Corporate Event Wellness and Wellbeing – The Future, Now!

The words WELLNESS and WELLBEING are sometimes confused, but certainly as far as spas are concerned, they are definitely not the same! However, they are getting ever closer, as destination spas not only deliver physical health and fitness (wellness) but really begin to consider the whole picture offering a more holistic wellbeing experience including emotional, mental and psychological needs. Throw into the mix an increasing trend for corporate events to utilise spa facilities as part of their programmes and you have a changing market scene.  Champneys the UK’s original health resort founded over 90 years ago by Latvian Stanley Lief, recognised beauty was much more than just skin deep.  Lief believed spas were all about the mind, body and soul. So, what is todays psychology behind the spa and meeting experience? Why are spa designers now looking at the bigger corporate picture?  And what does the wellness and wellbeing future really hold? meetingsclub takes a look at: 

  • The psychology of spas and wellbeing – how mindfulness should play a part in all “unhealthy” meetings – exclusive video interview with Mandarin Hotels Jeremy McCaffrey
  • Spa design inspiration 2019 style – from top designer Beverley Bayes
  • The Spa opening of the year!  The Spa at South Lodge, much more than just pampering – exclusive video interview with MD Danny Pecorelli of Exclusive Hotels & Venues
  • The right nutritional fuel and why chips are still a big hit 
  • Mixing Business with Pleasure
  • The past, present and future of spas – Consultant Liz Holmes shares her thoughts

Jeremy McCarthy, Director of Spa & Wellness, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group

For over 25 years, Jeremy McCarthy has been a pioneer of innovative spa concepts believing the industry is all about taking care of other people. But in this era of technology and digital overload McCarthy is clear that hotels and resorts now need to reach much further into the area of meetings and events with mindfulness playing a big partWatch the winner of the 2019 International SPA Association Visionary Award share his thoughts exclusively with meetingsclub.  

The psychology of spas, unhealthy meetings and ‘wellness everywhere’

Spa Design Inspiration 2019 Style

Jeremy McCarthy eloquently explained in his interview the Psychology behind the spa experience.  But how does the theory translate into design practice as far as new spas are concerned?  Sparcstudio is one the UK’s leading privately-owned design studios with an impressive track record of producing award winning Spas across Europe. Each of their projects involves unique bespoke ideas which often draw inspiration from natural surroundings.  Director Beverley Bayes, the creative driving force behind Sparcstudio has extensive industry knowledge and a finger very much on the pulse of what’s hot and trending within the wellness and wellbeing world of hotels and resorts. Beverley’s creative designs are behind many top UK spas including Dormy House, Rockliffe Hall in County Durham and the Aqua Sana & Center Parcs Hotel Woburn Forest. The recent opening of the Spa at South Lodge, part of the Exclusive Hotels Group, which includes Pennyhill Park Hotel in Surrey is her latest project to open to critical acclaim.  

You can’t fail to be impressed on a number of levels with The Spa at South Lodge.  With an ‘outside-inside feel’ the Spa building complements the beautiful landscape with an amazing grass roof coupled with green oak cladding, designed with sustainability very much in mind.  They’ve even measured exactly where the sun rises and sets to get the most sunlight.  Comments Beverley Bayes: “The trend now is to maximise outside space – it’s a shame if you can’t see the countryside.”  And with stunning views from the UK’s first natural outdoor reed filtered heated swimming pond overlooking the South Downs you can see what she means.  Space is very much a recurring theme both inside and out and Bayes’ creative design thinking has rightly identified that from a social, event networking and relaxation point of view, space is truly king. Much of the design concept was inspired by South Lodge’s botanical history dating back to the 1800’s. Frederick DuCane Godman, a British naturalist and plant collector built the original house and surrounding gardens with over 360 species of trees and plants sourced from the Azores, Caribbean and Central & South America. 

Throughout the complex, there’s so much room and with the clever design installation of atmospheric lighting, the ambience for guests and delegates attending events changing quickly to give a completely different look and feel.  Add in music, delicious food and you’ve a heady cocktail of relaxation experiences, which shriek informal yet exclusive sophistication. 

But what sets The Spa at South Lodge apart is the integral design integration of the spa, urban gym and studio facilities which can be used by corporate event clients. It’s what makes South Lodge different. A clever case of wellness and wellbeing coming together, which ticks a lot of boxes in these days of increasing mental health concerns. Pilates, yoga and meditation classes are popular in the holistic studio, whilst the 19 bright yellow spin bikes are in regular use, led by enthusiastic instructors!  And after a hard day in the ‘classroom’ many groups decide to clear their minds through exercise which include anger management boxing in the urban gym and group training sessions once Day Spa clients have departed. Or if stretch exercises is more your thing, there’s no better place than the outside veranda to fill your lungs with fresh air whilst watching the sun go down overlooking the South Downs.  Clearly the new £15m spa has every treatment and facility you can think of. The outdoor vitality hydro pool and 22m indoor infinity with floor to ceiling windows are guaranteed to keep all water lovers happy.  Bespoke heat experiences include camomile and salt steam rooms. And for those that just want to relax, futuristic relaxation pods emit warmth, music and coloured lighting whilst giving a gentle massage. So much to do, so little time. 

Take a look for yourself:

Danny Pecorelli, Managing Director of Exclusive Hotels 

A man who has seen it all during his illustrious career is Danny Pecorelli. But even Danny is hugely proud of the newly opened Spa at South Lodge, near Horsham in Sussex. But this is not just another “pampering paradise”. The inclusion of a state-of-the-art spin studio and cutting-edge urban gym is no accident as South Lodge focusses on the integration of corporate conferences and events within the spa complex. Plus, the creative flexitarian Botantica Restaurant menu confirms that plant-based eating is very much here to stay.

Find out what Danny has to say about:

Super spa space, the art of spin and wasted burger

NUTRITION – It’s All in The Fuel 

Danny Pecorelli in his interview clearly demonstrates how much importance he places on Spa nutrition. The Botanica Restaurant offers a truly authentic flexitarian menu featuring carefully selected meat and plant-based dishes.  But South Lodge has now gone one step further, thanks to their rich botanical history which dates-back to the 1800s, when the gardens were developed with over 360 species of trees and plants. Herbalist Michael Isted of Herball has collaborated with Botanica to create a bespoke range of plant extracts that are integrated into a wide variety of drinks. It’s the first spa in the world to offer and serve what are unique collaborative drinks with extracts. For example, guests can enjoy pineapple, pomegranate and lime juice served with ‘heart and beauty’ active botanical tinctures. The heart botanical Is a nervous system tonic, which reduces stress levels and nourishes the nervous system. The beauty botanical is full of natural digestive enzymes and anti-bacterial plants which helps to nourish and strengthen the digestive function and skin health.  

But it appears that not all Spa Destinations around the world are as forward thinking as South Lodge.  Speaking exclusively to meetingsclub, Andrew Jacka, Director of Spa Origins in Thailand was one of the first in the World in the 1990s to introduce food to the menus as a means of physical and emotional healing through holistic health programmes. His low salt, low sugar, low fat “low not no” spa menus were in many ways ahead of their time. 

But the three times winner of the Best Spa Cuisine in the World as voted by readers of Condé Nast Traveller UK believes that some chefs attitudes, particularly in some 5-star hotels still need to change.  “They have a long way to go and are still serving up food which nutritionally belongs in the 1940s and 1950s.”  He does draw a distinction between destination spas and hotel spas, with the latter still often serving “hamburgers and chips and relying too heavily on salads.”  

Jacka recognises that nutrition is the “fuel of the engine” when it comes to the spa experience, particularly in the wider context of body mind and the wellness experience. However, he truly believes that nutritionists working with spas should be even more open minded and consider diets such as the ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting as “at the end of the day it’s got to come back to what works for you!” 

One award winning UK spa which believes that there is a balance to be struck between healthy nutrition and indulgent eating is Rockliffe Hall in County Durham.  A popular spa day destination, good fresh local ingredients form the basis of the Spa Selector menu served in the Brasserie of this 5 Red Star HotelGuests can enjoy popular favourites such as Fish and Chips and Spaghetti Vongole or indulge by having Lindisfarne Oysters and Malayan Monkfish and Prawn Curry followed by a delicious Crème Brûlée. Of course, nutritional smoothies are also available but so are Lakes of Prosecco for that special occasionRockliffe have also teamed up with Harley Street nutritionist Angela Beecroft who regularly runs nutritional wellness & training masterclasses at the venue for Members of the Spa and corporate groups.  Focussing particularly in the relationship between the gut and overall health, Angela believes that the symbiotic relationship of the microbiome rules your life both mentally and physically. 

Mixing Business WITH Pleasure

It wasn’t long ago that spa leisure guests and corporate meeting delegates rarely mixed in the same circles despite being under the same venue roof. A short swim in the pool before breakfast was about as far as it went for many executives, with most opting to stay in their rooms answering emails before their conference started. But these days, things have changed and South Lodge is a good example of how it is possible to totally integrate corporate guest event programmes so that spa, gym and studio facilities are fully used and enjoyed. 

Champneys, the UK’s original health resort also recognises it makes absolute sense to combine business with pleasure and fuse their expertise in wellness and reinvigoration with professional and inspiring business events hosted at their spa resorts. Champneys spas offer a unique setting for business meetings and corporate events be it an intimate meeting for three, a board meeting for 20, or a hospitality day for top clients. They’re very much open to client ideas as well as providing their own dedicated packages and activities; from kicking off the day with a sunrise yoga session or an exhilarating exercise class to winding down in the evening with a mindfulness walk, business meetings aren’t what they used to be. 

Client relationships and understanding client needs are all important particularly for venues who depend on a high level of regular meeting and events business. East Sussex National is a 4-star, 104 bedroomed hotel with extensive meeting facilities, award winning spa and health club. This hotel for a long time has recognised that healthy food is important for all conference delegates and was one of the first to offer delegate organisers the option of army combat PT training, long before the expression health and fitness was coined.  But East Sussex National, never one to rest on past innovative ideas has recently introduced office health checks for employees of their event clients.  With prior arrangement, specialists from the Spa travel to local offices and undertake free of charge health checks including blood sugar and cholesterol.  It’s a service that is very well receivedparticularly by one person who having been tested was rushed immediately into hospital by ambulance saving their life. 

Liz Holmes, Director Commercial Spa Strategies 

It’s clear that the Spa world continues to change and evolve as it has done over the three decades.  One person who has seen this change first-hand is Liz Holmes, Director of Commercial Spa Strategies With over 30 years of experience in the spa, hospitality and fitness sectors, Liz has seen it all.  Her CV is impressive.  An award-winning career has seen involvement at a number of top spas, resorts and 5* properties including Rockliffe Hall and Swinton Country Club & Spa.  Her respected consultancy supports the commercial success of new and existing hotel-spa businesses across the UK, with a strong focus on team backed by a no nonsense commercial edge. A regular speaker and industry commentator, meetingsclub was delighted to hear Liz’s fascinating personal views about the past, present and future of spas. 

The past, the present and of future spas 

Leisure to many in the early 1990s often just meant a pool with a ‘few rocks around’ to make it look good. It was all about free access to hotel leisure facilities. Spa experiences didn’t existAs the decade progressed, the spa concept began to take hold and people started to think of luxury and relaxation and a much longer hotel dwell time.  But everybody still used the facilities which was often to the detriment of those guests who were there to enjoy the spa.  Pinch points of time were common with 3.00-5.00pm on a Friday and weekends often very busy. Now, spas have created much more of a curated experience managing arrival times and personalising spa programmes.  A welcome drink on arrival and a snack after treatment.   

A different approach was certainly called for and many hotels and spas have risen to that challenge. Lodore Falls Hotel in the Lake District is a good example of the next generation of spas. They’ve created a dedicated area with 16 different spa suites.  Guests staying pay for the spa services they wish to enjoy enabling timings to be managed improving the experience for all.  It has become a spa destination reaching a wider wellness market. 

Lodore have clearly identified the key products and services their clients want to experience, and this does not include a 25m pool.  Guests want a sense of luxury, a relaxing place to rest, comfortable loungers, great views and above all great spaces to be in.  Design is all important.  Their spa journey must feature things which they can’t get at their local leisure club.  Lodore Fall’s investment includes for example a suite of five thermal rooms where the temperature gradually increases some with steam, salt and natural pine. An outdoor sauna with a view of the lake completes the picture – elements that guests want to take a photograph of and share with their friends   

Ultimately any spa must make sure they offer an experience that has a value and demonstrate they treat everyone as an individual from the time they are greeted by name on arrival. But of course, the experience must start well before clients arrive with the spa contacting to discuss what the best treatments or programme of activity is and identifying any medical conditions. 

As for the future of spas, the “outside” is the next big thing.  Brits traditionally have preferred the inside but for Scandinavians and many Europeans, outside is very much where it’s at.  Winter is cold but fun, with snow falling on your head and as UK travellers return from places like Iceland and Hungary, they’re ideas and expectations are changing.  Without doubt the outdoor experience will continue to grow with amazing designs and the start of a very different spa journey which will be all about cold, heat and texture.  Sure, not all spas will have amazing views overlooking a lake, but you can create an effect like a Chelsea Flower Show Garden incorporating beautiful back to nature features just like the Y-Spa at Wyboston Lakes.   

One thing is for sure, hotels, spas and health resorts must continue to raise their game as competition and client expectations continue to rise based on every day experiences. Take Community Interest Company LiveWire a not-for-profit health and wellbeing organisation which strives to promote a healthy lifestyle in Warrington.  It has quickly become the largest provider of Leisure facilities within the area, with any profits reinvested back into developing and improving its facilities and services. LiveWire offers the local community a wealth of wellbeing and wellness options under one roof and the opportunity to create personalised health programmes A state of the art gym, garden spa, medical centre including physio’ and pre-natal natal classes are all housed within a dementia friendly, nondiscriminatory environmentIt’s impressive and worth taking note of.