Top Team

Hyatt & Miraval

After acquiring Miraval Group earlier this year, Hyatt Hotels has set its sights high on the wellness hospitality ladder. Jane Kitchen talks to the people behind the brands

In what promises to be a game-changing move in the wellness hospitality industry, Hyatt Hotels acquired wellness resort provider Miraval Group earlier this year for US$215m (€201m, £175m).

The deal includes Miraval’s flagship property in Tucson, Arizona, as well as the Miraval Life in Balance Spa brand. Hyatt will also continue Miraval’s plans to redevelop the 220-acre (89-hectare) Travaasa Resort in Austin, Texas – being rebranded as Miraval Austin – and the 380-acre (154-hectare) Cranwell Spa & Golf Resort in Lenox, Massachusetts – now known as Miraval Lenox.

The move is a stealthy one in the wake of the mega-mergers of global hotel brands of the past few years, when US hospitality brand Marriott bought rival Starwood, and Paris-based AccorHotels Group acquired FRHI. While Hyatt’s purchase in no way rivals Marriott’s or Accor’s – those deals were worth US$12.2bn and $2.7bn, respectively – it does allow Hyatt to position itself as a leader in lifestyle wellness, something it knows is increasingly important to its high-end travellers.

For Miraval, which has been looking at expanding its brand for several years, having the backing of a global hospitality name may mean a quicker path in that direction. That said, Hyatt leadership has stressed the importance of not rushing to ‘commoditise’ the Miraval brand, and the need to stay true to the core of what sets it apart.

We talk to the people behind the two companies to find out what this new acquisition means for both brands, how Hyatt might grow Miraval, and how the Miraval experience might fit into Hyatt’s bigger wellness picture.

Mark Hoplamazian,

President and CEO,

Hyatt Hotels Corporation

Hoplamazian says he’ll take the Miraval brand globally
Hoplamazian says he’ll take the Miraval brand globally

How will the Miraval acquisition impact Hyatt’s wellness offering?
Hyatt is committed to widening the lens through which we view our core customer desires, and clearly the wellness tourism market is one where we are well-positioned to capitalise on those opportunities. One of the key insights we have understood well through ongoing engagement with our guests is how important it is to integrate wellness into their lives.

With the Miraval acquisition, Hyatt gains the operational excellence, the specialists’ expertise and a devoted clientele – as well as the Miraval Group suite of branded facilities, treatments and programming. We gain world-class wellness and mindfulness experiences for our guests, as well as the opportunity to grow wellness experiences in our existing portfolio. The acquisition is consistent with Hyatt’s growth strategy and our commitment to holistic health and wellness, but more importantly, it is also a demonstration point around our core purpose of caring for people so they can be their best.

How do you envision the two brands working together?
We think that there is a great opportunity to integrate some of the Miraval experience into hotel operations, and also beyond hotel stays. There are myriad dimensions along which we can extend the impact of the Miraval ethos and approach. For example, Miraval does a great job in engaging their associates in applying a mindful approach to care for guests. It could be that we tap into that spirit and adapt it to our existing hotel operations. Or we could work with owners to convert spas in some of our hotels to Miraval Life in Balance Spas if the fit is right.

A lot of the exact ways that will be brought to life are still to be determined – purposefully – as we learn. What we won’t do is grow the Miraval brand for the sake of growth. We’ll do it if it makes sense and we can deliver the experience and the impact with integrity.

What plans do you have for expanding the Miraval brand?
We intend to take the Miraval brand global. With our development and operations expertise worldwide, Miraval will be able to expand to even more destinations – including Miraval destination resorts similar to the Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa. Miraval business development efforts have already produced a strong pipeline of expansion opportunities and we anticipate these new developments will drive growth and brand awareness.

What Miraval has developed, and the intensity of the love and engagement that the guests see, hear and experience, is something we take very seriously and treat with a great deal of respect.

We want to make sure that we maintain the integrity of the brand and that we don’t make any changes that would negatively impact guests’ experiences. Everything Miraval guests love about the resort and spa experiences will be honoured as the Miraval team continues to evolve their approach. And, over time, guests will have more locations to choose from.

Hyatt is also actively pursuing a growth strategy beyond traditional hotel stays. By delivering more experiences, Hyatt can care for more people in more ways. The Miraval acquisition is an important proof point to this strategy – Miraval will spearhead a new wellness category within the Hyatt portfolio of brands.

How will the Miraval acquisition help Hyatt address corporate wellness?
This whole idea about wellness – through the lens of being more mindful about what you do and how you live your life – is increasingly in focus for major corporations. C-suite executives are very much thinking about how they can bring these kinds of holistic practices into what they do for their clients. This also has really taken hold with meeting planners and corporate travel planners. I think this is the beginning of what will be a very significant groundswell with a focus on wellness.

One of the key things I find so compelling about Miraval is the fact that mindfulness is at the centre of their approach. Mindfulness is something we’ve been working on at Hyatt for several years, working with outside researchers who were doing work on meditation and the impact it could have on your ability to practice empathy. We talk a lot about empathy being a central capacity within Hyatt – you can’t care for someone unless you understand them, and that requires the practice of empathy.

So in our investigation of how to elevate the capacity for empathy, we’ve done a fair amount in the context of how mindfulness is finding its way into companies, into workplaces. Miraval’s holistic approach, with mindfulness at the core, has great application to this increased interest in wellness by companies.

When I first came to Miraval Arizona, I did a floating meditation class. The ability to unplug from the day and really find an opportunity to calm your mind and reflect was very refreshing and calming – I came out of that experience with a great deal of awareness and focus.

The reason I’m so excited about this opportunity is that I wanted an approach that was grounded in a proven practice – one that has impact on people’s lives. Miraval is consistently looked at as a thought leader in the spa industry, developing innovative treatments and programming that are truly best-in-class.

"‘There is a great opportunity to integrate some of the Miraval experience into hotel operations’"

Miraval helps guests integrate wellness into their lives with actvities like hiking
Miraval helps guests integrate wellness into their lives with actvities like hiking

Steven Rudnitsky,

President and CEO,

Miraval Group

l Rudnitsky says the alliance will unlock Miraval’s potential
l Rudnitsky says the alliance will unlock Miraval’s potential

What differentiates Miraval as a brand?
Miraval’s brand position is truly differentiated at the intersection of purpose and spa. For us, wellness and mindfulness are core products – for others, they’re a sideline. No one knows better than Miraval how to help people pursue a life in balance; the programming we offer goes well beyond spa, and includes everything from photography to yoga. Our guests get to define balance by virtue of the experience they choose to have with us.

What does the acquisition mean for Miraval?
This alliance will unlock Miraval’s full potential, as we partner with one of the foremost global hospitality companies focused on the high-end segment. Hyatt will help accelerate the Miraval brand’s expansion, not just in North America, but globally. Our growth strategy will enable us to consider locations that meet our criteria for additional full-service Miraval wellness resorts and Miraval Life in Balance Spas for selected hotels and resorts.

How did the deal come about?
I have known Mark Hoplamazian for more than 10 years. When I called him last year to catch up, we talked about our respective initiatives and how we might collaborate. Over the course of several months, it became apparent that working together would be highly strategic for both organisations.

How do you make sure you keep the unique character of Miraval as it becomes part of a larger hotel brand?
We’ll look at each opportunity and proceed only if it makes sense and we’re confident in our ability to deliver the Miraval experience with integrity. Hyatt is committed to retaining and protecting the Miraval brand as a standalone entity along with our proven leadership and distinctively unique programming and philosophies.

We’re continuing to deliver our authentic, imaginative and meaningful classes, activities and spa treatments, as we always have. Everything our guests know and love about Miraval will remain the same, including our commitment to creating and sourcing innovative new programming.

Miraval’s biggest opportunity for growth is exporting our focused, fully dedicated approach to wellness and mindfulness to other parts of the country and the world. Globalisation, technology and increasing competition have put most of the world’s population under tremendous stress. Miraval provides a path for people to live in the moment, preserve their health and balance their work with their personal lives.

"‘Hyatt is committed to retaining the Miraval brand as a standalone entity’"

Miraval fitness studios feature plenty of natural light and views of the outdoor environment
Miraval fitness studios feature plenty of natural light and views of the outdoor environment

Sue Adkins,

Vice President, Programme Development,

Miraval Group

Sue Adkins
Sue Adkins

Why do you think Hyatt was interested in acquiring Miraval?
Hyatt understands that wellness isn’t just about fitness and nutrition, and that their guests are now seeking a more comprehensive approach to wellness, which Miraval has been promoting for years.

Miraval has evolved over the last 21 years I’ve been there, while never forgetting its roots. We’ve avoided the temptation of following the trends, and have instead focused on helping our guests learn to create a life of balanced living. I think Hyatt recognised that what we’re doing is a little different, and they want to bring wellness into their brand in an authentic way that goes beyond simply putting a yoga mat in a guestroom or adding a healthy dish on the menu.

What have been your most successful programmes?
Our most popular programmes are still our high ropes challenge courses and our Equine Experience activities. Guests learn so much about themselves in these programmes and they continue to sign up for them. ‘Unforgettable Canvas’, which encourages guests to use the side of a horse as a canvas for painting, and ‘Floating Meditation’, which involves lying in a silk hammock while listening to crystal singing bowls, are two of our more successful offerings outside the core programmes.

A programme is successful if it gets our guests excited to try something new and allows us to add a richness and depth to the quality of our offerings. Some certainly bring more financial gains to our bottom line, but that isn’t the focus when we’re developing them.

How do you come up with new ideas?
Our best ideas have always come from our team. We foster a sense of creativity in our team members and encourage them to consider new things that fuel their passions. That passion is what continues to keep our guests engaged in the programming.

What Miraval programmes will work well for Hyatt?
Since mindfulness is at the core of everything we do, I’d like to see continued opportunities to introduce more people to the concept. Our communities, employees and guests can only benefit.

"‘I think Hyatt recognised that what we’re doing is a little different’"

'Unforgettable Canvas’ lets guests paint the side of a horse
'Unforgettable Canvas’ lets guests paint the side of a horse
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Company profile: Barr + Wray Ltd
Founded in 1959, Barr + Wray is recognised as a world-leading provider of spa design, engineering and pool & spa equipment.
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