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The Way to Wellness

By: Mary Bemis
Posted: June 23, 2008, from the June 2006 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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One of the most innovative spa programs around is the Voyage to Wellness, a customized program lasting between two to seven days, offered at The Spa at Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort in Dana Point, California. Spa director Maureen Vipperman partnered with Edward Taub, MD, a pediatrician and integrative health veteran, and the author of Balance Your Body, Balance Your Life: Dr. Taub’s 28-Day Permanent Weight Loss Plan (Kensington Publishing Corporation, 1999), and “Captain Bob,” a team-building expert and the owner of the schooner upon which spa clients “voyage.” The third component is the couple Will Smith, MD, and Elizabeth Pearce, MD, both psychologists. “Voyage to Wellness is based on my book, Seven Steps to Self-Healing (Dorling Kindersley Limited, 1996),” explains Taub. “I find the ocean is such a healing environment—one literally almost dances on the waves, and it calms the mind down so much that the typical person is much more open to hearing the type of wisdom I’m trying to impart.”

When it comes to wellness, says Vipperman, “The goal is not to have to see a doctor; it’s not medication to make you feel better. It’s about being well enough in the first place and about cherishing the journey that takes you to complete wellness, which takes a lifetime. It’s about the small experiences you choose to have to be well. You’re not well by accident—you’re well by purpose. We put an emphasis on wellness with each and every spa experience, from basic to complex, depending upon what our clients choose.” Packages can include sailing on the water or an entire weekend spent working with a psychologist—whatever clients feel they need after the initial assessment, which includes questions about lifestyle and diet, as well as how one would categorize their state of health and happiness.

Creating the location

Wellness comes in many forms. The surroundings and environment, as well as spa services, play a key role. On the island of St. Barts, the Hotel Guanahani & Spa, which recently renovated its facilities and partnered with the French beauty company Clarins, recently added a 600-square-foot Wellness Suite. Located on the spa’s upper level, this suite was built with the intention of allowing couples to extend their spa experience to an overnight stay, and to have the spa and pool to themselves after hours. The suite has a 180-degree view of the ocean, as well as indoor and outdoor living spaces. Wellness here is all about the ocean and utter relaxation.

Meanwhile, at Bachelor Gulch Spa at The Ritz-Carlton in Avon, Colorado, spa-goers may sign up for the Women’s Wellness & Wilderness Retreat with well-known wellness expert Heather Lee, president of Wellness & Wisdom. “I wanted to provide a spa destination experience for our clients and members that incorporated all aspects of spa and wellness, while addressing balance and introspection,” explains Gillian Agre, spa director. “Heather and I worked together for several months planning the event to make it educational, fun, introspective, active and pampering. The goal is for the attendees to find balance in their busy lives and find time for themselves.”

Agre did her homework before adding the program, which she hopes to offer annually. There was no question when it came to the importance of wellness for her clients. “It is evident in our revenue numbers for our wellness department within the spa,” she says. “In 2005, our wellness revenue was 60% higher than budgeted. This year, we substantially increased that department’s budgeted revenue to account for its growth, and we already are close to 10% ahead of that budgeted number to date. Our clients seem to be more interested in taking care of themselves and learning from our fitness and nutrition experts on how to do this.”