Hyatt expands wellness strategy with Exhale buy

CHICAGO—In its second major move this year into the wellness space,     Hyatt Hotels Corp. is acquiring Exhale, a 15-year-old branded concept that “addresses mind and body through spa and fitness,” with intentions to grow the brand via freestanding locations and within appropriate Hyatt Hotel product offerings.

The acquisition price was not disclosed by the company.

Earlier this year, Hyatt acquired New York-based Miraval Group, a provider of wellness experiences, from an affiliate of private equity firm KSL Capital Partners LLC in a $215-million deal.

“As a company, we have made a strategic decision to move into the area of wellness to serve our customer base as a strategic matter,” said Steve Haggerty, Hyatt’s global head of capital strategy, franchising and select-service. “Miraval is a component of that, and separately, Exhale is a component of that—as opposed to Exhale being some Miraval type of strategy.”

Annbeth Eschbach, Exhale’s founder/CEO, characterized her company as an “everyday urban experience” compared to Miraval, which she described as “a well-being destination spa,” noting Exhale had had interactions with the company prior to its January acquisition by Hyatt.

“And when I heard the news about Hyatt acquiring Miraval, I reached out and said: ‘That’s amazing. That’s exactly what this world needs.’ Then, I started learning more about Hyatt and [its]amazing culture and vision for expanding experiences in adjacent spaces outside the bricks and mortar of the hotel, and I got very excited because that’s the kind of thing we signed on for,” said Eschbach. “Exhale is very much a pioneering brand and we’ve always transcended the narrowly defined spa and fitness space. We’ve always done our own thing whether it’s on ships or in hotels or resorts or freestanding. I thought: ‘This is an exciting vision that Hyatt has,’ and we carried it from there [as]Hyatt began to see Exhale as an opportunity and as a brand that could be leveraged into adjacent spaces.”

Exhale currently has 25 locations in the United States and the Caribbean, largely concentrated in urban locations, including inside upper-upscale and luxury hotels. For example, it has facilities inside Loews Hotels properties in Atlanta and Miami Beach; The Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour and the Kimpton EPIC Downtown Miami; the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica, CA; two Gansevoort Hotel locations in New York City, as well as its property in Turks & Caicos; and the Boston Battery Wharf Hotel.

“We were brought into many projects by developers, not necessarily by the hotel flags, and are very able to successfully operate and contribute meaningfully to the economics of the property, create energy, bring the community in and deliver programs our hotel partners don’t do,” said Eschbach.

How that might play out long term was unclear; however, Haggerty said, “The services provided at those hotels will remain. We fundamentally do not have an issue with that and remain excited about the growth prospects for us.”

The Exhale studio is one component of its offering.

He indicated the wellness concept would not be pedigreed, i.e., Exhale by Hyatt.

Eschbach noted this would help “preserve everything that makes this brand so unique: our culture, our authenticity, our innovation.”

All of Exhale’s senior team will remain in place.

The well-being company offers a variety of services, including fitness classes incorporating cardio and yoga; spa treatments, such as massages, facials and nail care; private training, barre and core fusion sessions; nutrition counseling; group options, including brides and teens; and retreats. It also offers retail items.

“We’ll take our time understanding how to best deploy Exhale—together with our hotel owners—into our hotels, which may mean larger, full-size Exhale spas or components of those experiences that we can deliver seamlessly without a full-blown spa experience,” said Haggerty. “The options are many and the opportunities will be addressed on a case-by-case basis, but we expect a lot of interest from our owner base to move in this direction… I do think it’s an area that presents a ton of upside in the hotel stay.”

”This needs to be a global brand,” said Eschbach. “We need to be speaking to a global audience—and here we have a strategic growth partner in the hospitality space, which is a space we traditionally have been very, very successful in. They’re also culturally and strategically an amazing fit for us because together we share the same dedication for mindfulness and transformation and caring for people to be their best.

“We think we’re going to thrive in this paradigm,” added the CEO.

Since its acquisition of Miraval Group, which included the flagship Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa and the Miraval Life in Balance Spa brand, as well as Hyatt’s continuance of Miraval’s plans to redevelop the 220-acre Travaasa Resort in Austin, TX, and its planned acquisition and redevelopment of the 380-acre Cranwell Spa & Golf Resort in Lenox, MA, the Arizona property joined the World of Hyatt loyalty platform. It’s expected Exhale will do the same.

Haggerty emphasized, “Everything we do is to improve the value proposition for the [customer-loyalty program] World of Hyatt community and that effort has led us to expanding in the wellness space to those customers who we know demand that and want that. Miraval was an example of that; Exhale is another example of that. And there will be more. Wellness for us is an integrated strategy, and we’re not pointing to one particular opportunity and saying that we’re checking the box.” HB

To see content in magazine format, click here.