Interview: Cindy Hoddeson on wellness tourism in Monaco

The wellness tourism industry is worth 710 billion euros globally, and it is growing more than twice as fast as tourism overall. To ensure the Principality is tapping into this lucrative market, the Monaco Government Tourist Office created the Wellness Tourism Association in 2018.

Its founding member Cindy Hoddeson spoke to Monaco Life from her headquarters in New York City about what the association has achieved almost two years in, and why the North American tourist market is so important for the Principality.

Cindy Hoddeson

Monaco Life: Tell us about what has happened since the Wellness Tourism Association was inaugurated in early 2018.

Cindy Hoddeson: There’s so much buzz about wellness but I still think there is a lack of clarity in terms of what that actually means. For many years people have understood that wellness is synonymous with spa, but it is so much more than that. Wellness is incorporated in to our emotional, intellectual, physical, and spiritual wellbeing.

Part of the goal of the association is to bring some clarity to that sector, and for me personally to communicate what Monaco has to offer. Wellness is not something new to the Principality, in fact many forget that people were coming at the turn of the last century to benefit from the curative powers of the Mediterranean. Today, there are so many other pillars related to wellness, whether it be the healthy Mediterranean diet and the many different restaurants that are bringing farm to table and healthy cuisine, everything that HSH Prince Albert of Monaco has done with regards to the environment, walking the entire Principality, jogging on the harbour, hiking the Via Alpina, rowing in front of the Monaco Yacht Club, practicing yoga on the beach, strolling the colourful Princess Grace Rose Garden, and embracing nature at the Exotic Gardens, the Observatory Cave and the Pelagos Sanctuary.

Monaco is famous for many things, but how do you get the message out that it is also an ideal destination for wellness tourism?

We find that today’s travellers may not identify a trip to the Principality as a wellness holiday. So to communicate wellness tourism in Monaco, we speak to the press, to upscale travel agents, and also meeting organisers, because corporations today are also looking for healthy options for the conferences they organise in the Principality.

For example, there is wonderful spa here in New York called the AIRE Ancient Baths, and we organised an event for the press where we spoke about Monaco’s long tradition of people taking the waters of the Principality, of people coming to Monaco today for antiaging care, that we are one of the few countries that have facilities for cryotherapy. Of course, Monaco has so many other things to offer but I think that this is a very important subject and we want to be ahead of the trend.

And of course the Monaco Government Tourist Office has the ‘Green is the new glam campaign’ that aims to promote Monaco as a destination that is as environmentally conscious as it is glamorous.

Cindy Hoddeson promoting the ‘Green is the new glam’ campaign in the US

How significant is the north American market to Monaco?

In terms of room occupancy, leisure and incentive travel combined, we are the 4th market. With regards to conferences and meetings, we are the 3rd market. Americans also stay longer. Many Italians, for example, come for a wonderful long weekend, but Americans tend to stay longer and many of the hotels report that the spending trends of the north Americans is higher than some of the other markets. So, I think in terms of financial returns, the north American market is very important.

North Americans may be a long-haul market, but the Principality evokes a dream for many Americans. They come to discover things that we don’t have here in the United States: history and culture.

Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace

Is America still fascinated with the fairy tale romance of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier?

Even though so many years have passed, Princess Grace remains an icon, even amongst the younger generation. We don’t have royalty here in America, so there is still that fairy tale of the American who became a princess, and it continues to resonate today.

Another thing that Americans dream about is living the James Bond lifestyle, and the Monte Carlo Casino has just introduced some James Bond slot machines, while the Hotel Metropole has a Golden Eye experience, and these fit really well with this fantasy. In September, we will be hosting an event at a Spy museum in New York that has a special limited exhibit focussed on James Bond. They will also have the Aston Martin that was shot in front of the Monte Carlo Casino for Golden Eye, some clips of the movies, and of course we will be serving martini’s, all while promoting Monaco.

You come across as very passionate about this subject, why is that?

I feel privileged and proud to have a wonderful team here in the New York office, they are always coming up with ideas. And I have now surpassed my 30th anniversary with the Monaco Tourist Office and I still love what I do and I feel very lucky to be working for this fantastic destination.