By Adam Mogelonsky, Larry Mogelonsky

In the post-pandemic bullwhip we are still ebbing and flowing through, one big question mark is surrounding the future of business and group travel. Gone are the days of the LOS=1 road warrior as those meetings can be cheaply substituted for videoconferencing. Instead we are seeing more LOS=3 MICE where groups are looking to actually experience a destination or add in a wellness component in order to better facilitate real conversations and more meeting productivity.

This is still a very unsaturated space; while leisure has embraced wellness across most categories, business and bleisure are not there yet. For this, consider a lucrative bridge between the new revenue streams: corporate retreats. And to get a sense of what’s possible, we sat down with Ersin Pamuksuzer, founder of TheLifeCo, which has operated corporate wellness retreats out of its Turkey resorts for over two decades as complementary to its core business of wellness detox-based leisure stays.

Importantly, let’s first look at the nature of office work as we all get back on the hamster wheel from the pandemic. Many of us are overworked, stressed out and demoralized. Churn is a concern for many knowledge-worker-centric corporations, who are now looking to professionals to set up mental health and employee wellbeing policies.

To break this down, here are the risks of not taking employee wellbeing seriously:

  • Low jobsite productivity and poor team communications
  • More sick days taken and more absenteeism
  • Employee burnout and increased turnover
  • Managers leaving suddenly for no obvious reason, creating leadership gaps
  • Decreased intrapreneurship and team empowerment

In short, all this amounts to more costs and operational inefficiencies. In other words, the need has never been greater for a way to bring teams together in a great setting and combine some strategic planning sessions with wellness activities.

Not convinced? Based on what we examined with Pamuksuzer and the programming he’s set up at TheLifeCo, here are some key benefits that any hotel (urban or rural) can realize:

  1. Increased per-guest spend at each corporate retreat
  2. Ability to upgrade or upsell room types
  3. Hotel brand differentiation
  4. More off-peak revenues and occupancies
  5. Ability to co-brand wellness programming at other venues
  6. More positive word of mouth for the brand

All that glitters isn’t gold, though. Getting started demands a narrow focus of target buyers. In the early 2000s, TheLifeCo started small with one-day seminars at corporate offices in Istanbul using its internal team, with each centered around meditation classes followed by a strategy workshop. Often this involved carving out a dedicated space within the office or renting a nearby conference center as well as training a ‘wellness champion’ within each client company who would help ensure event success.

Only after some initial successes did TheLifeCo start to offer multi-night offsite retreat packages at one of its properties – in Turkey, these being situated in Bodrum and Antalya. Pamuksuzer also invited HR directors down to a resort to personally experience the amenities as a form of targeted FAM trip.

Leveraging its detox-based core business, TheLifeCo deploys a variety of its FIT-focused services for its corporate wellness retreats including healthy F&B, supervised fasting, IV supplement administration and flexibility classes, which are then mixed in with continuing professional development (CPD) sessions on efficient communications, attaining a better work-life balance, finding one’s job purpose and passion negotiations. And, of course, over the years, TheLifeCo has developed a rolodex of trained facilitators and external partners who can deliver on any specific client request or scheduling requirement.

To conclude, a hotelier or owner might ponder, “Seems like a lot of work, but where’s the profit?” As Pamuksuzer showed us, with these wellness itineraries in place, a corporate retreat quote can often double in price charged to the client. And they often go for it without haggling because the value of wellness justifies such a cost increase.

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