Raj Mahal travels for work multiple times a month, and last winter, while staying at the Kimpton Gray Hotel in Chicago, his mental health wasn’t in great shape.
Mahal, 34, is the founder of Plan More Trips, an app that helps travellers book low-cost travel, and the stress of running a startup, he says, was beginning to take a toll on his mental health. In his hotel room that day, he saw a flier for a partnership Kimpton was rolling out with Talkspace, a company that offers virtual, online psychotherapy, offering guests at Kimpton properties a free video therapy session with its licensed counsellors.
“I had tried therapy before,” says Mahal. “I find it useful to have somebody to bounce things off of, and to make sure I’m approaching things in the right way.”
He logged on and did his first session there in the hotel room, connecting with a therapist who listened to his concerns. The year-long program, which launched last February to “increase access to mental health resources at a time when it was needed most,” per a statement from Kimpton, also provides guests with a $100 (£83) code to continue therapy after they check out. Mahal took advantage of this and signed up for a plan; he now has a regular weekly meeting with that same virtual therapist, and makes sure he doesn’t miss it – whether he’s home or on the road.
The Global Wellness Institute projects that the wellness tourism sector will grow by 21 per cent annually through 2025, thanks in no small part to the pandemic. Three years after lockdown, America remains in a mental health crisis, with nearly half of respondents in a 2021 study reporting symptoms of anxiety or depression, according to the National Institute of Health. As travel continues to pick up, hospitality brands are expanding their offerings in response, moving beyond yoga, massages, and juice cleanses to offer concrete, science-backed solutions focused on travellers’ mental and emotional health.