Logging you in, please wait...
You are logged in
Log in to your account

Wahanda on wellness: An interview with Anne Biging, Healing Hotels of the World

From: Selected Treats,

24
November
2010
Wahanda on wellness: An interview with Anne Biging, Healing Hotels of the World

With over 20 years experience in international destination marketing, travel PR and hotel consulting (as well as being a keen traveller herself), Anne Biging knows a thing or two about wellness tourism. The CEO of Healing Hotels of the World has overseen the induction of over 50 carefully selected venues into the luxury health resort partnership since founding the business with Dr. Elisabeth Ixmeierback in 2006.

Today, the Healing Hotels of the World professional network spans five continents and 25 different countries around the globe. Each hotel is cocooned in stunning surroundings and offers both a relaxing retreat and a positive, life-enhancing and health reforming experience thanks to meticulous refinement of everything from meals to staff conduct on site.

Wahanda spoke to Anne about the ever expanding Healing Hotels portfolio, the philosophy behind the creation of the brand and where she feels both her business and wellness industry as a whole is heading...

  • What was the driving aim behind the creation of the Healing Hotels of the World group?

Healing Hotels of the World was created in response to the growing spa and health industry. I realised early on that the normal spa industry (as it was, with a focus on beauty treatments and relaxation) had reached its peak and that the industry was ready for further development.

As the owner of an international marketing organisation with a focus on global tourism, I was working with destinations and luxury hotels around the world. In the early 90s, I watched the first resorts for wellbeing and health come onto the scene. Being on a holistic path myself, I realized that these resorts are powerful places for transformation and promote the adoption of a new lifestyle – making the experience and knowledge of a deeper and new understanding of life available to a wide clientele.

In 2006, I decided together with my business partner to create the brand Healing Hotels of the World as a reliable source of wellbeing for guests and to support hotels who wanted to become a ‘perfect healing hotel’. The core of our business model is a focus on holistic wellbeing and the strong growth of the global spa industry is a clear indicator that we are on the right track.

  • What makes a Healing Hotel special?

All our partner hotels are very unique in what they offer and they guarantee a stay that provides an exclusive, high level holistic healing experience.

Healing Hotels of the World developed an extensive catalogue of criteria that have to be fulfilled by all partner hotels. The criteria apply to the entire hotel, including of course the spa, the rooms, the food, the sustainability of the place, the overall philosophy and much more. It is crucial for partner hotels to offer personal consultancy for the guests as well.

  • Why do you think travellers have decided to incorporate healing and wellness experiences into their holidays in the last decade?

In an age where people have everything and where the luxury market is absolutely saturated with cars, jewellery and houses, health gets a whole new meaning. Health is the new must-have!

There has been a huge paradigm shift, which has changed people’s perspective on what makes our lives meaningful and what is needed for our continued survival on the planet. This paradigm shift involves a growing awareness of the nature of health: the interconnectedness of body, mind and soul which leads us to holistic therapies. We have understood that we have to take responsibility for ourselves and the world around us and that lasting happiness does not come from accumulating material possessions. As a result, travellers are looking for something that is true - for places that honour their individuality and their personal way of life.

  • With reference to this new awareness and feeling of connectivity between mind/body/soul and the planet itself, how much do you feel the location of a hotel enhances the wellness experience?

The location is vital for a Healing Hotel. Nature is a very healing entity and thus all our hotels are nestled in beautiful natural surroundings. We believe that every person is unique and thus everybody has different preferences. Our hotels are in various locations around the world: in the mountains, by the sea, in beautiful countryside as well as in tropical environments. The climate is also crucial- some people like hot weather, others prefer it to be rather cold.

Location is also important when it comes to improving your personal health issues. For example, one of our German partner hotels, the Strandhotel Georgshöhe, is located within reach of the sea spray, exactly where the North Sea air is at its most restorative. This is very beneficial for people with asthma, lung- or other breathing problems.

  • Has this social re-definition of spa and resort standards meant that you have seen the typical wellness customer and the overall public view of wellness tourism change much over the last twenty years?

Yes, mere pampering is not enough anymore. This does not mean that beauty is out. On the contrary, beauty (and moreover, feeling beautiful) is vital for the wellbeing of many people. Who doesn’t love to have a luxurious pedicure and to show off beautiful feet in lovely new shoes afterwards? But twenty years ago, this was as far as it went in many places. Nowadays, we want more- more ‘me’ in a treatment. We want to be seen as real people with real issues and not just a paying customer who wants to have beautiful feet again.

In society, there has been a major rethink- we are not only redefining what builds self-confidence but also considering the notion of self-responsibility. We learn how to take care of ourselves and we begin to learn how sacred– and how fragile– our whole being is. And of course, the industry is responding to our needs.

  • So the typical leisure customer’s expectations have clearly changed. Have you noticed any knock-on effects that an increasing interest in and consciousness of wellness has had on business around the globe?

Yes; more and more companies are popping up that concentrate on health (rather than more superficial, temporary pampering) as their main strategy. Many city spas nowadays offer energy therapies or personal coaching for example.

In the online landscape, we see more and more platforms that deal with wellness and want to bring some clarity to the consumer amidst the wide range of offers– sites such as Wahanda.

  • If city spas are changing their approach, do you believe this means the demand for business travel wellness hotels and resorts is also increasing and do you plan to expand in that area?

Yes, it definitely is. We are not only getting more and more requests from companies, but we also see a demand for Healing Hotels in cities. So far, we just have one urban Healing Hotel: The Lyall Hotel & Spa in Melbourne, Australia.

Having been a business traveller myself for many years, I would like to create a haven in every major city in the world; a safe place where people can totally relax and unwind, even for just one night. In urban Healing Hotels, health programs are not the focus. Instead, we must evoke a feeling of coming home.

  • Has the recession affected wellness tourism in any way?

In the luxury sector, people have become more price sensitive and in regions hit by the recession, people have been staying closer to home. For example, in the years of the economic crisis in Germany, wellness hotels in the country experienced double digit growth. In general we’ve observed that in times of financial downturn, people will cut down on all kinds of luxuries, but not on the expenses that improve their health. On the contrary, in stressful times they want to do more to stay in balance, but they might be more price sensitive in their spending.

Furthermore, the recession has demonstrated that money and possessions are very fragile constructs that you can lose in a split second. Our health becomes more valuable and we realize how important it is to live a happy and healthy life when the world appears to have been turned upside down.

  • With this concept of newly ‘valued’ health in mind, how do you see the industry developing in the next decade?

Holistic health, wellbeing and prevention (rather than a feeling of wellness resorts being a quick fix) are key. People are beginning to understand that they have to take care of themselves and that they are responsible for their own wellbeing – inside and out.

The industry has to be ready to answer to this demand for top quality services and there is a lot of learning and training involved. It will be more important to deliver tangible results for guests seeking health and wellbeing then to impress them with glamour and ‘bling bling’!

  • What's next for Healing Hotels of the World?

So much! We love working directly with the customer in order to address specific requests. This is why we will soon launch a platform where people can log in, share experiences and talk to us directly.

On the other hand, it is part of our job to consult hotels and resorts on how to become a healing hotel and thus a competence center for holistic health. We are continuing to look for suitable venues and truly beautiful spots in the world in order to provide our guests with an unspoiled experience.

  • And finally, what do you hope your current and future guests to take away from a stay at one of your hotels?

We want to provide guests of a Healing Hotel with a truly personal experience and we want to show them how to live a happier and healthier life. It does not have to mind blowing- little steps are perfect as well. If someone re-learns how to breathe properly (surprisingly,most people have problems here), how to make minor changes in their diet in order to rid themselves of headaches or constant tiredness, or if someone just learns how to focus on him or herself and not just on others – that personal change is the true aim of a Healing Hotel.

In short, the purpose of a Healing Hotels is to support the wellbeing of the guests in a holistic way: physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually – and to educate them about how to take care of themselves in the future.

Share this

Alison is a freelance journalist, blogger and life-long Londoner. A subject matter magpie and self-confessed make up junkie, if it's new, a little bit different and promises great things, she'll be onto it in a flash.

See my profile »

More Entries

Wahanda loves: Super-polishes

Wahanda loves: super strawberries

Spa of the week: Tylney Hall Hotel and Spa

Tried and tested: Perfect Posture Session at Anamaya

Wahanda guide: ironing out wrinkles with thermage

Tried and tested: Pre-wedding pamper package at Michaela Mitoi

Wahanda loves: summer spa-ing

Wahanda loves: Sweet summer nail art

Wahanda guide: Lee Garrett talks treating hair loss

Wahanda loves: shine in jewel tones this winter

Wahanda loves: skin soothing solutions for National Eczema Week

Wahanda guide: fix your feet and walk tall

Wahanda loves: post-holiday healing with essential oils

Wahanda news: Champneys Tring to launch fertility programme

Wahanda news: JooMo brings truly 'natural' beauty to UK shelves

Wahanda news: The Sanctuary joins Vogue's 'Fashion's Night Out'

Wahanda news: UK’s first children's acupuncture clinic opens in London

Wahanda loves: Olympic winners and their local spas

Wahanda news: Lifehouse Spa launches partnership with ESPA

Tried and tested: soothing spa kits from Keep Immaculate

Could a coffee fix improve your memory?

Wellness profile: Rebecca Mayhew

For fitness with a tree top twist, Go Ape

Is the secret to healthy eating written in the stars?

Turn back the clock with just a smile

Creativity's mane event: Psionics Hair Show 2011

Tried and tested: Vita Liberata self tan

Reassess your activity levels and improve your health

Revealing the June Wahandies winners - gentlemen, this month it's all about you!

Stress and the city

Seeing red?

Stay sun aware: stay safe

Hypnobirthing hits Hollywood

Could back pain shrink your brain?

The Bikini Workout from Sienna Spa

Giving Britain something to smile about

The price of junk food? Britain's health

Uplifting skin solutions from down under – tried and tested: Sasy n Savy

Melvita opens enchanting eco store in Putney

Camouflage and cunning cover ups

Wahanda visits the Vitality show

Hypoxi therapy: more than just hype

McIndoe and PharmEcosse Ltd investigate the healing power of insulin

Radisson brings the stars to Guildford

Tried and tested: high glamour blow-out at The Blow Bar, Islington

Life's a BLEACH at Topshop

Be the mane attraction

Drastic divorce makeovers and promotion-seeking plastic surgery

Brow lifts to lift the pain of migraines

Bring out the bunting and balloons for our birthday bash!

Shun Cupid and get glammed up

The Mere the merrier this Valentine's!

Help to mend rather than break hearts this February

Woo your date with dated bookings

Dare to bare for these Valentine's treatments

Will you be adding budget beauty treatments to your basket?

Food for thought: National Obesity Week

Up your berry intake and lower your blood pressure

Take the plunge and sign up for Swimathon 2011

Saving face: women are budgeting for Botox

Get your skates on!

Sort out your seasonally stressed skin

Are you tough enough to take on the Soldier Challenge?

Restore your joie de vivre at The Vitality Show 2011

Make a day of your mani at Nailgirls, Islington

All Brits want for Christmas is their two front teeth

For magical Christmas gifts, look no further than Wahanda

Merry Fish-mas!

Have yourself an Elemis-y Christmas

New Year, new you: 2011 toning-up trends

Plum: the new fragrance by Mary Greenwell

Bliss Christmas Customer Event

Blister busting Botox?

Wellness profile: Anne Biging

Give in to a gill-ty pleasure as Aqua Sheko comes to Soho

Downward dog; upward spirits

Posh pooch pampering at Harrods

The (bleached) end of perfect dye jobs?

Pre-Xmas fun with The Beauty Lounge

Bird beauty: Flamingos paint their quills

Slim without visiting the gym

Dream a little dream WITH me

Celebs turn their backs on Botox

Feed your gums

Fab craze or plain crazy? The chipped varnish manicure

Like a gym bunny...

Top pampering with lustre and bling

Jet set beauty

Eastthorpe set to raise brows as it goes HD

Stay slim; make sure your wallet’s bulging

Monday’s child is... lactose intolerant?

Salvage your skin: how to eliminate stretch marks

The mane attraction

It’s strictly pilates, darling

Stub out your smoking habit

Coming soon: sunshine in a tube?

Women prefer to see their cups half full

Stay sharp: let your mind (and body) wander

Say bye-bye to your BMI?

The Tan Factor comes to town

Acupuncture baby, yeah!

Apples and pears

Exercise, socialise and challenge mental health stigma

Science has spoken: beat stress with massage

Shimmer this winter with silver locks

Think before you ink: time to zap those tatts?

Weird and wonderful wellness mongrels

Injecting trust into the cosmetic industry

Polish those pinkies in aid of breast cancer charities

Tried and tested: the hottest thing in detoxing, Iyashi Dome

A stem cell smile?

A stitch and line reverses time

Top of the chocs

Think pink this October

Your health’s best friend?

Forget man flu, is there such thing as fat flu?

Store-hoppers: splash out and treat your feet!

The Minx effect

The ins and outs of Olympia Beauty 2010

Five alternative therapies that could help you stay fighting fit

Stealthy secret surgery figures soar

Ditch the itch this autumn

One feline's rehab is coming along swimmingly

Put your best foot forward

Turn that frown upside down

Sniffing out some original exercise

Is CO2 the anti-ageing jab for you?

Kayoga™ - hit the beach and strike a pose

Champneys champions Breast Cancer Care

Cupping and meditation: Jessica Simpson's path to tranquility

Treatment