committee in July 2016, when the Group finalized the acquisition of FRHI. We interviewed him for our ebook, The Business of Being Well.

LM: How important is the local market for Accor’s wellness programs?

CC: Each of our luxury brands includes 
wellness as one of the brand pillars. Each brand has their own priorities in terms of how they identify the key services for wellness as they need to marry this with the expectations and demands from their customers.

In urban locations wellness extends to the local community and most hotels encourage the local community to participate. Some examples are where the Fairmont Palm started full moon yoga and now has to limit the numbers to around 200 people. Over 70% of the guests are from the local community.

In most cases the typical scenario is that the hotel provides services that attract the local community to participate. However, another aspect is where the hotel provides the location for local wellness providers to offer services that benefit both the local community and the hotel guest. Some examples of this are where a hotel has invited a nutritionist and
a cook to offer super food education and cooking lessons using the hotel’s open kitchen during
the mornings when it is not used. Another hotel offered women empowerment classes using
the hotel facilities for a company to provide programs for women.

Pullman offer fitness and nutritional guidance through the Sarah Hoey program which is
 open to anyone – guest or local community.
 By inviting and engaging the local community into the Sarah Hoey program it allows the hotel to have more funds to provide better programs for the guests of the hotel.

LM: Do you think wellness has become a status symbol? And how is it shaping luxury?

CC: I do not think wellness has become a status symbol but I do think wellness is benefiting from good media support and has gone beyond a trend to becoming part of the expectations in many societies. In the spa industry for example, there has 
been a shift from pampering to providing therapeutic massages. Education into conservation, sustainability and healthy living has now enabled these to be part of the lifestyle expectations for the younger generation. The obvious benefits of sustainability have extended to all generations once the education, knowledge and awareness became apparent.

     “In most cases the typical scenario is that the hotel provides services that attract the local community to participate. However, another aspect is where the hotel provides the location for local wellness providers.’’                                                                                                 

The same is happening for wellness and societies are recognizing this both at an institutional level such as government programs and policies and at individual levels in choices of activities, eating habits and leisure pursuits. This has nothing to do with luxury – it is available to anyone and benefits society. Luxury services are being influenced by trends in society and recent developments within hotel brands have demonstrated an interest in wellness. The recent developments have also demonstrated that there is still no consensus on how wellness should be ‘delivered’ to the guests. Some brands are choosing to redefine fitness, others are doing it through design of the hotel or the guest room or in services within the spa.

We have a macro and micro approach to wellness. I would like Accor to have a macro approach that tackles some bigger issues such as air, water and lighting quality so that our hotels offered best in class. If we can provide the best in these services then we will provide many subconscious benefits
 to our guests that can only be realized when you stay at the hotels and experience the alternatives. This is the macro approach that benefits all Accor guests.

The micro focus is where we identify services that matter to the specific guest type for each brand. For example Swissotel have created a guest room built around vitality. The guest room offers great quality air; circadian lighting; aroma therapy baths; functional furniture for work, rest and play; organic mini bar; virtual trainer; a wardrobe fitted with customized exercise equipment; and special flooring. The first was built in Zurich and further ones are opening in Chicago and Singapore. Within Fairmont there are different well-being programs that enable any Fairmont Hotel to select the aspects that are most relevant to that hotel. Some of the best examples are the Fairmont Palm, Dubai; Fairmont Kea Lani, Hawaii; and Grand del Mar in California. These hotels have taken on a full program of activities, services and facilities available for hotel guests and local community.

LM: How do you think wellness can be personalized at a guest level?

CC: Society is still in a state of discovery. The concept of wellness has many interpretations and guest expectations. Different parts of the world have had wellness for many years packaged in many different names from Russian banyas to Turkish hamams. From the outdoor healthy lifestyles of the Austrian alps to wilderness retreats in Canada. This provides many options for each hotel to provide wellness services that are specific to their location and can be tailored to each individual. Our role is to provide the templates and guidelines to enable the hotels to develop their own programs. It is not just
 a matter of personalizing at the guest level but being able to allow each hotel to develop wellness in a style specific to that location.

     “Wellness is benefiting from good media support and has gone beyond a trend to becoming part of the expectations in many societies.’’                                                                                                 

Since our team is a global provider we are able to see what practices and programs are popular and we become aware of innovative ideas. By providing great guidelines and being able to support individual hotels with innovative ideas we can help each brand develop their own style of wellness. Our ultimate goal is to have all our guests leave the hotel feeling better than when they arrived at the hotel. This is a state 
of wellbeing and the wellness services are the journeys the guest can take to achieve that state of well-being. This is achieved by offering great design with an environment that improves the energy levels in the guest (through lighting, air quality, space, etc.) and thoughtful services from nutritious food options to great spa, fitness and beauty services to a great night’s sleep.

The most important aspect of all of this is a mindset change by all hotel employees and engaging a champion within the hotel that can synergize all of the wellness services so that a guest leaves in a state of positive well-being. This applies to any hotel – urban or resort.

To summarize we are still at a point where experimentation is being used to discover what wellness means for hotel guests. I think that all luxury hotels will have some form of wellness services within the next five years. We are developing different wellness services for each of our brands. There is natural overlap as there are common themes for wellness – food, fitness, relaxation (spa), therapy (both physical with massages and mental with practitioners and therapists) and sleep.

LM: How do Accor’s digital concierge services interact with wellness?

CC: The possibilities for our digital concierge services within the wellness sphere are endless. We recently launched an application on the French market that targets local residents living in areas around our hotels, allowing them to see the availability and reserve wellness services on offer in our hotels. These range from massages, spa & beauty salon access to day-use hotel rooms, gym access, sports coaches and Pilates classes. Hotel guests may use the application in the same way.

Through the digital concierge, local residents can also reserve rooms to organize their
 own wellness activities such as yoga classes or manicure parties with their friends. If a user needs to make a specific enquiry, a real- life concierge is available 24/7 through the application which is operated by John Paul, our concierge service company.

     “The concept of wellness has many interpretations and guest expectations. Different parts of the world have had wellness for many years packaged in many different names from Russian banyas to Turkish hamams. From the outdoor healthy lifestyles of the Austrian alps to wilderness retreats in Canada.’’                                                                                                 

John Paul is never 100% digital as we believe that the force of our concierge services lies in the perfect combination of real life expert concierges with cutting-edge technology to provide a best in class service adapted entirely to the needs of our guests. The application will be rolled out gradually to markets worldwide and is destined for local residents and hotel guests alike.

Additionally, this year we launched a digital concierge program for our Thalassotherapy hotel guests with the goal of extending the wellbeing they experience during their stay, all year round, wherever they may be. Through their member space, a concierge is available pre-stay, during- stay, and post-stay to attend to their general needs, whether for organizing a babysitter during their absence, booking train tickets or reserving their therapy package. Through the program, members receive not only recommendations
 and information on benefits and privileges for their next Thalassotherapy stay at AccorHotels, but also on a wide range of other offers in the wellness sphere such as reductions on health and beauty products, advice on sport routines and invitations to museums.

As the digital concierge allows our guests to experience wellness throughout the year, our concierges are trained to provide them with specific advice. If they require a sport coach 
at home, a recommendation for a gluten free gourmet restaurant or information the best electric bike on the market, we can assist them. More generally, all concierge services offered by John Paul are essentially a “wellness experience” as the service is designed to promote the daily wellness of members and improve their quality of life by relieving them of difficult tasks and delighting them through unique experiences that would otherwise be inaccessible.

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