In an upbeat and positive conversation, Ingo Schweder, Founder and CEO at GOCO Hospitality, shared his thoughts with David on how the pandemic offers us an opportunity to correct the many wrong paths humanity was taking and to ensure we create a better planet for future generations.
In terms of the wellness industry, he believes the pre-virus shift towards a more scientific approach—with analytics and diagnostics—will become yet more dominant. People will want to know what is happening with the body and mind, how to live and feel better, in order to protect themselves from future illness.
David Keen 0:10
This is David. At QUO, we’ve worked for the last 20 years with many of the world’s best-known travel brands. During this unprecedented global crisis, our world of travel has changed, possibly irreversibly. This series will see us speak with many global leaders to understand how they see the future of travel.
David Keen 0:45
Ingo Schweder: friend, founder, Chief Executive Officer of GOCO. Welcome to The Future of Travel.
Ingo Schweder 0:55
Thank you, David. Glad to be here.
David Keen 0:58
It’s an honour for us, as always to be with you. And it’s an honour for me, in particular, because I think we’re sitting as we were just chatting before we started recording, at a moment which we will look back on in time to come, where we said, “This is a moment of perhaps the greatest understanding, or a greater understanding, of how important wellness is to us as humanity.”
Ingo Schweder 1:30
Yeah, I agree with you, I think we are at a crossroads, and I think this pandemic actually gives us an opportunity. It’s an opportunity to say everything is bad and negative, or to say the glass is half full. I believe the glass is half full, and I think lots of good can come out of this. I believe that due to the questions we are asking ourselves about immune deficiencies and hygiene, physical exercises, how to strengthen our bodies and our mind, a lot of consciousness has been created—come to the forefront of ourselves and will allow us to live a more meaningful life. If we apply the learnings of… and if we pick up the messages the situation is giving us right now.
David Keen 2:24
Do you think that society that goes so far in the wrong direction, that it’s going to be hard for society to change?
Ingo Schweder 2:33
Short change in any human being can only come if there is a very strong emotional eruption of some sort, every psychologist has taught us. So I believe that the eruption which has happened to our work and private life is dramatic. We cannot live, we cannot function as we were function before. Therefore, I believe, our intelligence tells us that there are different ways of how to progress in life and how to make applicable changes in order to inculcate the learnings of this time.
And if we look at some of the learnings… if we, you know, I think we should talk about them. Let’s talk about nutrition. Most of us ate over the last few years in order to please our gums, to sizzle our palates and to try the latest restaurant. While this is all good, the component in the reason why we’re actually eating and what our body needs is in fact a variety of nutritions. So I think our chefs will learn again to cook with nutrition and the composition of food elements which are meaningful to us to feed ourselves in a meaningful, conscious manner, in order to enrich our bodies with the right vitamins and minerals.
If you look at exercises. We don’t need to be Supermen or run 150 kilometers, bike 40 kilometers and then run a marathon. What we need is an ongoing exercise regime, which is meaningful and moderate in order to keep our strengths, because all of that will help us to increase our immune effectiveness and combat all the illnesses. So therefore I believe people will become again more conscious in the way how they live their lives, and I think that has application to design in the way how we live, and what we look at, and how we create our homes, and what we do with our homes. I think it has applications on a lot of different levels.
David Keen 4:42
How much are we going—post the virus—to be driven by science?
Ingo Schweder 4:50
Very good question. I think while many politicians, right now, don’t want to believe in science, while…
David Keen 4:59
Ingo Schweder 5:01
Some do. And the right ones do. I believe a scientific understanding and a more analytical part of what is happening with our bodies and our minds is on the forefront. And I can share with you elements and applications in the world’s hospitality business. The biggest growth there is about analysing medically, with diagnostic, your state of your health. This can be done today through saliva, through hair, through a small blood sample. But the story those small little samples can tell you is about where you are in your life, what is happening to the functions of your organs, where are you in your overall wellbeing?
There’s a clear trend that people don’t want to just partake in any more ordinary wellness services, but they want to be taught. These are the issues you have. This is what you need to do in order to live better, feel better, and be better for the future. That means prevention and analysis and diagnostic of where you are, in order to prevent any future illnesses, will come to the forefront, and not any more fluffy treatments and fluffy wellness regimes.
David Keen 6:34
And do you see these becoming ubiquitous? Do you see there being—we’ve talked over the years of day spas […], diagnostic centres in the middle of New York, in the middle of London, in the middle of cities… where these become as common as other shops.
Ingo Schweder 6:54
Yes, I believe that the analytical diagnostic part, the more medically influenced wellness regimes, will grow dramatically. People want to know more about them and they will take the learnings from them and apply that to their life, and that’s fairly easy done, because the basics are what you eat and how you exercise, and also how your mind is. I mean, we are right now very stressed. There’s a lot of anxieties. Ease of mind, meditation movement… the number one app for a couple of years on Apple was Calm.
So, clearly the buying behavior of downloading an app on one of the biggest platforms—the Apple Store—is driven by an app, which talks about breathing and meditation, because breathing and meditation helps you to calm your mind and reflect better and get more distance to yourself. So, it is already in the consciousness of society. If you look at the Fox survey, two or three years ago, which analysed how many of the Fortune 500 companies CEOs meditate, it was over 80%. So there was, again, a message. Why do the leaders of industry do so? So I think there is a lot of applications, a lot of know-how out there, but it gets solidified right now given the circumstances.
David Keen 8:27
So when we talk about the past… And as you know, I’m talking about the pre-virus is kind of an… almost an ancient, or antique age, and the ‘new normal’ as being the future. When we look at this period that we’re in right now, this is the accelerator, this is the catalyst, and you were saying it’s got a trend to significant behavioural evolution.
Ingo Schweder 8:56
Yes, I believe, in some more philosophical ways, this pandemic has stopped us to go further in the wrong direction. It will teach us ways and means, and it will remind us to live in more and better harmony with our wider world, with our nature of how we treat Mother Earth. I think it will give us—or it has given us—a very strong reminder of what we should do in order to ensure that future generations can enjoy the planet as much as us and our parents. I think we were on the verge of cannibalising many beautiful parts of our world. We dug for oil in Alaska where we should let nature take its place. We walked up the entire environment. We polluted too many cities. So, it was necessary. it was good, and I look at this much more philosophically, not only that there is a virus out there. I think that this is a reminder of going in the right direction, and I believe in the good of people, and I believe in the consciousness of people, and I believe they will do the right thing going forward.
David Keen 10:28
Ingo Schweder 10:30
Yes, I believe it is. I believe that if you’re positive—and I’m very positive—that you also then strive and concentrate and focus your learning towards a positive outcome. And I have no reason to be negative, just became […] as you know. I want to be positive, and I believe in the glass-half-full philosophy.
David Keen 10:58
Likewise. Likewise. And it’s wonderful. Ingo let’s talk to, let’s focus a little bit more and get a bit more specific on the wellness industry. Economically, the world is diving, as we all know. The recession is going to be great. Travel is going to be massively limited, and it’s going to take a very long time for it all to come back. How much is it affecting your industry, and do you feel that the wellness industry may –because of what we were just saying—come back faster, or will it take a long time?
Ingo Schweder 11:39
No, I believe the wellness industry is lucky in the sense that it is on everybody’s mind, of what to do in order to remain healthy. Health is the biggest wealth, and I believe people have understood that. Health is the biggest wealth of what they can have. I believe in terms of travel, it will be much more regional, travel, which means also that the wellness regimes in their respective spa and wellness facilities are going to be driven by the consumer needs of that particular region. It will not any more be so common that I’m sitting in London and I fly to Thailand for wellness treatments. I’m going to seek them perhaps in Spain, which is a bit warmer, but I will seek them regionally. That means the demand patterns and the wellness regimes will be applicable to the respective regions. But the broad trends and nutrition-diagnostic analysis, hygiene standards and mindfulness, will be the paramount drivers, and all of that under the umbrella of prevention.
David Keen 13:01
How much do you see wellness communities growing as a function of the period that we’re in now, and as a function of the industry? Wellness is not a one-week vacation or a one week stay at a resort. Wellness is a way of life.
Ingo Schweder 13:19
David Keen 13:21
How far are your clients, and the concepts that you’re creating engaging in a more holistic approach to the entire concept, so that the consumers that come away with—not just a plan and this is what you’re going to do—but a community in which they can continue to experience and continue to engage.
Ingo Schweder 13:45
Wellness communities are ancient. They came back over the last few years, and funnily enough, where we all had a challenge in keeping certain contracts and certain momentum up, the large wellness communities we engage with are continuously being worked on. We’re working right now on wellness communities in Thailand, in Norway, in Saudi Arabia, in Dubai, and they all continue to move forward. And people will—because of the present pandemic—again remember that living in a healthy environment where I have parks around the corner and not only be in concrete jungles, where I can have locally grown food and not anything imported, which was plucked weeks before and doesn’t have any nutrients anymore. I think all those concepts will become much more paramount, and people will enjoy being in an environment of a wellness community to live there, reside there, retire there, and have my family prosper.
David Keen 15:06
in terms of technology and we were chatting about that before, and the impact the technology will have on wellness in the new world. Does that include these kinds of communities, whether it’s app-driven or webinar-driven or other technological developments that will allow for communities to interact, discuss, engage, learn, etc. How much is technology affecting the industry, and how much more will is affect it now?
Ingo Schweder 15:36
I think the biggest impact on technology is the diagnostic analytical part, because that can tell us… technology can only tell us—quickly, clean and through a lot of research—where our body is where our blood is where our stool is what is the heads of organs. So that may be the biggest impact, but in terms of communication in terms of technology helping us to create the kind of environments, even the way how we harvest our food, generally, will be applied. I believe and I hope, actually, that the technology applications which made us run like mouses in little cages, where technology, drove us to a fast-paced lifestyle where we could barely breathe sometimes. I think that’s where technology will take on a different shape and a different meaning. And I believe this waking up at six o’clock in the morning and immediately looking at all your emails will step aside for, perhaps, breathing, doing some exercising and planning your day prior to reading all your emails I think there will be different priorities which come into play or which will come into play in order to not be rattled by technology, but by using technology for a meaningful purpose, so it enhances our life.
David Keen 17:10
And this leads to a better mindset.
Ingo Schweder 17:12
And this leads to a more conscious, at-ease mindset, and not one which is driven by anxieties and by affected mindset, by a decision-making, which is driven by technology instead of by—use your gut in common sense. Much of us, often, we refer to technology instead of listening inside, but the answer is really with us. For example, listening to your own gut I think it’s one of the best parameters we can still use.
David Keen 17:51
And how much is that impacting your business, and business in general. Let’s get really micro now. How much is all of this philosophical directions—this fact, this happening—how much is now impacting business, impacting development. Is this going to… again will the virus be a catalyst for massive change?
Ingo Schweder 18:20
Yeah, in our company, we will look very much… we have actually the last year, year-and-a-half already, looked into the entire region of wellness community much more enthusiastically and intensely than ever before. We are going to expand in Glen Ivy, California, into a wellness community where you’re only building 40% of the entire land. Keep the entire rest of the land into an organic farm. Keep all the oranges and apples and everything which is there untouched and create a conscious wellness community there. So, that is very much in the making. And then our other aim is the wellness community REIT where we are going to put assets into a REIT, which then manages those assets for third parties.
So, when are communities here to stay. They take center stage, and they allow the application and the manifestation of all those learnings within the community in which we live. That is what it is for us. And I believe, given my age, 60 years, that is the way how I plan out the last 10 years of my professional life to contribute in those kind of arenas.
David Keen 19:42
Do you think because of the reduced demand and hugely increased supply and choice that consumers have fairly globally, that wellness will be a beneficiary of that in the short to medium term?
Ingo Schweder 20:00
I personally believe this, and this was confirmed to me by many different industry colleagues, within the wellness hospitality but also in the larger development design fields, wellness—because of, we are in a health-related pandemic, so we have understood firsthand that if our health is not the best, that we will have issues. Therefore I’m very clear about that wellness at large in its many forms and applications will benefit.
David Keen 20:40
Demographically are you seeing shifts?
Ingo Schweder 20:42
Yes, the younger ones will be the first ones, I think, which will take advantage of that, because they have a more robust health. They are more curious. I believe the older generation will take some time to come out of their shell, because they are clearly told through the experience, which has been made, that they are at greater risk. Therefore I believe that the younger—the 30-50 year olds—will much faster get back to a normal lifestyle, then the older generation.
David Keen 21:20
Yeah, I mean it’s very clear to us that the current Generation Z are far more conscious of wellbeing. Conscious of caring for society, caring for the environment, caring for the wellbeing of society.
Ingo Schweder 21:42
David Keen 21:42
And it’s interesting to the previous conversation we were just having—we should probably finish in a second—how, if we’re looking for a catalyst, or a demographic catalyst, for the future of wellness to your point on the younger generation… it may well be true.
Ingo Schweder 22:02
Yeah, I believe, the next generation… we are here to provide the roads and the inroads in the direction for the younger generation. They are the ones who are going to contribute to the world. We have done our contribution at our age, and I think they will do the right thing. And if you look at Greta, this young Swedish lady.
David Keen 22:30
Ingo Schweder 22:30
Thunberg. I mean, it’s incredible. The awareness she has and the message she sends. And the people—how she takes them on. And it is really our responsibility to make sure that that generation has a good life and has some other speeches, which is healthy and imbalance. And therefore I think the stock-market-driven attitude, the get-rich-fast, the “I’m entitled to X, Y, Z”… I think we, again, become a bit more down-to-earth, a bit more rooted. And I think we are all going to become better citizens of this world.
David Keen 23:18
Ingo, my last question, and we must keep it fairly short because we’re over time. But, I see—and this is a little bit personal—but I see, perhaps, the next stage already moving into an improvement in wellness. Driving more acceptance and greater improvement in mental health and widening its appeal to democratising, opening up, exposing people with mental health—simple, not necessarily complex mental health issues—but simple mental health issues which we probably all have, and bringing that into the interface. Is that is that is that something you agree with?
Ingo Schweder 24:05
Yes, absolutely. The consciousness of what breathing and meditation can do to you is not foreign anymore. People have embraced that, and people discover more and more about it. And I think that’s a wonderful thing of which I’m very grateful that that has happened in society at large.
David Keen 24:21
Ingo Schweder, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of GOCO Hospitality, thank you for being on The Future of Travel.
Ingo Schweder 25:56
Thank you, David.