Posts tagged #wellness traveller


Integrative Medicine is an approach that puts the patient at the centre of care and addresses the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences that affect one's health and wellbeing. It utilises conventional western medicine diagnostics and treats with evidence-based complementary functional medicine and alternative therapies.

Functional Medicine views the body as one integrated system and addresses the underlying causes of ill health, using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both you and your team of practitioners in a therapeutic partnership. It is a personalised approach to preventative care and wellbeing with an understanding that every individual is different; genetically and biochemically unique. 

Through the lens of functional scientifically based medicine the question posed is: “What is the cause of this health challenge?” and “What can be done to restore function?

Lifestyle Medicine is a new branch of evidence based medicine in which comprehensive lifestyle changes (including nutrition, physical activity, stress management, social support and environmental exposures) are used to prevent, treat and reverse the progression of chronic diseases by addressing their underlying causes. The underlying cause of disease can stem from a variety of imbalances. 

The importance of healthy lifestyles in preventing and treating chronic disease is undisputed. Retreat environments provide a unique living laboratory where all aspects of lifestyle can be controlled and studied. Retreat experiences provide a unique opportunity for people to escape from unhealthy routines and engage in healthy practices and activities that lead to immediate and sustained health benefits. 

A health retreat creates an environment with a daily schedule of habits that support optimal wellness. Guided by experts from various modalities, guests are holistically supported towards harmony and homeostasis on all levels - physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. 

The body is intelligent and has the capacity for healing and immense vitality when given the right care - this is what a health retreat can provide.

A health retreat or wellness centre provides a holistic living laboratory that supports; 

Gut Health : Emotional Wellbeing : Detoxification : Nutrition : Exercise : Mental Health : Brain Health : Sleep & Rest : Relationships : Spiritual Wellbeing : Social Connection & Community : Digital Detox : Clarity of Purpose

Specific therapies, treatments and consultations address; 

Stress & Anxiety : Inflammation : Digestive Dysfunction : Hormonal Imbalance : Structural Imbalance : Physical Toxicity : Cognitive Health : Toxic Emotions : Trauma : Immune System Imbalance 

I have been an advocate for health retreats since my early 20s and I have witnessed the power and transformation that can take place when staying on retreat. There is no better investment than that of your health, and as one wise yogi said - “health is wealth and peace of mind is happiness”.



Wellness lifestyle real estate is poised for growth that is faster than the overall real estate sector over the next decade, driven by many factors ranging from ageing societies to the changing desires of younger generations, and the need to protect the environment and open space. 

Here are some eco-certifications that you might want to pursue when developing your project.


WELL works in conjunction with global green building ring systems like LEED, BREEAM. GreenStar and Living Building Challenge to enhance building performance for human health and the environment. 


LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is the most widely used third-party verification for green buildings globally. Projects pursuing LEED certification earn points across several areas that address sustainability issues. Based on the number of points achieved, a project then receives one of four LEED rating levels: Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum. LEED-certified buildings are resource efficient. They use less water and energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As an added bonus, they save money.


BREEAM is the world's leading sustainability assessment method for masterplanning projects, infrastructure and buildings. BREEAM inspires developers and creators to excel, innovate and make effective use of resources. The focus on sustainable value and efficiency makes BREEAM certified developments attractive property investments and generates sustainable environments that enhance the well-being of the people who live and work in them. BREEAM measures sustainable value in a series of categories, ranging from energy to ecology. Each of these categories addresses the most influential factors, including low impact design and carbon emissions reduction; design durability and resilience; adaption to climate change; and ecological value and biodiversity protection. Within every category, developments score points – called credits – for achieving targets, and their final total determines their rating.


The Living Building Challenge is the world’s most rigorous proven performance standard for buildings. People from around the world use our regenerative design framework to create spaces that, like a flower, give more than they take.


Green Globe is the global certification for sustainable tourism. It is a structured assessment of the sustainability performance of travel and tourism businesses and their supply chain partners. The Green Globe Standard includes 44 core criteria supported by over 380 compliance indicators. The applicable indicators vary by type of certification, geographical area as well as local factors.


Green Star is an internationally-recognised sustainability rating system. There are four Green Star rating tools available for certification of design, construction and operation of buildings, fitouts and communities. Green Star certification is a formal process during which a building, fitout, or precinct is awarded a rating by an independent, third party assessment panel of sustainable development experts through a documentation-based assessment. A Green Star certified rating provides independent verification that a building or community project is sustainable.



The Global Wellness Institute have now released their trends for 2018, which are very conceptual and a little difficult to grasp at the 'grass roots' operational level. However, the trends below presented by Euromonitor struck a chord with me and I thought they were definitely worth sharing. 

LONGEVITY ECONOMY - In 2018, almost a quarter of everyone on the planet will be over the age of 50, a record number. It is being suggested brands focus less on millennials and more on customers over the age of 50. The growing population over 50 represents a fast-growing contingent of active, productive people who are working longer and taking the economy in new directions. Women over fifty want to be represented by the media.

AUTHENTICITY - is a standout consumer value in 2018. Visual communication is inspired by flawed images drawing on wabi-sabi as its founding principles, advocating that beauty is to be found in imperfection, impermanence and the authentic. 

REAL WORLD HOLIDAY - Due to digital dependency and the difficulty of uninterrupted reflection, several tour operators, cruise lines and resorts are now promoting unplugged vacations (Digital Detox Trips). Participants pledge to leave digital devices behind while the Intrepid Travel tour leader emails updates to their loved ones. Urban hotels helping guests switch off include Renaissance Pittsburgh hotel, offering a family digital detox package letting guests exchange their devices for traditional board games. 

EXPERIENTIAL LUXURY - high-end personalisation is thriving due to demand for “experiential luxury”, the shift from “having to being”. 

POST-PURCHASE CONTACT - with the company’s representatives, the medium and the tone of the response are also critical parts of the customer journey, shaping their view of the business. 

STATUS SYMBOL - The desire to be fitter and healthier seems to be almost universal. Healthy living is becoming a status symbol, as more consumers opt to flaunt their passion for wellness through paying for boutique fitness sessions, “athleisure” clothing, food with health-giving properties and upscale health and wellness holidays. The spectacle of those willing to throw money at their quest for spiritual improvement is seen via the frequent consumer Instagram posts of retreat experiences posing against scenic backdrops. Consuming “stuff”, was once an indicator of wealth, but is now being replaced with the lack of things, lack of excess fat, and even a lack of wayward thoughts, which now defines aspiration and is at the heart of the consumer interest in wellness.

WEARABLE DEVICES - now offer to track mental wellbeing as well as physical fitness. 

BOUTIQUE HEALTH - The consumer interest in staying well sees them combining wellbeing activities with cathartic physical activity. This is reflected in a thriving menu of more esoteric, boutique fitness workout choices in urban hubs and spas. Some unlikely combinations have emerged, including BoxingYoga, BootyYoga etc

SLEEP - Many consumers are increasingly interested in products that promote healthy sleep, urged by professionals not to view sleep as a lifestyle choice, but to respect it as they do diet and exercise, as a core health building block. An estimated three million people are listening to sleep playlists on Spotify, making it one of their most popular genres. The above-mentioned sleep monitoring machine Sense has sustained its consumer appeal with the addition of new sounds to sleep to and greater accessibility

WELLNESS HOLIDAYS - Promote the idea that consumers can take some time out, transform themselves and return a better, happier person. Activity holidays for physical and mental health are a growth sector. Money is no object when it comes to top-of-the range luxury pampering and rejuvenation treatments in hotel spas and dedicated wellness centres.

So as I step into my 2018 spa and wellness projects I will certainly be considering how these trends might apply to any given project. 



Following the Global Wellness Summit, I wasn't going to miss the opportunity to join a post summit trip to the newly opened Chable Resort in the Yucatan region of Mexico. Ten years in the making, Chable first opened its doors in November 2016 and was already heralding international acclaim, so I was certainly looking forward to the journey. 

Based on ancient Mayan culture and set on the most exquisite 750 acre property, complete with remnants of ruins to remind one of centuries past, a beautiful blue hacienda houses the reception, retail boutique, a bar and some other spaces. Beautiful furnishings, artworks and sculptures grace each room and meet us upon our arrival to this other worldly resort. 

After check in I am escorted along a winding path to my private villa, set in amongst the jungle. The room is spacious and well appointed with a bathroom that connects to the outdoors, a comfortable king size bed and sitting area, along with a private plunge pool and terrace. I am in heaven! After a very social 10 days of travelling I am ready to rest and sink into the surrounding nature. 

A light lunch is served at the restaurant that sits by the most magical pool, before I make my way to an afternoon in the spa. The treatment menu is like nothing I have ever seen before so I book 8 treatments in the space of 3 days. I want to take in all of this mayan healing. I have Janzu, Rain Goddess Ritual, a Bio Energy Lift Facial, Mayan Herbal Compress Massage amongst other things. The menu also offers a Traditional Ceremonial Temazcal, however unfortunately the shaman is unable to perform the ceremony on the needed day which gives me a reason to return. I could hardly imagine going to stay at Chable without having at least one spa treatment from this amazing spa menu. 

The stand out feature of the resort for me is the day spa, but then perhaps I am biased as I am sure a cigar smoker or tequila drinker might say otherwise. In any case the central spa facilities are stunning, with treatment rooms branching off along a circular path overlooking the central cenote, which is a fresh water hole considered to be sacred in Mexican culture. Having other facilities such as the fitness centre, a café, swimming pool and yoga deck connected to the day spa keeps the wellness activities nicely connected. There is also a café located at the spa which offers a complimentary daily tasting of small bites. 

The men’s and women’s change room each have an outdoor thermal bathing area with sauna, steam, salt room, showers and hot and cold pools. Near the entrance to the relaxation lounge is a small open room that displays the local ingredients and herbs that make up the spa products and smoking ceremony mix. A large white conch shell set in the middle of a pond resides in the centre of the spa. Here and before my first ritual I was guided across the stepping stones and into the centre of the conch for a Mayan intention setting and smoking ceremony. Depending on the ritual chosen, some rituals began with drumming, sounding of the conch, rattles or other instruments. Definitely the most unique ritual experience I have encountered to date and I loved it!

The resort had a visiting yoga teacher who offered a number of classes during the day that included yoga, meditation, guided visualisation, journaling and talks on mindfulness. Most classes were on the yoga deck that sat on the edge of the sacred cenote. There were also another couple from Spain that facilitated a qi gong class accompanied by live spiritual music. This was both unique and wonderful. Led in the courtyard under the expansive shade of a large tree I was transported to another place with the movements, breath and sound.

Chable has found a way to successfully offer wellness alongside other cultural traditions of Mexico such as a cigar bar and Ixium, the fine dining restaurant, which has a tequila collection of over 3600 bottles. The food menu’s were not entirely wellness focused, but they were small portions of Mexican style food and the staff always enquired as to whether I had any dietary requests, so they were ready and able to cater to dairy, sugar and gluten free options.

Overall, Chable Resort has found a way to merge authentic wellness, mayan spirituality and healing, along with traditional Mexican culture, which is what makes it the perfectly balanced wellness getaway. 



This year I had the fantastic experience of attending the Global Wellness Summit, which has held at The Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida. The professionals that attend this amazing event are at the forefront of the global wellness movement across a wide array of industries. The speeches, presentations and forums were of the highest calibre, with future thinking, ground breaking technology and what is happening across the planet being discussed and discovered. We had glamorous evening events to attend, round table lunches and the opportunity to meet the best in the spa and wellness industry. Inspiring on all levels! 

The eight wellness trends that emerged this year were the most left of field I have ever seen and can be found on the GWS website, so if you are reading this blog I will let you discover those for yourself. My personal favourite take homes were as follows;

Healthy Building Design: Why It’s a Smart Decision for Businesses and Investors - Delos presented research on guest satisfaction, loyalty and behaviours related to staying in hotels that offered a wellness environment via the stay well rooms. The results were very impressive and should certainly have hotels considering this approach.

Millennials are not Wellness Newbies: Presented by Good & Well - This was a fantastic presentation on the trends and behaviours of millennials in regards to wellness. Influencers have a major impact on a business having millennials as followers and are more likely to attract attendees to their retreats.  

Other Interesting Points Learned at GWS were;

Energy is 4 dimensional - Physically energised, spiritually aligned, mentally focused, emotionally connected

Energy expenditure has to be balanced with energy recovery 

Depression and anxiety cost the global economy $1 trillion dollars in lost work days 

People actually become happier as they age

Technology opens up Wellness and mental support to all people 

Eyes are direct connection to the brain and if we can stimulate the brain through the power of nature it will have a positive affect

Hotels need to integrate authenticity and sustainability 

When sustainability is only an economic drive the intention is upside down 

Equanimity within and compassion without are the core of living a well life 

Anytime we judge someone new we are judging them on... high warmth and high competence 

Move away from anti-ageing to age embracing 

We are sinking in data but starving in wisdom 

Fear is not a sustainable motivator to change. What is sustainable is fun, freedom, pleasure and love

Hot spring tourism has been emerging and developing rapidly over the past 20 years

There is great potential for virtual reality to be brought into the wellness space

The 2018 GWS will be held at Technogym HQ in Italy so a little sojourn to Europe may be on the cards.  



I had the privilege of visiting Japan in May so that I could gain an insight into the culture and therefore conceptualise Japan's first wellness retreat. A luxury destination where guests can experience the Japanese approach to longevity and wellbeing, for which they are renowned. Beyond nutrition and movement, which is where we in the West often limit wellness, is the central concept of mindfulness that is inherent in the Japanese arts, and indeed in their very way of being. 

The simple, but compelling, act of mindful living offers an invaluable tool to cope with the pace of modern day living. Mindfulness reduces stress, improves sleep, cognitive function and balances the emotions. Here below I share a number of mindfulness practices that stem from Japan to offer a perspective on how meditation can be something other than 'the lotus position'. 

ZAZEN - In Zen Buddhism, zazen is a meditative discipline that is typically the primary practice. The precise meaning and method of zazen varies from school to school, but in general it can be regarded as a means of insight into the nature of existence. Zazen is practiced in different ways depending on its tradition. It may involve facing a wall or facing into the centre of the room with eyelids half lowered. It can also include a walking meditation in the room. 

JAPANESE TEA CEREMONY - The heart of the Japanese tea ceremony lies in simplicity of spirit which brings peace to the mind. The objective of the ceremony is not just to make a cup of tea; it is a deliberate exercise in being present in the moment, focusing on one task and appreciating the simple things in life. The ritual of the tea ceremony is based on the 4 fundamental Zen principles of harmony, respect, purity and tranquility.

IKEBANA FLOWER ARRANGING - Ikebana or kado is the beautiful, often strikingly minimalist, Japanese flower arrangement art. Ikebana means “giving life to flowers” and kado translates as “the way of flowers”. When Buddhism was introduced to Japan, monks started to arrange flowers to decorate the altars of temples.

KOTO LESSON - The koto is the national instrument of Japan. It is a stringed musical instrument that is plucked with ivory picks called tsume.

ORIGAMI - Japanese origami began sometime after Buddhist monks carried paper to Japan during the 6th century. The word "origami" comes from the Japanese language. "Ori" which means folded and "kami" which means paper. This traditional paper folding art is very relaxing and meditative. 

JAPANESE INCENSE CEREMONY - Kōdō ( 道?, "Way of Fragrance") is the art of appreciating Japanese incense, and involves using incense within a structure of codified conduct. Kōdō includes all aspects of the incense process, from the tools ( 道具 kōdōgu), to activities such the incense-comparing games kumikō (組 ) and genjikō (源 ).[1] Kōdō is counted as one of the three classical Japanese arts of refinement.

JAPANESE CALLIGRAPHY - Zen calligraphy is practiced by Buddhist monks and most shodō practitioners. To write Zen calligraphy with mastery, one must clear one's mind and let the letters flow out of themselves, not practice and make a tremendous effort. This state of mind is called the mushin (無 ? "no mind state”). For any particular piece of paper, the calligrapher must be fully present and has but one chance to create with the brush.

JAPANESE POTTERY - Learning to use the potter’s wheel takes patience, practice, and focus. It is also very relaxing and rewarding. Initially the class will make small bowls, plates or cups before progressing onto other forms. Hand building or sculpture, is another way to work with clay. The basic techniques are easier to learn than wheel throwing and there is a larger range of forms you can make. 



Last month I had the delight of making my first ever visit to Japan to meet with a new client wanting to create a health retreat in the heart of snow country. My tour included a few days in Tokyo, Kyoto, Niseko and Shima-Shi so that I could understand the country, its culture, the Aman hotel group and of course the onsen tradition. 

I landed in Tokyo and absolutely loved this city. Fashion, food and beautiful hotels. Finding a yoga or fitness class was not so easy, and it seems that the wellness scene as we know it, has a long way to grow in Japan. However, the Japanese have long been revered and studied for their long life expectancy. They have a diet that is largely fresh and unprocessed, with very little refined foods or sugar. And the Japanese tend to have a healthy attitude to food and eating. They have a traditional saying, “hara hachi bu”, a Confucian teaching, which means to eat until you are 80% full, and Japanese parents start teaching this to their children from a young age. Its this mindful approach and the way they serve their food that is the key to their longevity. Rather than having one large plate, they often eat from a small bowl and several different dishes. The Japanese are also strong believers of ‘flexible restraint’ when it comes to treats and snacks, enjoying them from time to time but in smaller portions. 

My next stop was Amanemu in Shima-Shi and overlooking Ago Bay. Built around natural hot springs, called onsen in Japanese, the hotel has 30 private villas inspired by the classic style of a traditional ryokan. Designed by Kerry Hill Architects and using natural materials that harmonise with the surroundings, each villa offers a luxurious approach to zen minimalism. Soaking tubs offer taps for cold, hot and hot-springs water, so that a guest can enjoy a private onsen experience in their room. Surrounded by gardens, the water-inspired Aman Spa offers 2,000 square metres of relaxation, including two private pavilions, a watsu pool and four treatment suites. Designed around a large hot spring, the onsen experience here is of a more contemporary nature and I could barely wait to have a soak in the warm water. My afternoon of spa treatments began with a deeply relaxing watsu, followed by a energy healing with a visiting specialist. I was then escorted back to the spacious changing area that connects to the outdoor onsen. The water was heaven! Each mineral spring in Japan has its own unique properties and the Japanese will travel to various onsen based on the healing effects of the water and their wellness goals. In the case of Amanemu, the thermal water left my my skin feeling silky and soft. To finish the day I joined my travel companion for dinner in the restaurant, where a menu of local delicacies, including spiny lobster, marbled Wagyu beef and foraged herbs offer the best of Japan. A good nights sleep gave way to a beautiful sunny day so I hopped on a push bike and explored the property and then went to the fitness centre for some exercise before a final soak in the onsen, followed by a delicious degustation breakfast. 

Our next stop was the beautiful city of Kyoto. Due to its exceptional historic value, it escaped destruction in World War II, therefore countless shrines, temples, gardens and other priceless structures remain intact. As this visit was more of a cultural than a wellness visit I simply planned to wander, but I did stop for a shiatsu massage, which is a form of Japanese bodywork based on Traditional Chinese Medicine using finger pressure, along with assisted stretching, joint mobilisation and manipulation. After 4 hours of walking the renewed energy and lightness I felt from the shiatsu treatment was quite unbelievable and allowed me to continue sightseeing for another 3 or 4 hours. 

Onwards to Niseko for a discovery tour of the region and its hotels, traditional ryokans and hot springs. A ryokan is a Japanese style inn found throughout the country, but especially in hot spring areas. More than just a place to sleep, a ryokan is an opportunity to experience the traditional Japanese lifestyle and hospitality, incorporating elements such as tatami floors, futon beds, Japanese style baths and local cuisine. I loved experiencing this side of Japan along with the traditional onsens. I finished both evenings soaking in an outdoor onsen that was under the stars and surrounded by forest. The perfect pathway to a good nights sleep. 

On return to Tokyo for my final 2 night stay, I checked into Aman Tokyo and soon thereafter went to the spa for an afternoon of treatments. I began, as you do in Japan, with a warm soak overlooking the city skyline. Then I succumbed to a 3 hour ritual. The entire journey was faultless with every last detail considered and the pace of the therapist unhurried and attentive. If visiting Tokyo please visit the Aman. Designed by none other than the iconic Australian architect Kerry Hill, this city hotel is absolutely exquisite in its approach to zen luxury. The aesthetic is both refined and a little 'wabi sabi', which is a concept derived from Buddhism with the characteristics including asymetry, roughness, simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty, intimacy and appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes. Its this approach that makes the Aman Tokyo feel right in every way. In addition service excellence delivered with Japanese perfection ensures the stay is second to none. Upon checking out, I was driven to the train station with two hotel porters purchasing my train ticket and carrying my luggage to the correct platform and train carriage. What more could a travelling spa consultant ask for? 

In any case I look forward to returning to Japan as the Aman Moiwa Health Retreat continues to be developed. Its an exciting project on so many levels and I look forward to bringing the concept of Japanese wellness to wellness travellers and ski enthusiasts visiting Niseko. 



I first went to Fivelements in Bali whilst on one of my regular yoga holidays in Ubud. On that occasion I joined two friends to attend Agni Hotra, which is a fire blessing ceremony whereby one offers negative thoughts or unwanted energy into the fire to be purified or transformed into more positive energy. This healing ritual begins with meditation in the ceremonial fire space, while listening to the hotri(s), ceremony priest or facilitator as he rings the Balinese bell and chants Sanskrit mantras to evoke the Divine and blessings of health and abundance. Following the lighting of the fire, you are invited to participate by making offerings of grains, lentils and other foods into the fire. A silent meditation is shared toward the end to compliment this ancient ritual.

Now some two years later, I had been asked to visit the resort as a mystery judge for the Luxury Spa and Wellness Awards. With excitement I booked one nights accomodation and 5 spa treatments from the wonderful spa menu consisting of local balinese healing, a variety of rituals and watsu water healing. 

Fivelements opened in late 2010 as the first of a new genre of wellness destinations bridging the wisdom of traditional healing cultures with innovative wellness concepts. To date, the eco-wellness retreat has been recognised with eighteen international awards spanning across hotel, wellness, spa, culinary and sustainable design industries. 

The property sits in a small valley between the local village and the river. The central Sakti restaurant (pictured below) makes for a striking entrance and footpaths weave between soft green grass amidst the gentle sound of music to the spa, pool, movement spaces and private villas. Towering circular thatched roofs that are reminiscent of a tee-pee tent have me in a state of architectural wonder. 

Fivelements is built upon a strong approach to sustainability that includes considering; Site Sensitivity and Natural Habitat, Water, Energy, Materials, Waste and Indoor Environmental Quality. With the intention being to move operations beyond the sustainability of Green Building and into the realm of Regenerative Design.

Guided and inspired by traditional Balinese Philosophies, Fivelements draws on the principles of  Tri Hita Karana - Living in harmony with God, among humans and with nature. Tri Kaya Parisudha - Living in alignment with clean mind, clean speech and clean action. Panca Mahabhuta - a Hindu concept, which explains how internal and external forces work together and are united with the Universe. Akasa - Ether - the idea of connectedness and spaciousness.  In the body, Ether represents all the cavities and empty spaces of the body. In the mind, it represents our consciousness. Bayu - Air - the idea of motion. In the body, Air represents all movement of nerves, breath and limbs. In the mind, it is the power behind our thoughts. Teja - Fire - the idea of light, heat and transformation. In the body, Fire represents all digestion and transformation. In the mind, it represents perception and intelligence. Apah - Water - the concept of flow and fluidity. In the body, Water represents all the liquids of the body. In the mind, it represents loving and compassionate thoughts and emotions. Pertiwi - Earth - the concept of solidity. In the body, Earth represents our physical body. In the mind, it represents stability.

Healing rituals include a combination of meditation, deep bodywork and prana energy performed by healers whose gifted talents have been handed down through generations of Balinese families. I am not disappointed with any of my healing rituals and absolutely love the added touches that complement my spa experience. The intention and harmonising chant that begins each ritual is so beautiful and the presence of the therapist is palpable. I am massaged, energetically balanced, bathed in a tub full of fresh herbs, plants and fruits and soothed to completion with local jamu tea. The following day I have my first ever experience of Water Healing and this goes beyond anything I could imagine as my healer moves me through the water with such adeptness that all I can do is surrender, which is the entire point. 

The food is vegan delicious, the staff sweet and gentle and the wellness experience restorative and spiritually reconnecting. Certainly a beautiful option should you be looking for a private and personalised healing journey in Bali, the island of Gods. 



When we hear the term ‘wellness’, we generally think of it referring to lifestyle and relaxing spa therapies. But the truth is, that this term includes designing wellness within the four walls of our homes, offices and of course our spas.

We spend 56% of our lives at work, and 90% of our lives indoors. And with indoor air quality being five times more polluted than outdoor air, we can quickly begin to see why ‘sick building syndrome’, was officially recognized by the World Health Organization in 1986. Diseases that could be linked to the home or spa, include allergies, fatigue, asthma, hay fever and recurrent colds and flus.

The current challenge within the spa industry is that so many spas lack proper ventilation or even windows, and coupled with walking in with shoes, shedding layers of skin and emotion within the treatment room, its possible that our spas could be far more physically and energetically toxic than most homes and offices.

So how do we design wellness spaces?

In hunter-gatherer days, indigenous people assessed the life and prosperity of land by observing plants and animals, so as to avoid ‘sickness country’. In modern times, a detailed ‘building biology’ checklist can be used when choosing the best site for your wellness space, even if it’s in an urban environment. 

Setting a clear intention for how your spa will serve as a wellness destination, will then inform the design process, whereby a number of elements can be considered, from geopathic stress to feng shui principles to air purity and ventilation, use of natural light, electrical wiring, green walls and heating and cooling choices. 

The next step in wellness design also considers the health of the planet, by using sustainably sourced and/or recycled materials in the initial construction of a spa. These ethical choices also impact on our wellbeing, as new buildings ‘off gas’ high levels of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) from treated woods, insulation, gyprock, paints, glues and sealants. Building materials may also contain radioactive nuclides, particularly cement, bricks and stone.

Wellness design then extends into the selection of finishes and fixtures, which include floors, carpets, upholstery padding, furniture, fabrics and built in cabinetry, all of which, also ‘off gas’ high levels of VOCs. Therefore being the major cause of poor indoor air quality.

If building a new spa is just not on the financial agenda right now, then there’s still many ways that wellness can be implemented within an existing spa. And the points spoken of below, also apply to the final elements crucial to a new spa design.

Air Purity & Ventilation – Many spas are designed without windows, and hence air ventilation is absent. There are a number of air purifiers on the market. However the humble household plant is the most effective air purifier, because plants balance humidity levels, pull contaminants out of the air, reduce airborne moulds and bacteria, and absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen.

Dust – The primary source of dust is human skin cells along with walking inside with shoes. Consider a guest journey that has clients and staff leave their shoes at the door. Avoid fabric curtains and too many fabric furnishings. Use a slightly damp microfiber cloth to clean surfaces and floors. Choose cushions and bedding made from natural fibers and wash regularly in hot water and then air dry in the sun. And use a vacuum cleaner with a hepa filter and motorized head.

Mould – Is extremely toxic and must be removed at all costs, as this will be affecting the health of you and your team. You might even have to relocate your business due to the serious health consequences. In the meantime, clean with vinegar. 

Water Filters – These are not a luxury, but rather an absolute necessity. Ensure you are drinking pure water and equally serving pure water to guests.

Electro Magnetic Frequencies - Exist wherever there is electricity and can negatively impact on our health and the ability to relax. There are a number of considerations when choosing a site and then when building, but in terms of an existing spa, its important to remove cordless phones and wifi as well as turn off all power points when appliances are not in use.

Cleaning Chemicals – Affect the health of our space, as well as the planet. In leading the way of wellness, its imperative that spas use natural cleaning products, eucalyptus oil and essential oils as air fresheners. If possible, source an eco-laundry service for the laundering of towels, which come into direct contact with the skin.

Cooling & Heating – Air conditioners need to be maintained so as to not become a health hazard and not all heating is created equal and needs to be considered. 

Candles – While there is nothing nicer than the gentle flicker of a candle, the truth is that most candles (unless they are made from beeswax or soy) are actually filling your space with carcinogenic chemicals, which can cause cancer and affect the central nervous system. Buy good quality candles or use rechargeable candles.

Showers & Chlorine – When showering in warm water, our guests are exposed to high levels of chlorine. Consider a Vitamin C showerhead filter, which reduces chlorine by 99% and offers your spa a USWP (unique wellness selling point).

Incense – There is nothing more spiritually evocative than the smell of incense, however it does cause air pollution and it is recommended to stop using incense.

Smudging Ceremony - Natives believe the spirits of sacred plants such as sage, are called to drive away negative energy and restore the balance to a particular space. And quite surprisingly a study in the Journal Ethnopharmacology found that the process of ‘smudging’ a space for one hour caused a 94 percent reduction in the bacterial count of the room. And the energetic clearing will increase the vibration.

In summary, as the spa industry leads the way in wellness, it’s important that we begin to consider taking a ‘whole’ approach to wellness and truly caring for our clients, our selves and our teams, through the way we design our spaces. 



The greatest challenge when travelling a lot, particularly for work, is the ability to find healthy food. Its quite amazing how hard it can be to find basic vegetables on a menu and it can be quite tiresome always having to ask for a special combination of food items you have located within the fine print of the menu. With this in mind, its so very important for hotels and resorts to start accommodating the wellness traveller, who seeks to maintain healthy habits whilst on the road. If your chef is resistant to this idea then it may be necessary to bring in another consulting chef who specialises in whole foods and other quirky but popular concepts. I often see menu's that 'try' to be healthy but there are holes throughout their entire food philosophy. Many restaurants would consider a potato gnocchi covered in cream and without the bacon to be the perfect vegetarian option, whilst missing the point that vegetarians, by definition of the very term, prefer to eat a diet that is high in vegetables. And therefore this attempt at considering the vegetarian is seen as a lack of true care and integrity to this particular population. Having said that, the paleo food philosophy, which is quite abuzz at the moment, can also be missed through a menu that is heavily laden with carbohydrates and still missing the necessary quotient of vegetables. 

So then how does a restaurant within a hotel or resort create the ideal menu? And better still, how does this department link in to the spa so as to capture more clients and create a cohesive theme of wellness?  

Firstly, I think its important to create a menu that considers food combining, the paleo diet, ayurvedic philosophies and raw foods. The philosophy also needs to be based on organic, seasonal, whole foods that are free from dairy, gluten and sugar. Then link this food philosophy back to the spa and wellness concept in the following ways:

Create a ‘culinary wellness menu’ for each restaurant that captures the essence of that particular food theme, but in a healthy way. For example: your Italian restaurant might offer zucchini pasta, spelt pizza with cashew nut cheese, dairy and sugar free tiramisu. Your Asian inspired restaurant might offer an array of paleo inspired recipes and vegetarian delights. 

Add a stand alone ‘spa and wellness’ breakfast buffet that offers fresh fruits, activated nuts, gluten free muesli and granola, quinoa porridge, sheep and goat yoghurt, almond and rice milk, organic poached and scrambled eggs, home made beans, wilted spinach, sprouted and gluten free breads, vegetarian fritters, buckwheat pancakes and super food smoothies to name a few. 

Add ‘spa and wellness’ foods to any other buffets that are hosted in your restaurants. Create a ‘healthy picnic hamper’ that might be enjoyed as part of a spa package or chosen by guests going out for a full day excursion. 

Possible wording for your culinary spa menu might be... Spa & Wellness Menu, Spa Delights, Delicious Detox, Raw Beauty, Organic Gourmet, Culinary Creations, Health Bar, Wellness Weaver, Health Haven, Spa Bites, Wellness Delights or Organic Gourmet. The list is endless. 

The intention here is to continually bring attention to your spa through the food menu’s, to position your hotel as a leader in wellness tourism and to most importantly, take care of guests with specialised dietary needs and preferences. At the end of the day, if our guests are happy, our business will also show a very happy profit.