Wellness activities and products are an established part of the incentives landscape, and at the fifth annual Meet Well Summit on September 8–9, the Incentive Research Foundation (IRF) shared results from its 2021 Wellness in Meetings and Incentive Travel Study. The study detailed the pandemic’s impact on wellness in meetings and incentives.

“IRF was proud to partner with Prevue Meetings on the Meet Well Summit,” says Stephanie Harris, IRF president. “We explored the shifting definition of wellness as it pertains to events, with mental health and balance, along with safety during travel and at meetings, rising to the forefront.”

Wellness has long been a part of meetings and incentive travel programs. With COVID continuing to pose health threats and impact attendee comfort and confidence, meeting and incentives planners are looking at the concept of wellness through a different lens. During facilitated discussions at the Summit, attendees considered how factors such as health and safety, attendee mental health, physical health, food and beverage, and sustainability impact the overall attendee wellness experience and level of comfort.

The IRF study identified that while traditional wellness inclusions such as yoga, healthy food and use of the spa remain popular, the focus for wellness has shifted to self-care and safety in the wake of COVID-19. Planners have reported a trend toward smaller meetings and a strong desire for outdoor space for meetings and receptions, while potential attendees have expressed concerns about traveling, being in an environment that they can’t control and the uncertainly of a new location.

In its study, the IRF notes that although wellness in meetings has always been driven by the goal of making attendees feel comfortable and cared for, the emphasis on emotional wellbeing has increased because of the pandemic. Communication is critical to helping attendees feel informed and in control of their experience, and providing flexibility and options regarding the agenda, breaks and spacing are critical elements in achieving attendees’ peace of mind.

The study also highlights that healthy food and beverage options continue to be a mainstay of wellness inclusions and are more important than ever as people adapted to new eating habits while in lockdown. However, planners reported that while sustainability is an important component of wellness, they acknowledged that in many ways, the response to COVID often feels counter to sustainability.

The full study is available here.