Mind, Body and Events

June 28, 2018

Health and wellness is a $4 trillion industry and growing. The “healthy eating and nutrition” and “fitness and mind-body” segments alone accounted for $1.19 trillion in 2015, with “workplace wellness” adding another $43 billion, which is why it’s no surprise that events are including the latest health and wellness trends in their planning.

According to the IRF Wellness in Meetings and Incentive Travel Study by Incentive Research Foundation in 2017, the top five health and wellness inclusions (many of which are budget-friendly) are: 

  • Smoke-free property
  • Free access to fitness facility
  • Frequent breaks to encourage activity
  • Casual dress to encourage activity
  • Venues within walking distance to hotel

The study added that many event planners also work mindfulness breaks, free fitness activities such as hiking or yoga, or creative and artistic experiences into their events. 

Digestive Disease Week makes a point of only selecting non-smoking venues when planning locations. 

“The venues we use are smoke-free,” said Alison Moser, DDW director of marketing. “But I also think that’s a trend most convention centers have moved to.”

Betsy Jacoby-Greenleaf, owner of Jacoby Expo, says as people are becoming more in tune with their bodies by implementing health and wellness practices into their daily routines, they’re looking to continue those activities while on the road for business events. 

“Provide your attendees with an activity that enriches both mind and body,” Jacoby-Greenleaf suggested. 

She continued, “Hold a yoga session in a serene outdoor space or tranquil room; hire a local wildlife ranger to take attendees on a nature-themed hike to show off local foliage and habitats, or hire a personal trainer to show attendees some exercises they can use while on the go.”  

AFFI-CON, hosted by the American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI), offers massage stations to help revitalize attendees during the event. 

“Because it’s a business focused show, a massage station reinvigorates attendees between their meetings and helps keep their heads clear,” explained Brynn Hadley, vice president of conferences at AFFI.

Krista Friedman, events division director at CE GROUP, says that one area where the value of holding wellness activities comes through is in networking.

“Providing an environment that is conducive to physical activities enhances team building, especially by encouraging them to socialize with those who have similar interests in particular activities,” she explained.  

Besides venues and activities, health trends loom large in food and beverage selections. Many planners are working to meet the needs of those with allergies and special dietary issues as well as honor cultural and religious food requests.

Beth Lawrence, president and CEO of Beth Lawrence LLC, believes event trends follow preferences for everyday decisions that individuals are already making for themselves.

“Overall, in the past five years, I’ve seen an overwhelming trend requiring that restaurants, caterers and venues provide at least gluten-free and vegan options,” Lawrence said. “In addition, desserts and sweets tend to be less popular than years ago, with many multiple-course luncheons omitting it altogether.” 

Jennifer Lithgow, owner of Party Food Melbourne, which provides specialty event catering services, says their offerings have definitely evolved over the years. 

“We expanded our menu range to include more vegetarian and vegan options, more allergen-suitable menu items and options for custom cakes that are gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free or vegan,” Lithgow said. 

She added, “We also offer healthier snacks such a muesli or granola bars.”

DDW’s breakfast and lunch sessions and receptions always include vegetarian options and a variety of food items for those who have dietary restrictions and/or prefer a healthier option. 

“We also moved to the café concept onsite to expand the variety of food and offer more healthy food choices for our attendees and exhibitors while keeping the cost of food lower than if they left the building,” Moser added.

As healthy food options have been trending in recent years, beverage selections have also been changing.

Lisé Puckorius, CEO at the OLC Education & Conference Center, a conference and training venue in Rosemont, IL notes that many attendees crave healthy alternative beverages such as soy and almond milk, fruit-infused waters and green or herbal teas.

She also encourages planners to infuse their menus with local flavor. 

“Especially when attendees come from out of town, planners can keep things healthy and interesting by sourcing local ingredients and using farm-to-table concepts,” Puckorius said.

Whether planners want to implement simple, budget-friendly options such as smoke-free venues or fitness center access, overhaul their menus or add interesting wellness-focused activities, experts suggest talking to their attendees to find out which options they prefer.

“We listen to what attendees want through surveys and then use the results to build programs and activities that people will love,” Friedman said. 

She continued, “The best way to incorporate wellness trends is to enlist local health and wellness organizations to provide activities, create an overall theme that can encompass the umbrella of the project and stay consistent throughout.” 

As our society continues to move in a more health-conscious direction, event planners, suppliers and venues are all embracing health and wellness trends – trends that don’t appear to be going away any time soon. As the health and wellness industry grows, a huge opportunity exists for planners to enhance attendee experiences by working with vendors to implement current and emerging trends that appeal to their specific audiences. 


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Overview: The award-winning Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) goes the extra mile to make every day extraordinary by offering customer service excellence and industry-leading partnerships. From their dedicated in-house Rigging team to their robust Exhibitor Services, The Center of Hospitality brings your imagination to life by helping you host unforgettable meetings and events. With more than 2 million square feet of exhibit space, world-class services and a dream destination, we are committed to making even the most ambitious conventions a reality. In October 2023, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners voted to approve allocating Tourist Development Tax funding for the $560 million Phase 5A completion of the OCCC. The Convention Way Grand Concourse project will include enhancements to the North-South Building, featuring an additional 60,000 square feet of meeting space, an 80,000- square-foot ballroom and new entry to the North-South Building along Convention Way. “We are thrilled to begin work on completing our North-South Building which will allow us to meet the growing needs of our clients,” said OCCC Executive Director Mark Tester. “As an economic driver for the community, this project will provide the Center with connectivity and meeting space to host more events and continue to infuse the local economy with new money and expanding business opportunities.” Amenities: The Center of Hospitality goes above and beyond by offering world-class customer service and industry-leading partnerships. From the largest convention center Wi-Fi network to custom LAN/WAN design, the Center takes pride in enhancing exhibitor and customer experience.  The OCCC is the exclusive provider of electricity (24-hour power at no additional cost), aerial rigging and lighting, water, natural gas and propane, compressed air, and cable TV services. Convenience The Center is at the epicenter of the destination, with an abundance of hotels, restaurants, and attractions within walking distance. Pedestrian bridges connect both buildings to more than 5,200 rooms and is within a 15-minute drive from the Orlando International Airport. The convenience of the location goes hand-in-hand with top notch service to help meet an event’s every need. Gold Key Members The OCCC’s Gold Key Members represent the best of the best when it comes to exceptional service and exclusive benefits for clients, exhibitors and guests. The Center’s Gold Key memberships with Universal Orlando Resort, SeaWorld Orlando and Walt Disney World greatly enhance meeting planner and attendee experiences offering world-renowned venues, immersive experiences and creative resources for their events. OCCC Events: This fiscal year, the OCCC is projected to host 168 events, 1.7 million attendees, and $2.9 billion in economic impact.  The Center’s top five events during their 2022-2023 fiscal year included:  AAU Jr. National Volleyball Championships 2023 200,000 Attendees $257 Million in Economic Impact MEGACON 2023 160,000 Attendees $205 Million in Economic Impact Open Championship Series 2023 69,500 Attendees $89 Million in Economic Impact Sunshine Classic 2023 42,000 Attendees $54 Million in Economic Impact Premiere Orlando 2023 42,000 Attendees $108 Million in Economic Impact