A meeting of minds can be magical and that’s what happened when Aldina Duarte-Ramos, Director of Global Well-being, focusing on Innovation & Guest Experience at Accor, and Catherine Tran, Director of Spa Development for the L’OCCITANE Group, came together three years ago to highlight customized wellbeing programs. This was pre-pandemic, just when Spa L’OCCITANE was about to launch an innovative sleep-focused experience backed by science and R&D. Although Spa L’OCCITANE already supplied amenities to luxury five-star hotels and had a world-class spa concept, the aim of the initiative was to develop treatments, starting with the new sleep therapy, that could be completely integrated into the activities of a hotel in order to create a holistic guest experience with lifestyle benefits. By coincidence, Sofitel was also strengthening its sleep offering to guests, which proved the perfect starting point for a partnership between the two brands.
At Accor, an inspiring approach to wellness, based on six pillars, is implemented by its hotel brands, each with their own exclusive DNA. “The first pillar is sleep, which you’d expect given our hotel credentials,” Duarte-Ramos says, explaining the concept. “The second is nutrition – how we nourish both body and soul. The third is about movement, not just aerobic or gym work but softer techniques such as yoga, breathing and meditation which are all interlinked, and the fourth is self-care, which benefits the skin and body, and boosts self-esteem. The final pillars concern mindfulness and the digital world, two essential tools in achieving life balance.”
Tran and Duarte-Ramos first collaborated on the five-star Sofitel Mexico City Reforma. Duarte-Ramos says, “I wanted to give the spa real colour with a focus on our guests’ sleep linked to the spa experience. Spa L’OCCITANE was the ideal partner with its own science-backed sleep concept. Although our partnership began with Sofitel, I’m delighted that it now extends to our Group’s MGallery Hotel Collection too.” Tran adds, “Accor and L’OCCITANE have a natural synergy, sharing a French art de vivre. We are trusted and respected brands, so client confidence is important to us both.”
With common goals, the two brainstormed the concepts for Sofitel Spa with L’OCCITANE as well as the MGallery brand. “Some of our spas combine French savoir-faire and expertise with local cultural rituals and experiences,” says Duarte-Ramos. “At Sofitel, the spa menu is creative and built around starters, main courses and desserts which complement the fabulous gastronomy offered at the hotels. We want both brands to sparkle and to provide local authenticity in a simple and meaningful way that is easily communicated to our clients to encourage them to try new spa experiences.”
While Duarte-Ramos and Tran were busy creating the new concept for Sofitel and MGallery, the pandemic struck. It meant that globally, the majority of hotel spas were forced to temporarily close and on re-opening, to follow new international regulations and strict hygiene protocols. “The pandemic naturally had a significant effect on society,” says Duarte-Ramos. “People suddenly craved nature or to be close to the ocean and became more invested in self-care. When life resumed again, clients rushed to book spa appointments in hotels with natural settings.” Tran adds, “People reconnect to their emotions during a relaxing treatment because touch is crucial both for physical and mental wellbeing and for good health. This is why the concept for MGallery is so pertinent for the times in which we live. It’s about creating a wellness ecosystem that incorporates different holistic disciplines that combine spa experiences and wellness expertise, and that are available at properties all over the world.”
Duarte-Ramos concurs. “Catherine and I trusted each other and were completely aligned from the outset. We have devised a highly creative, ambitious yet simple concept that offers clients a completely bespoke spa program, rather like choosing exactly what you want from a salad bar.” The MGallery customized spa concept will also extend beyond the client’s hotel stay. “The idea is that the client will be able to continue his or her wellness journey when they return home,” adds Tran. “With our continuing support via plug and play, guests continue their journey with innovative and immersive at home experiences.”
Currently, several MGallery hotels are under construction or being renovated with openings due this year and next, while several new Sofitel properties are tapped for the Middle East, and Asia. “We have lots of exciting future plans such as the creation of weekend urban retreats with masterclasses, workshops, talks by experts and exciting events and product sampling,” Duarte-Ramos says. “Really, the sky is the limit.”