sha mexico exterior pool

The Growth of Wellness Tourism in Hotel and Resort Interior Design

Waldorf Astoria New York will debut a 30,000-square-foot spa when it opens in 2024. Luxury hotel chain Banyan Group recently launched Banyan Tree Veya, a brand focused on personal wellness. London is host to three sleep hotels, with more on the way. These all point to one thing: wellness tourism is on the rise.

Much more than a trip to a spa or a yoga class, wellness has evolved into a lifestyle. The wellness tourism market is estimated to reach a record breaking $1.3 trillion in 2025. Wellness travel often refers to destinations with wellbeing incorporated throughout the whole location. Designers subtly weave luxury and wellbeing into these destinations, creating spaces that just feel good, without guests necessarily knowing why. In this article, we will explore the ways hotel and resort designers are promoting wellbeing throughout interiors.

Sleep

Hilton recently revealed that this year’s top travel trend is sleep tourism, with rest and recharge being the most prominent reasons for travel in 2024. This is arguably the most prominent sector of wellness tourism to emerge in recent years. As we spend an estimated third of our lives sleeping, guests are choosing to invest in their sleep quality. Recent research has also indicated that good sleep is critical for bodily restoration, cognition, fat loss and the immune system. To combat the loss of sleep often associated with resting in a new environment such as a hotel suite, designers are incorporating higher quality mattresses and bedding, soundproofing materials, and room controls for lighting and temperature. These designs are guided by sleep science research.

In early 2020, London’s first sleep hotel opened. Zedwell hotels have been designed to optimise sleep for guests. The brand has since grown, with three properties currently open and more in the pipeline. With health and wellbeing at the forefront of this boutique brand’s ethos, the hotel experience has been overhauled to place good sleep centre stage in these urban sanctuaries. Within Zedwell’s several properties, guests stay in windowless, sound insulated ‘cocoons’. These feature ambient mood lighting to promote healthy circadian rhythm and a purified air system that encourages deep sleep. Guest rooms are also intentionally free from TVs to reduce distractions and create minimal spaces that encourage clearer minds.

Location

Many destinations are taking inspiration from their surroundings to promote wellbeing. Hilton reported that 40% of global travellers are prioritising learning about different cultures and destinations in 2024. By immersing guests in local cultures, traditions and environments, hotels and resorts can enrich guests’ travel experiences. Some of the ways location can inspire wellness design is through the inclusion of locally sourced furnishings, materials, colour palettes, or design styles, and making nods to regional cultures and histories.

Cardo Roma, Autograph Collection joined Autograph Collection Hotels bringing the brand’s independent spirit to the vibrant district of Esposizione Universale Roma. The 324-guestroom hotel is a creative hub for modern nomads seeking vibrant, inspiring workspaces and meaningful experiences that connect them to the city’s culture. The inviting lobby sets the scene with an earthy colour palette and playful geometric design. This features curved arches and 3D textured walls. The 70’s inspired interiors have been brought to life by Amsterdam-based designer Saar Zafrir. Reminiscent of the Roman Empire, the interiors also incorporate an elegant palette of rich olive green, warm terracotta, and subtly sophisticated off-white.

Wellness is integral to the hotel’s design. Olea Wellness and Spa lies at the heart of the hotel. This generous, 1,200 square-metre sanctuary is dedicated to rejuvenating the body and mind. Guests can dip into an aquatic haven featuring an ethereal bathing experience reminiscent of ancient Rome with four pools, a traditional sauna, a hammam and six treatment rooms.

More than one approach

While wellness may bring an image of peace and zen, muted colours and tranquillity to mind, it is actually more diverse. Some urban resorts and wellness retreats place more emphasis on vibrant interiors and programs that energize guests. Cardo Roma is a perfect example of this, providing guests with a healing mix of heritage, work hubs and hospitality. This pays homage to the brand’s name inspiration, the Cardo, a type of lively central north-south street that ran across cities in ancient Roman times. Lined with shops and food vendors, the hotel embodiments of these once beating hearts of cities are now bustling hubs for globetrotters.

Sustainability

Sustainability is the new standard for hotel and resort interiors, inspiring many environmentally responsible design trends. Harvard Business Review reported that 58% of travellers would pay at least 5% more if they knew there would be a lighter environmental footprint. This is largely driven by the younger generation who value sustainability most, reports Expedia Group. Some of the ways hotel interior designs can be more sustainably minded include using natural, locally sourced materials and furniture, sensor controlled lighting, reducing artificial lighting, repurposing furniture and through biophilic design.

An eco-friendly coastal haven

Rising above the Mayan jungle in a striking building inspired by the human genome, SHA Mexico is a hideaway providing an idyllic health and wellbeing retreat. Designed by renowned Mexican architectural firm, Sordo Madaleno and the prestigious interior designer, Alejandro Escudero, the property seamlessly blends the indoors with the outdoors. Its interiors provide an organic, sustainable and contemporary feel. Thoughtfully selected natural materials such as Mexican ceramics, wicker, autochthonous textiles, and marble, in combination with the use of renewable energies, minimise environmental impact throughout.

Outside, lush tropical gardens have been curated by Maat Handasa, who designed the landscape to respect the local species. With its own stretch of white sand beach, SHA Mexico sits across from the largest coral reef in the northern hemisphere. This marine ecosystem hosts many protected species. The complex features 35 residences and 100 oceanfront rooms & suites, each with private balconies that feature panoramic vistas of the turquoise Caribbean Sea. They also boast luxurious bathrooms fitted with rain showers. During their stay, guests can enjoy a state-of-the-art fitness centre, unwind in infinity pools, zen gardens, tropical spaces, and dive into the resort’s many aquatic activities.

Nature

Biophilic design is on the rise in hotels and resorts. As well as being a top 2024 design trend, biophilia is becoming a predominant feature of wellbeing spaces. This is due to the proven health benefits that being among nature provides. These include stress reduction, higher attention spans, improved air quality, and increased happiness. Biophilic hotel design also fosters more unique and memorable guest experiences.

Research has shown that spending time near the water is essential to sustained happiness. Referred to as ‘blue spaces’, bodies of water create a sense of awe, calm the senses, and encourage mindfulness. The practice of spending time in blue spaces to improve wellbeing is known as ‘blue mind’ philosophy. Situated on the picturesque Lake Austin, the Lake Austin Spa Resort lets nature take centre stage. This resort’s interiors are bathed in mellow greens, blues and ochre, mimicking the natural palette of its surroundings. Features such as the floating dock bring guests closer to the water to soak in its health benefits. Many of the resort’s interiors take a backseat to the stunning lake views visible through large windows.

With wellbeing weaved into the resort’s identity, Lake Austin Spa Resort boasts a staggering 25,000 square-foot Lakehouse Spa offering exquisite and exclusive facials by Valmont, as well as a new hydrotherapy contrast bathing circuit. With ‘blue mind’ as the guide, Lake Austin Spa Resort has created signature Ripple Effects programme designed to give guests a deeper understanding of the transformational properties of water. Many fitness and wellness classes are water-based, from floating meditation to the Olympic sport of sculling.

Wellness as a brand

Originally confined to the spa or gym, wellness spaces have grown significantly. Legacy Hotel & Residences Miami will debut world’s first Blue Zones Center in 2025. This 170,000 square-foot medical and wellness centre will offer everything from surgeries to health therapies and spa treatments. However, in some cases, the wellness focus is expanded beyond dedicated zones; it is woven throughout the entire destination. In recent years, there has been a growth in entire resorts, hotels, or even brands, that are purely dedicated to wellbeing.

In 2022, Banyan Tree Group launched a dedicated resort wellbeing brand, Banyan Tree Veya. Veya provides a safe space to integrate a guest’s own path to wellbeing. The Veya experience is led by certified multidisciplinary wellbeing hosts and based on a 3-step protocol of Awareness, Discovery, and Sustenance. The flagship Banyan Tree Veya Phuket’s architecture weaves in references to its tropical lagoon location throughout the resort. This includes a floating island lobby and an all-pool design in guest suites. Banyan Tree Veya is also expanding to Mexico with Banyan Tree Veya, Valle de Guadalupe. Blending into the rolling hills, Banyan Tree Veya, Valle de Guadalupe consists of 30 sleek and modern villas that carve a tranquil sanctuary harnessing the area’s surrounding beauty. With wellness at the heart, Banyan Tree Veya’s resorts provide many opportunities for rest and relaxation, from distraction-free meditation rooms to hydrotherapy pools.

Want more of this?

Check out the Hotel & Resort Design South blog for more design insights and the latest industry updates. Hotel and Resort Design South is a hotel product-sourcing and networking platform for those involved in the design of hotels and resorts in the South and LATAM regions. The next event will be taking place on 3 – 4 June 2025 alongside Cruise Ship Interiors Design Expo Americas at the Miami Beach Convention Center.

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