The non-gaming property further develops its wellness focus

Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas’ director of sales and marketing is a “spa girly.”

“When I’m on vacation, it’s a big priority for me,” says Ali Murray. “It’s something I’ve always loved and I think that it’s something our city is missing a little bit. You don’t think of Vegas as a health and wellness destination typically. I think we have something really unique and special here.”

Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas places a lot of focus on its spa and wellness offerings and earlier this year Murray and fellow spa girlies Mailani Wendt, senior sales and marketing coordinator, and Michele Wilkos, director of spa and recreation, got together and created something to further solidify its position as a wellness destination on the Las Vegas Strip. The property’s new spa and wellness experience, Holistic Harmony Wellness Retreat, officially launched March 18.

The first week was their way to test the project and develop their proof of concept, Murray says, following up with several questions she and her team are now asking. “Does this work? Are people going to get into it? Can we sell it? Can we grow it for groups? Can we sell it to individuals?”

Wilkos says she was excited when Murray brought the idea to her.

“My favorite thing is putting events together,” Wilkos says. “I love to see the outcome of what we’ve shared with everybody when it comes to health and wellness. It’s [about] taking care of yourself, taking that moment to step away from the day-to-day life and grind…It’s about meeting new people and sharing stories. It’s about feeling good about your body and mind.

glass and blue folded card
Non-alcoholic beverage and conversation-starter card

“If we could put a sequence of services and treatments, good food, good product and good exercise that brings people together and [they] see a benefit to it, that’s what we’re always looking for…The world is a busy place, so we have to kind of bring it down a couple notches sometimes.”

Holistic Harmony serves as just the setting for attendees to come together and share stories. During dinners on day one and day two, next to the cutlery, glasses of water and non-alcoholic beverages, sat folded cards with handwritten questions in them. The dialogue created by some of the questions encouraged attendees to engage openly with the rest of the group. Attendees sat in front of conversation-starters like:

  • What are you passionate about right now?
  • What childhood items do you wish you still had in adulthood?
  • What is your favorite characteristic about someone in the group?

The group didn’t get to each card, owing to the amount of conversation sparked from just one question. This says much about the power that even one thought-provoking question can have among a group.

Also included in Holistic Harmony’s three-day experience along with those two dinners are two morning wellness activities, sound bathing by moonlight, and a five-hour spa experience that includes three treatments based on the attendee’s needs and a lunch.

Simplifying Spa Booking for Planners

pool with three metal chaise lounges
Vitality Pool

As the program is still in its nascent phase, the team is working things out and determining what works best for both planners and leisure guests. Currently, on Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas’ website, there’s only an option to choose for a maximum of two people. Murray says this is still part of developing the program.

“Part of what this is is creating the process and understanding better what we can scale for groups and what we can’t scale for groups,” she says. “Now, we’ll be able to put something clearer together for groups. In the past, anything we’ve done from a group perspective has really been bespoke, like one-off a la carte [programs]. I’d connect the meeting planner with Michelle and they’d create something special for the group. There hasn’t been a menu selection, but that’s something that is going to be created this year.”

Read More: 7 Ways to Embed Wellness in Your Meetings

Murray says now when her team is selling to a new group, they’ll be able to send a group spa brochure in advance, providing the planner a list of spa treatments to choose from. “That doesn’t mean we still won’t do customized events for certain groups. We will still have that option, but I think a lot of groups don’t know what to ask for. They need us to provide them the brochure of ideas so that they can get their own wheels turning.”

Although many meeting profs often don’t know where to begin, Murray says knowledge of what to ask for in terms of wellness is becoming more common. And given the wide net of personality when it comes to groups and individuals, personalization of the term “wellness,” already somewhat amorphous, becomes even more challenging to get a grip on.

“Every now and again we’ll hear from a planner, ‘We want to incorporate wellness,’ but they don’t know really know what that means,” Murray says. As an example, she referenced a 250-attendee finance group who were in the hotel during the retreat’s first run. “A planner for that might not want to do yoga for 250 finance people, that might not fit their vibe. They may want to do 10 minutes or 15 minutes of meditation. We can provide that for them.”

Personalizing the Experience

grey cushions in circle, woman sitting in middle
Sound bathing

Wilkos says she likes to look at the personalities, physical needs and habits of attendees to understand them better, thus giving them a better experience. “We really want to get into who you are in these types of retreats because this is where it’s personalized,” she says. “This is where you are to be special.”

With Holistic Harmony, the personalization experience starts before attendees even step foot on property. Before arrival, attendees are sent a pre-arrival survey which asks about an attendee’s main focus for the retreat, their intention and areas of concern (lower back or hands, feet and scalp, for example), meant to offer a more personalized experience.

Read More: Wellness Tips for Meetings and Events

That personalization element is something the team says they see missing from many spas. To increase personalization, Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas staff members are required to build relationships with spa visitors. “It could be a minimal relationship, but they need to know our guests or wherever they’re walking in the facilities. That is the biggest difference that I’ve seen in spas,” Murray says.

Along with personalization, the spa team also makes sure they’re on top of the latest trends in spa and wellness and are always adjusting to guests’ needs. “Continuing to evolve and change is really big because otherwise you get stagnant,” Murray says. “You want people to come back for another new experience. You want that repeat guest. You really only get that if you can provide them something different every time.”
Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas Pilots Holistic Harmony Wellness Retreat

New Spa and Wellness Trends

Much like the events industry, the spa industry is constantly changing and discovering new ways to pamper its visitors. There are several things the team at Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas has been seeing and introducing in their facilities.

Touchless Wellness Services: “That’s big on the market right now,” Wilkos says. She adds that treatments such as infrared sauna or compression-type services provide treatment and health benefits without the need of physical touch.

Co-ed Spaces: Communal spaces in a spa’s wet areas, vitality pools, saunas and steam rooms. Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas features a combined lounge that sits between the women’s and men’s spa changing room and facilities.

Murray says sometimes groups want to come in and take over the spa. “If you buy out the spot for your group, then the whole place becomes Co-ed,” she says. “That’s been a real trend, as people want to be able to hang out with each other.”

Experiencing Wellness Indoors and Out: Murray says, beyond the spa, bringing the experience indoors via grounding exercise, journaling or a meditation right in the meeting room, or taking it outside, in the form of a wellness walk (which is on day two of Holistic Harmony—a 2-mile, early morning walk, with intermittent body exercises along the way, down The Strip) or morning yoga (on day three) by the property’s outdoor pool. Both of these are led by certified Pilates and Yoga Instructor Mary Jane.

Healthier Menus: Ten years ago, planners asking for healthier, more sustainable menus wasn’t a thing, Murray says. “Now, every meeting planner is asking for [it]. Everybody’s coming in with dietary restrictions, and asking, ‘How do we make things more vegan, dairy-free or gluten-free?’”

She says they’re finding the topic becoming more top of mind for planners. “Maybe the evolution of this is starting with food and beverage offerings and now that we’re kind of there, it’s moving further into spa and wellness, and other areas of the property.”

In keeping with the wellness theme, the property offered only non-alcoholic beverages but Wilkos didn’t dismiss a group’s proclivity to “have a good time” during off-hours. In fact, she said they’d probably create some sort of service to combat the effects of the night before.

“If there was a group that came in for a wellness retreat and they wanted to go out…that’s fine. We would probably create some kind of detoxification service first thing in the morning, so it balances everything out. We just make it work, we listen to our customers to find out what the best treatment and best experience will be for them. We want them to enjoy it.”