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Meet Kelsey Hanson: The Eye Behind the Next Big Thing In Wellness Travel

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The travel, wellness, and health brand you have not heard of is coming to an airport near your home. It will be at JFK in the fall and then Phoenix before spreading across the country.

May be You have heard of XpresSpa, an airport destination where you can grab a quickie preflight manicure or massage. XpresSpa Group was the publicly traded parent company. It turned their locations into Xpress Check which is a multi-state provider of COVID testing at airports during the pandemic. While many travel companies were struggling in 2020, XpresSpa Group quickly adapted to prosper while also conceiving a new business idea to fill a gap in the market. This business idea appeals to the modern female traveler, who is Away-luggage-rolling, Goop-aspiring and Beats-wearing.


Treat is a full-fledged health and wellness destination that brings a retail-space-meets-wellness-center concept to airports where travelers can pick up a KANJO acupressure set for their carry-on, a LARQ self-cleaning water bottle, or Hilma immune-support herbal supplements. The large retail space will also have doctors administering IV-drips, COVID tests, writing prescriptions, and consulting with patients for any ailments. A yoga/meditation area will be available for travelers who want to relax or attend a class, rather than waiting at their gates. It will be like your city’s wellness center, in your airport. This will make travel easier and more enjoyable, no matter if you are traveling for business or pleasure.

Treat’s online presence encompasses an e-commerce shop for curated travel goods you can most likely find at L.A.’s Erewhon or spotted on Instagram from your favorite wellness influencers’ feed. You will also find science-backed advice on how to travel well and self-care tips for busy people.

Treat will have different tiers to its membership

There will be a guest version and a member version, where you’ll have access to the newsletter, stores, and articles, along with an a-la-carte offering, and a premium subscription in the future, where you’ll have access to unlimited chat care with a virtual doctor 24/7 while traveling through the Treat app. This brand is forward-thinking and has a unique identity. It includes both holistic wellness practices and medical professionals for modern-day health-focused individuals.

We caught up with Kelsey Hanson, the SVP of marketing and communications and the creative director behind it all, to learn what she’s been cooking up over the last six months to quite literally become the next big thing in health, wellness and travel.

We can say goodbye to unhealthy airport habits, and welcome a new world that is all about wellness. Now we have a new standard for travel: Treat. We are taking a closer look at the requirements to be a credible travel brand in a post-pandemic environment.

How did your background prepare you for such a pivotal role in a thriving company like XpresSpa Group?

I’m originally from Seattle and grew up in the Seattle design industry. My longest tenure was spent in-house at Starbucks’ global creativity studio. This gave me an authentic brand experience. My own business, freelance at ad agencies and, most recently, the creative director of a large cannabis company headquartered in Seattle. I created retail experiences in Canada for recreational cannabis. It was great fun, but it came to a halt during COVID.

When XpresSpa did their first pivot to COVID testing, they soon realized the funding, experience, and airport real estate to focus on the next big travel idea. They hired me to be a consultant and to help with the concept development of this new idea (now Treat).

What was your goal as creative director before officially taking the role as SVP of marketing and communications?

This is not a data-driven strategy. I have carefully selected a team consisting of designers and writers who are creating original content for Treat. This makes it a consistent brand experience that is unique.

Building trust and consistency are the foundation for a powerful lifestyle brand. You can’t be authentic if you just grab stuff from the internet that everyone uses and then show it off on Instagram. Although it’s more traditional and costly, the way we do it gives us a sense authenticity and control. That makes me very excited about the future for our brand. From a creator perspective, it’s a solid foundation. We want to bring together our three pillars, travel, and health, and do so in a beautiful and sophisticated way that is also medically sound.

What is your process like in curating brands that fit Treat’s retail concept?

Five zones of retail will be set up according to the new merchandising model we are developing. You can categorize everything into four categories: nourish, support and protect. Protect has Noshinku hand soap and blue-light blocking glasses. Vacation Inc. sunscreen is also being brought. It’s an amazing, clean sunscreen with branding that looks like an ’80s magazine ad. We also have a Brooklyn-based woman-owned brand called NTRL By Sabs, which makes amazing shampoo and conditioner bars.

We are being super specific about who we bring in. I started by selecting products that I had read about and that were sustainable, new, and on-brand. My design director had some amazing product ideas. One of our consultants was a former Goop buyer. She pressure tested the original assortment, and was amazed at how accurate it was. That was something I was proud of.

It sounds like your lifestyle naturally aligns with the pillars of Treat. You are so up to date with the newest and most popular consumer wellness brands. What is your daily wellness routine that helps you stay motivated and focused, besides products?

I wake up every morning at 5:00 AM, drink a glass of warm water with lemon, make my kiddos breakfast, and hit a four- or five-mile run before I start my workday. Between breakfast and dinner, I drink a lot of black coffee.

I have five different pairs of blue-light glasses (Gabriel & Simone are the best, which we will carry at Treat), plus Ilia blue-light spray every day, which helps my circadian rhythm stay strong since I practically always go to bed with a laptop. My summer uniform is a bikini. I paddle board at high tide and sometimes during my lunch break.

And aside from wellness practices, how does travel fit into your life?

Travel has always been a passion of mine. Since having children, it has evolved clearly. When I was younger, I used to go on long backpacking trips, such as Belize, Guatemala, and Thailand. My kids and I went to Hawaii this summer. This is more resort-based travel, which is quite different from backpacking. However, I still make time to travel. I am planning to travel to Istanbul later this year and look forward to taking a traditional Hamam bath.

And I do try to maintain my wellness routine while I travel–whether it’s drinking lemon water or staying on top of my running–but I’m also a believer of everything in moderation and not being too hard on yourself. Treat is a great way to make a difference when traveling. If you forget your supplements at the airport, it’s difficult to get them.

Do you have any travel memories where you wish Treat existed?

It’s something that happens only when you are in your twenties. When I was 24, 25 or 25, I spent six weeks traveling in Thailand. This was before cell phones. I was having a beach party on a small island with my friends who had landed from a cruise ship. My boyfriend and I were alone on the island after the cruise ship left. There was a long dock. It was now the tide had gone out, and I couldn’t see how deep it went. The water was a deep turquoise color. He was crazy and wanted me to jump off the dock. It’s just too shallow. It was too shallow.

I shattered my left heel. Treat’s chat support was not enough. But it would have been a start. We couldn’t find a doctor so we paid a lot of money to a guy who took us on a speedboat to the mainland. There, I was admitted to a Thai hospital where they placed me in a cast. Because no one spoke English at the hospital, I would have preferred to be able to access a doctor. They also wanted to give me painkillers. Although they didn’t inject me with anything, it would have been much more convenient if I could text with a doctor to find out the exact medicine.

What would you recommend to someone experiencing travel anxiety in a post-pandemic world?

We sell therapy journals, for example. It is an anti-anxiety notebook. This was purchased for my 12-year old daughter, who has anxiety. You will be guided through exercises that help you relax and journal. Treat offers simple and natural ways to overcome anxiety.

In our next phase, Treat will offer mindfulness sessions, so that’s another great tool to practice getting to the root of your anxiety. Ask yourself this question: What is your anxiety about? Are you in need of a mask? Are you a candidate for the Protect category? Do you really need to visit a doctor in order to get Xanex prescriptions? We have the medical arm to help you when you need it. Treat will continue to be valuable in the future.

What does revenge travel mean to you?

While it is partly about wanting your time back but also like YOLO…look at how quickly the world can change! What happens if it happens again? It’s true revenge on time.”

What words of wisdom would you offer to inspire a life well traveled?

Get out there and live your wildest life. But do it responsibly and safely with the tools that you have to help you achieve your wellness lifestyle. The only way to live is once. Make sure to pack your sunscreen and a mask. But, go out and have those experiences.

On the landing page of the Treat website, there is a quote from John Steinbeck: “People don’t take trips, trips take people.” What does this mean to you?

If you live in Kansas, don’t go to Mexico and try to live like you’re in Kansas. Take a trip to Mexico and enjoy the culture. It will take you there. You can eat the food, get up when they rise, and visit all the local places. You’ll feel different when you return home because you have a new perspective.

As Americans, we get used to a level of comfort and then we go somewhere wanting that level of comfort. It’s amazing to be uncomfortable in a foreign country and see the lives of others. Let the journey take you. You will be able to appreciate the experience when you return home.

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