Health & Hospitality

Health and hospitality: Connections, challenges and opportunities

4 May 2018 | by Guest Author


The world of hospitality, as well as its related sectors, continues to grow. 10.2 per cent of world GDP (US$7.6 trillion) is linked to hospitality, tourism & travel, healthcare and wellness. The latter’s market is now worth $3.4 trillion, making it three times larger than the worldwide pharmaceutical industry (Global Wellness Institute, 2017).

There are numerous connections between health and hospitality. During a recent workshop at Les Roches Bluche, Vanessa Candeias – Project Head of Global Health and Healthcare System Initiatives at the World Economic Forum – discussed with our graduate students emerging health-related challenges and opportunities for the hospitality sector.

Infectious diseases and outbreaks

In 2015, the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) that hit South Korea caused numbers to drop by 40 per cent within a month. The cost in lost revenue was close to USD 10 billion.

“That’s too much money to not plan for,” Vanessa said. “The hospitality industry cannot take the risk to wait for a second crisis to just happen. This has taken place even though the World Health Organization did not recommend travel restrictions and its Director General, Margaret Chan, reassured through the media that she believed South Korea was well equipped to control the spread of the outbreak.”The need for contingency plans

“As hospitality leaders, we need to have contingency plans,” Vanessa said. “A dedicated Chief Health Officer would be an ideal addition to the board of directors. The CHO can thus plan for the crisis response and establish communication channels with governments, guests and healthcare officials.”

Hospitality can also be a part of the solution by offering its staff the required training to assist affected guests and opening its facilities, which have all resources required, to manage the outbreak.

During the Ebola outbreak, Brussels Airlines was the only company traveling to the affected countries. Thanks to Brussels Airlines, which was largely acknowledged for its willingness to train its staff to travel in the affected areas, health officials were able to travel and do necessary tasks and contain the outbreak. This is a very good example of how the industry can engage to limit the loss instead of deserting to amplify the losses.

Senior travellers

By 2020, in OECD countries, people over 65 will represent more than 20 per cent of the total population, approximately 40 per cent of the size of the working population and more than 40 per cent of total consumption across all markets (BNP Paribas, 2017).

“How would the hotel staff respond when people over 65 check-in with their pharmacy kits and require primary/basic medical assistance?” Vanessa questioned. When this becomes one of the biggest customer segments, appropriate adjustments must be made to satisfy them.

Hospitality can respond by adjusting its facilities through smart designs. It can also train its staff to better understand the needs of this increasingly demanding segment. Wellness real estate has recently seen a big boom and will be the gaining further momentum in coming years. Serviced residential compounds with common community spaces and nursing care, along with socialising activities, will seriously challenge hotels.


Loneliness could be as bad for health as smoking. The UK has just recently appointed a Minister for Loneliness, and Japanese seniors are deliberately committing petty crimes to be sent to jails so they can bond with prisoners.

Hospitality is about happiness and about staging interactions between people. According to Robert Waldinger, Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, close relationships and strong community – more than fame, class, money, IQ, or even genes –  are what keep people healthy and happy.

During a recent guest lecture with graduate students at Les Roches, Susie Ellis, Chairman and CEO Global Wellness Institute, emphasised the importance of community building within hospitality. She believes that technology should facilitate interactions with people and help them bond among themselves.

Susie also mentioned a robot dog which is being used in Japan to provide elderly people feel with companionship. Surprisingly, the robot dog gives a perfect living animal touch with the added benefit of reduced care time, fitting perfectly to people with limited mobility.

Healthy technology

During her guest lecture, Susie mentioned that the few wellness facilities, who had a very strict “no-tech” policy, are now integrating technology to deliver more wellness experiences and enable people to have healthier stays.

Few examples include:

  • Digitalised / smart beds, measuring sleep patterns and auto-regulating temperatures, enabling natural sleep and natural awakening, collecting sleep data and communicating with other devices
  • AI sleep trackers integrated with smart homes, allowing you to disconnect from all other devices while sleeping
  • Spa room built with copper plates in walls to block all signals and enable healthier atmosphere within the living spaces
  • Unplugged experiences proposed by hotels allowing you to be selectively informed of information through other methods

Non-communicable diseases

According to Vanessa , in a room with 100 people, roughly 60 will die from a NCD (non-communicable disease). Of these 60 people, around 44 will die of an NCD before their 70th birthday.

NCDs are the biggest global economic burden. Hospitality can do much more than simply providing wellness and relaxation environments –  it an actually inspire people to adapt healthy lifestyles and “edutain” them during their stays.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bilal Hassan is currently leading Strategic Business Project, Applied Research Project and Health & Wellness classes at Les Roches Bluche. He is also co-founder of SoHappy Institute Geneva, integrating traditional and alternative medicine with applied happiness research to create workshops that enable people to lead happier lives.

Guest Author


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