Health-conscious travelers now make up more than 40 percent of the U.S. travel marketplace and that number is trending upward. Already a $439 billion market, the wellness travel industry is expected to grow another 50 percent through 2017, according to the Global Wellness Tourism Congress (GWTC). Meanwhile, hotels and resorts are spending billions of dollars on new facilities and upgrading existing properties to meet the demand of travelers looking for the best possible healthy destination experience.
To help legitimize the business of healthy travel destinations, a new, first of its kind nonprofit has been formed called the Institute for Healthy Destination Accreditation (IHDA). The Washington, D.C.-based IHDA utilizes a proprietary science-based certification process, the only one in the industry, designed to help resorts and hotels measure and improve their health-related initiatives, amenities, facilities and personnel. Likewise, the IHDA-operated website http://www.travelhealthy.org will serve as a consumer portal where health-focused traveler scan find useful and timely IHDA-certified information about healthy travel options throughout the U.S. and eventually throughout the world.
IHDA co-founders, Mary Ellen Rose, Ph.D., who serves as chief science officer, and veteran hospitality executive, Peter Hyland, president of IHDA, spent more than three years developing IHDA and the unique science behind it. They are pleased by the reception it is getting from major hotels and resorts and associations that have been approached by IHDA.
Among the inaugural founding members are six iconic U.S. hotels/resorts that have been IHDA approved as meeting Healthy Hospitality Best Practices™ and are committed to providing a Healthy Guest Experience™. These include The Breakers Palm Beach (Fla.), The Hotel del Coronado (Calif.), The Broadmoor (Colo.), Mauna Kea Resort -- Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel (Hawaii), The Coeur d’Alene Resort (Idaho), and Airlie (Va.).
“We are excited to have this stellar group of fine resorts as our founding members,” Hyland said. “Health-conscious travelers are an extremely important customer segment and we’re confident that hundreds, if not thousands, of independents, and chain-affiliated hotels and resorts, will become IHDA members and participate in our certification process.”
IHDA – A Natural Fit for Iconic Hotels
David Burke, vice president sales and marketing for The Breakers Palm Beach, said, “We expect our accreditation with IHDA to enhance our appeal as a luxury destination to discerning, health-conscious travelers. Wellness has become a lifestyle priority for our guests, and our affiliation with IHDA as a trusted, independent source will help endorse The Breakers in that context.
Barry Brown, director of sales and marketing at The Hotel del Coronado, said he welcomed the invitation by IHDA to become a charter member. “At the Del we are always looking for ways to meet our customers’ desires, and health and well-being is a high priority for our guests as it is for us,” Brown said. “Meeting the high standards of IHDA is an added plus to communicate to our guests and travelers considering a stay at the Hotel del Coronado.”
John Rovie, vice president, sales and marketing, said, “The Broadmoor has been committed to excellence for nearly a century and understands that the standard is constantly evolving. Broadmoor guests arrive at our iconic gem in the Rockies with very high expectations and look to experience an extensive range of amenities, both indulgent and health-minded. With its unrivaled natural setting that is second to none, it is fitting for The Broadmoor to be one of the founding members of IHDA and we believe it validates our commitment to healthy travel.”
Hospitality destinations can apply online for an IHDA Approved Healthy Destination Membership at https://travelhealthy.site-ym.com/general/register_membership.asp or contact IHDA at 888.670.IHDA (4432)or email Peter Hyland at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Applicants must complete an Approved Healthy Destination Membership online questionnaire outlining the Best Practices in Healthy Hospitality™. This assessment tool demonstrates they meet the basic standards regarding programs, services, amenities and facilities contributing to the Healthy Guest Experience™. The IHDA accreditation team then evaluates the destination's Best Practices and determines whether or not it qualifies for Approved Healthy Destination (AHD) status.
If the hotel or resort property is approved, the annual membership fee is $850. A range of benefits include: Member listing in IHDA’s consumer-directed online Healthy Travel Directory; customized member profile pages within IHDA website; itemized listing showcasing the destination's Healthy Hospitality Best Practices™; consistent exposure in IHDA Travel Healthy Newsletter and through IHDA's media platform; ability to feature specific health initiatives and promotions in IHDA Travel Healthy Newsletter; access to health resources specifically designed for the hospitality industry; IHDA support with development and implementation of health promotion programs; access to post-consumer feedback from Healthy Traveler database, and approved IHDA Healthy Destination logo usage on all promotional and resort materials.
IHDA – A Trusted Source for Travelers
Chief Science Officer Dr. Rose likens IHDA’s healthy travel accreditation program to a cross between TripAdvisor® and Consumer Reports® with more science-based muscle and focused solely on the healthy aspects of travel.
“Our mission is to be the trusted source for both travel destinations and consumers, including business travelers, seeking the best possible Healthy Guest Experience™. There is growing evidence that health and wellness factors are strong consumer priorities when choosing their hospitality provider,” Dr. Rose said. “We believe true health is achieved through positive encounters in every aspect of travel. Whether the joyful result of cultivated dining options, fascinating learning experiences, intriguing environmental elements, or positive human interactions, IHDA Approved Destinations know how to enhance productivity for the business traveler, and/or improve experiences for the leisure traveler. Offering consumers a portfolio of destinations committed to the Healthy Guest Experience™ is one of the many ways we are creating the health and wellness standard in hospitality."
She cited the Deloitte Hospitality 2015 Report that presents several findings that support IHDA’s mission. This includes the rapid emergence of Lifestyle Hotels in the U.S.; the strong desire of Baby Boomers with their “forever young” attitudes to seek healthy, active and experimental travel (Baby Boomers represent 60 percent of the nation’s wealth and 40 percent of spending), the need for travel destinations to demonstrate strong brand differentiation, and the fact that 90 percent of business travelers expect hotels to have in place a proactive sustainability policy.
IHDA’s PIECES®CERTIFIED HEALTHY DESTINATION™
Dr. Rose noted that in addition to the IHDA’s Approved Healthy Destination designation program members will have the opportunity to apply for the Institute’s PIECES®CERTIFIED HEALTHY DESTINATION™ status. The PIECES® model is based on an extensive review of health research and interdisciplinary science criteria applied to the basic constructs of global health promotion. Through its assessment of almost 3,000 hospitality resources affecting the Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, Community, Environmental, and Spiritual health quality measurements, the PIECES® system has also been used to assess and improve corporate health promotion efforts, medical systems, and chronic disease management initiatives across the United States. IHDA has adopted the PIECES® system to establish and build internationally accepted benchmarks for health-promoting hospitality resources, practices and systems.
IHDA destinations have provided two types of data – Self-Reported and Verified. Data collected through the PIECES® Certified Healthy Destination process is confirmed by a Scientific Review team, subject to review by Qualified Consumer Boards, and backed by a Pledge of Data Integrity provided by destination management.
Airlie, a resort conference center located in Warrenton, Va., is the first lodging institution to be designated a Certified Healthy Destination. The IHDA PIECES® Certification serves as a discernment tool for meeting professionals, business travelers and general consumers who regard health as a significant indicator of value when selecting destinations for leisure or business travel. After undergoing a rigorous and comprehensive health-value assessment, Airlie was awarded the Silver Healthy Destination Certification by the IHDA.
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