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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Reed

Seeing your guest as a human being: Why therapy and travel are the perfect partnership

I wrote this article on behalf of my client, Synergy - The Retreat Show...

Would you use the services of a hotel's in-house therapist?

We’re increasingly seeing the integration of tourism and psychological care in response to a rising demand for mental health support and in-person connection during travel.

It’s a move beyond the physical body - which has so often been the focus of wellness programs - to look at what’s going on inside, too.

This shift has seen a growing number of hotels and resorts offer online or in-person therapy to guests during their stay.

Such an offering makes perfect sense in many ways. Travel and mental wellbeing go hand in hand.

We already know that travelling can have an amazing impact on our mental health; from lowered stress and anxiety to increased creativity and connectivity. It can remind us of the kindness of strangers, that the world isn’t so bad after all and give a much-needed perspective to our problems (it’s difficult not to feel insignificant – in a good way - when admiring the Grand Canyon).

Travel takes us away from distractions back home; allowing us to pause, reflect and to be in the mindset to talk to a professional and to try to work through difficult thoughts.

A change of scenery can help us to feel more ‘free’ and able to open up with more ease, and to see a different perspective.

Perhaps you might be busy mother who is unable to carve out time during her day-to-day schedule to talk through her thoughts without disturbance. Or a couple on a vacation to save their relationship that’s in desperate need of couples therapy. Maybe you’re burnout at work with little time to think. An escape where therapy is as easily available as ordering a burger from room service, might be the perfect solution.

On the other hand, you might find yourself struggling mentally on a trip. Unable to switch off from emails and WhatsApp notifications, or disappointed by high expectations that you had about a break. Speaking to a therapist in this scenario can give your mental wellbeing a much-needed boost.

Or it might be that a guest is unable to access mental health services at home due to growing waitlists, so being able to access therapy during a hotel stay can be a great selling point for hotels.

It’s common practice for wellness resorts worldwide to have in-house psychologists and psychotherapists.

But now we’re seeing non-wellness focused hotel brands embrace the trend, as well as wellness programs that traditionally focused on fixing the outside of the body incorporating mental health practitioner support, too.

Last year, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants announced a partnership with leading online behavioural health company, Talkspace, to roll out mental health services to its guests and to 4,000+ employees across the country.

And a lot of its offering was complimentary, with up to 1,000 free video therapy sessions with licensed counsellors available to any guest over the age of 18, and a free year-long Talkspace subscription given to all eligible employees - from front line employees to managers.

It’s positive to see Kimpton consider the wellness of their employees, as well as guests. Take care of your staff and this will have a positive impact on the guest experience, too.

Senior Strategic Adviser of Six Senses, Anna Bjurstam, spoke about this at Synergy – The Retreat Show ’22; reflecting on the importance of taking care of employees at retreat venues. She said: “We have got to walk our talk. All our staff and our employees; we need to actually take care of them, before we take care of our guests. Because nowadays we are seeing a shift where the guests know when we are not treating the team as good as they are supposed to be treated, in order to deliver what they are supposed to be delivering.”

“It's about making sure that the food that you share with your employees is good food, and that they are able to access all of the wellness that your guests are able to access.”

When a service such as in-person therapy is offered to guests, it’s ultimately about accepting that a guest is human and that they might not arrive at hotel in the best mindset.

John Stewart, Founder and Chairman of Kamalaya Koh Samui Wellness Sanctuary & Holistic Spa, also spoke at Synergy – The Retreat Show ‘22 about the importance of treating guests like human beings.

He said: I would like to see the ‘consumer’ removed and replaced with ‘people and guests’ because this journey is really about the human relationships, and we have such an incredible opportunity. It is when we treat people where they are at, and really greet them where they are at, and we invite them on this journey; that they really accept and willingly dive into this journey.”

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