As the Director of Business Development for COMO Shambhala, Lisa Manser focuses on helping travellers work on their wellness. With over 15 year’s experience in the wellness industry, she talks business travel, wellness on the road, and how COMO Hotels & Resorts is bridging the two with Gayatri Bhaumik.
What elements of your resorts are you bringing to your urban properties to enhance the wellness experience?
COMO Shambhala is our wellness philosophy that started over 20 years ago and we have progressed it to our urban properties to offer a 360-degree offering so guests can choose to be well wherever they travel.
Our offerings in urban properties may be smaller or more streamlined, but we consistently embrace our COMO Shambhala signatures, from our aromatherapy products and cuisine to yoga and meditation, and our holistic Asian-inspired treatments. Furthermore, we’re able to offer specialised wellness therapies from carefully selected local wellness experts.
How are companies approaching wellness and employee welfare?
We are definitely seeing a shift in the importance of employee welfare and there is an increasing amount of research that proves that by prioritising employee welfare companies are experiencing positive results, from less absenteeism to enhanced employee productivity, and quite simply, happier employees.
More recently, companies are beginning to reward their employees with wellness therapies, wellness memberships, spa days, and healthy cuisine vouchers, instead of the historically popular offers of Champagne, fancy meals and indulgent trips. Companies are working with wellness consultants to consider lighting, plants, office setups and air quality, for example, to enhance the wellbeing of their employees.
With this in mind, we launched a corporate wellbeing programme called COMO Shambhala Urban Escape London this year, where companies can bring in the expertise of COMO Shambhala and include it as part of their total wellbeing program. We’re aiming to roll this out to all the COMO Shambhala urban locations globally.
Business travellers would most likely be heading to your urban properties in London, Bangkok, Perth and Miami. How are these properties geared towards business travellers, and specifically, to helping them maximise their off-duty hours?
We believe that it’s important to offer variety and flexibility, and with this in mind our healthful nutrition, yoga mats in all our rooms, 24-hour fitness centres, rooms designed for calmness, and aromatherapy and balms to help stimulate and de-stress are key to business travellers in our urban properties.
We’re also working towards offering shorter, results-driven treatments and therapies, red-eye programmes to assist with recovery, and ensuring that we’re able to work with their travel schedules by offering out-of-hours options if they need early or late treatments.
What type of spa treatments appeal most to business travellers?
Whilst the shorter treatments are helpful for time-poor travellers, the 60-minute COMO Shambhala or Deep Tissue Full Body massage is still the most popular as this aids to increase circulation and relaxation, and releases built-up tension in feet, legs, back, shoulders and neck. This massage will also assist in combating jet-lag, enhancing sleep, and reenergising the mind and body.
Business travellers are sometimes forced to eat unhealthily when on the road. Does Como offer any way to get around this?
Our hotels and resorts offer our COMO Shambhala cuisine and juice menus, which were designed to inspire the palate while also being rich in antioxidants, which help buffer the effects of free radicals and street. The food is high in protein – either plant-based or animal – and our recipes are created to help remove sources of irritation and inflammation.
Have you noticed a change in how business travellers approach food? Are they being more health conscious?
Yes, very much so, especially as flight companies and airports are continually exploring different ways to encompass healthier options in their cuisine offerings. Furthermore, information is increasingly available at the tips of our fingers so the business traveller is definitely becoming more food savvy.
What are the biggest complaints, health-wise, you’ve heard from business travellers? Why do you think these are the biggest issues?
Quite simply, the biggest complaints invariably stem from stress. Complaints range from lack of sleep due to travelling affecting the body and mind in numerous ways. Sleep deprivation can also cause digestive issues, but these will also occur due to the change of routine, an increasing in convenient, processed foods, a lack of water, and often an increase in alcohol intake. All the above will create imbalances in the body and the mind, creating more stress.
Travel and the associated stress generate tension within the body, which manifests as tension and tightness in muscles and joints. This has a knock-on effect as a traveller may then experience headaches, migraines, sleeplessness, or even eating disorders, and won’t be at their best for meetings or whatever work they’re in town for. Increased stress results in poorer productivity – it’s a vicious cycle as poor productivity creates further stress.
Getting a good night’s sleep on the road can be tough. Can Como Hotels help?
All our COMO hotels’ design, décor and furnishings are conducive for sleep. It’s calm and uncluttered. This is deliberate as we see the bedroom as a space to sleep. In our urban locations, our rooms are also setup for work, so they have all the facilities to allow work to happen with ease and in the right environment – there’s no crazy artwork or colours.
Our well-trained COMO Shambhala therapists and specialists are also available for bookings; they can offer treatments that are particularly well-suited to enable a good night’s sleep.
What trends have you noticed about business travellers’ attitudes towards wellness?
We’re continually seeing a change in attitudes due to the heightened awareness of wellbeing, both personally and in the workplace, and there is definitely opportunity for growth in this area.
More and more, business travellers expect their hotels to offer healthy foods, rooms with the latest technology, good professional services, fitness facilities, and eco-friendliness. They’re also looking for that home-away-from-home feeling with easy to use facilities and professional advice; many have their own routines at home for nutrition, treatments and exercise, but have also developed travel routines and workouts. They want to be able to stay in places where they’re able to continue these routines easily as it’s their way of life.
Not only are business travellers increasingly tagging on a few days before or after their trips, but they’re also maximising their time off by not scheduling dinners every night. Some try to keep to the same time zone their homes are in so they can get in and out quickly without much disruption. So they’ll be up at 4am to do their workout, answer emails, and take early meetings, then have an early dinner and be in bed by 8pm. We have 24-hour access to our gyms and serve our wellness cuisine even on the late night menu so they can keep to these timings and still have their wellbeing options. Business travellers pay more attention to ensuring their wellbeing is a priority.
Have business travellers changed the way they work out? Are there any trends you’re seeing now? Is it still all about the hotel gym?
They want to be able to work out wherever they want, whenever they want. Our hotels offer a yoga mat in each room, and many travellers use a multitude of fitness or yoga apps to do a quick yoga session, HIIT routine, or stretch. Our gyms offer spaces for functional fitness as well as cardio and machines, and we have a range of fitness experts and trainers they can book.
But staying healthy isn’t just about working out. Meditation, mindfulness and breath techniques have become aprt of the wellness arsenal. We’re working on streamlining our treatments for time-poor business travellers, especially at our urban locations. They can make private therapy bookings or sessions with our meditation and yoga specialists at odd hours; and in our London property, we have yoga and meditation channels in-rooms. We also offer energy healing, structural alignment and reiki practitioners in our urban properties, as much as possible.