In my series of presenting guest bloggers with a very special expertise, my friend Ilan Geva from Chicago shares this week, why visitor’s wellbeing – which of course also relates to visitors of congresses and meetings – is a necessary investment in a destination’s branding. It is part of a holistic place branding concept and adds benefits for every client using conference facilities and add a “human scale” to our work in the MICE industry! Thanks Ilan for this great article!

Ilan Geva is owner of Ilan Geva & Friends and Founding member at Medical Travel Insight, based in Chicago, Illinois. Please do check his IN profile!

Good destination brands invest in visitors’ wellbeing

Companies, organizations and corporations are all made of three main elements: Customers, Employees and Shareholders (or just Stakeholders if they are private). But they don’t necessarily rank in that order.

Some will always seek to please the shareholders, and will do whatever it takes to make money. Others see it only natural to put the customer first, and customer service is at the top of the list no matter how costly that is. And for some, the employees are the most precious inventory of the business, with customers as a close second, and the shareholders somewhere trailing behind.
Among all brands it is not very difficult to see which group is number one, two and three.
Successful corporate brands recognize that investing in the wellbeing and health of their employees is a great business practice.
Today’s well-connected world requires that employees will stay connected and active at their job almost 24/7. Many of us are taking for granted the images of stressed employees crowding domestic and international flights, working non-stop throughout the journey.
The mere fact that Wi-Fi is now provided in all hotels, conference venues, restaurants, cafes and airplanes, literally prevents us from delaying the tasks we are facing.

Some employers have realized that stressing their most valuable asset is taking a toll. The new wave of corporate health and wellness responsibility is upon us, thankfully.

Here are some great perks that contribute to the wellbeing of certain employees:

• Fully equipped gym, showers with grooming products.
• Ping-pong, billiards or foosball, and video games .
• Laundry facilities for employees on site.
• Healthcare plan includes on-site medical staff.
• Subsidized massage program, a massage from a licensed therapist in private rooms.
• On-site haircut free of charge, Etc.

These are all in addition to the almost expected perk of having a free of charge restaurant/cafeteria serving healthy food (for a change)

But what happens if your firm is not a high-tech, well established Silicon Valley corporation?

Well, when your employees are traveling to participate in conferences, events, meetings and other business activities out of the office, they can enjoy some healthy doze of wellness.

One important and simple way to decompress employees and enhance their overall feel good mood, is to disconnect them from all smart phones, iPads, and any digital device. Just as an example, the annual IMEX trade show in Frankfurt created a device-free meditation room for attendees. The space allowed hurried participants to decompress, try a guided yoga session or learn a relaxation exercise.

As a matter of fact, there are today corporate wellness companies ready to design a program or space for your own meeting, incentive travel plans or conference program.

These things do not go unnoticed.
Destinations are adapting to this new wave of wellness related themes, and are gearing themselves to become known for offering these benefits.

It is a unique opportunity for CVBs, Conference facilities, Congress halls, and a whole variety of venues to enhance the image of their brand.

As I have learned in my long career building brands for destinations, hotels, airlines and other hospitality partners, the brand is an intangible asset.
A good brand is made of the entire experience customers have from using it, spending time within it, and transferring the experience to others.

In our case, building a brand reputation for a destination can be through actionalizing very tangible wellness assets, such as elements of the physical environment in every brand touchpoint possible.

Any destination should incorporate the “partners in crime”, from Airports, to Hotels, Venues and Congress facilities.

As in any other good brand experience, appealing to our human senses is the first to consider:

• Consider design factors such as architecture, décor, furnishing
• Consider ambient factors such as sights, sounds, smells, light, music
• Consider the overall layout of the venue, distances, ease of reach
• And finally, make sure the overall appearance is at human scale

There are many suppliers that will be happy to collaborate and advise on some of the following products and experiences that will enhance the effectiveness of your brand touchpoints:

• Focus on wellness will impact the design of buildings and enhance the brand image. As conference attendees are more aware and dedicated to personal wellness, convention centers are incorporating design elements with this in mind. It includes walking spaces or trails, natural light, views to connect attendees to the city, healthy dining options and fitness services on site.

• Furniture and equipment like fine robotic massage chairs and other luxury wellness furniture (there are all kinds of great products that improve the energy in rooms, special wood, screens etc.)

• Feng Shui has often been criticized by skeptics as a pseudoscience, the basic principle behind it, that environment affects our well being, does have a wider level of acceptance today. Feng Shui ahs an influence about the layouts of meeting and conference rooms. Atmosphere balancing: furniture placement, colors, fragrance, music etc.

• Food and beverage: Adopting new and different concepts, light and healthy portions, attention to the amount of calories, cholesterol etc.

• Training of staff to understand all the concepts of wellness within the improved wellness environment, and communicating the brand attributes and difference in the right channels and to the audience.

• The health and wellness concept should become part of a holistic approach to product branding to the MICE community.

• Actionalizing all the above helps in place branding, since all of it represents tangible assets including advantages and benefits for conference delegates, tourists, inhabitants etc.

• The wellness brand marketing presents opportunities for Co-operation with hospitals and on-site providers of health-related services

One example for such cooperation is based in Tokyo, which is a wonderful resource for anyone traveling or living in Japan. They have assembled the largest gathering of English-speaking health and wellness providers yet and grouped them into three categories:

1) Medical Partners
2) Wellness Coaches
3) Healthy Partners

Medical Partners are English-speaking doctors and dentists with the backgrounds and expertise required by the expats they serve. Everything from cancer treatment from one of the largest and most prestigious cancer hospitals in Japan, to oral care from small boutique dental facilities are available with fine detail on who they are and what they do.

Wellness coaches are individual personal trainers, motivational gurus, yoga instructors and others who speak English and can be called upon for regular classes or just one or two lessons.

Healthy Partners comprise a wider group of organic shops, healthy restaurants, gyms, spas, organic beauty salons, hot springs, martial arts and others.

Obviously, in the long process of building a destination brand, this is one chapter, but at least it’s a healthy one that everybody can enjoy. As a matter of fact, we can’t do without it.

Johanna Fischer
Managing Director
tmf dialogue marketing
Twitter: @Johannadialogue
Linkedin: Johanna Fischer