In Conversation: Alejandro Bataller, Vice President OF SHA Wellness Clinic, Spain
Our Product Director, Sam Mullen speaks with Alejandro Bataller, Vice President of SHA Wellness Clinic in Spain - a luxury health resort pioneering integrated medical and holistic wellness. Bataller discusses future travels, changes in the industry and what they mean for SHA.
How do you envisage the future of travel?
Travel is a human need, which will be even more pronounced after this period of confinement. It can be paused, but not eliminated. People are eager to resume their vacation plans, and they will do so as they feel confident that they can travel without assuming or contributing to a health risk.
While tourism may be more affected in the short term than other sectors that may continue to operate with limitations or online oriented, in the long term it may even be reinforced, accentuating the current generation's tendency to invest in luxury product experiences. All trends sources demonstrate that wellness tourism, which is already growing twice as fast as traditional tourism, will be even more accentuated. People are now more aware than ever of the importance of their health, recognising that health is our main capital.
The luxury consumers will be even more demanding regarding the reason behind their trip and the expectations of it. If they choose to leave their comfort and security space at home, there must be a good reason for it. They will be looking for not only an experience, but a transformational journey that will mark a turning point in some aspect of their life. Pre-decision research by the consumer will increase as will the need for super-customisation of the trip, and in that way the role of the bespoke travel agent will be reinforced.
The luxury consumers will be even more demanding regarding the reason behind their trip and the expectations of it. If they choose to leave their comfort and security space at home, there must be a good reason for it. They will be looking for not only an experience, but a transformational journey that will mark a turning point in some aspect of their life.
What changes do you see taking place in the travel industry and how will SHA reflect these?
The tourism sector must be agile in readjusting to gain the confidence of the luxury traveller in the new scenario, starting with the airlines who have a great challenge ahead. Their agility in the readaptation will be key as also for the entire tourism sector. It is important that this readjustment of the sector is never to the detriment of the experience. A luxury traveller is not going to leave his comfortable home to travel to an establishment with closed or limited facilities. On the contrary, the measures can and should be oriented to reinforce the exclusivity and sustainability approach of a property.
At SHA we expect to soon recover the usual demand mainly because we are a reference in the most required health and wellbeing objectives at present such as strengthening the immune system, achieving an optimal state of health by preventing diseases, regaining the right weight, reducing stress and anxiety rebalancing our emotional health, recovering the habit of physical exercise by improving our vitality and performance, etc. The food offered at SHA is based on fresh, local and seasonal food, never processed. Our nutritional principles are aligned with Harvard Medical University as well as WHO recommendations, being the most suitable nutrition to strengthen the immune system. Even so, a detailed revision of the menus has been carried out, strengthening those foods that are especially favourable when it comes to improving our defences and alkalizing our organism. For the reopening we have created, counting our medical team and multidisciplinary experts, a very ambitious plan in order that our beloved guests and talents are always kept healthy and safe in our facilities. We will perform quick Covid tests to all guests and talents, we include for all our guests a consultation with an expert in immunotherapy, we have installed thermographic cameras in all the accesses, as well as the most advanced systems for disinfection of spaces through ozone and UVB rays. Each SHA suite will be disinfected after the check out with the same procedures that are used to disinfect an operating room.
In order to avoid sources of contagion and to protect our planet while enhancing the guest's experience, we have unified in the SHA app any information that the guest may require: Directory, possibility of booking any list of treatments and services, Approval and assessment of services, restaurant menus, guest's health historical plan, health plan, recommendations and prescriptions, etc., as well as check in and opening of the suite.
What do you think will be important to travellers in the new era of travel and the choices they make?
- Increase in demand for wellness tourism. Within it, we will see a strong increase in epigenetics, energy medicine as well as regenerative medicine and cell therapies. Right now, we are witnessing how plasma treatments and cell therapies are among the most successful in helping people to regain their health.
- Seclusion and space: Many of the experiential values related to integration into the destination and the local culture that have led to the demand in recent years will lose strength and be replaced by the luxury traveller's prioritisation of seclusion, space and privacy. Villas and residences will see their demand increase. At SHA, despite having facilities that are already characterised by their amplitude, we count with private residences and have taken measures to limit occupancy and capacity in spaces and activities. We will also see an increase in the demand (and supply) of services in the suite, villa or residence itself.
- The search for sustainability will be significantly accentuated as well as the value of the component of nature, green spaces, outdoor activities in natural environments, etc. This experience has made us understand that nature keeps going on, favoured by the reduction of the human footprint, but we, on the contrary, cannot live without it.
- Use of high technology and data focused on improving the guest experience through ultra-customisation.
- Work & Pleasure. The experience and unprecedented situation we are going through has helped advance in concepts and trends such as remote working much faster than we could imagine. This will enhance the combination of vacation and work, and we must be innovative in making it easier for the guest.
Tell us about your vision of sustainability?
SHA concept integrates the principle of sustainability in its DNA since its birth, and we are increasingly focused on it. Of course, we prioritise the use of recycled materials but, one of the main actors in climate change is our nutrition, and consuming only fresh local and seasonal produce, avoiding processed products and meat products is one of the best ways to help our planet as well as our health.
We are involved in different local initiatives. We are blessed to be within a natural land and marine park that contains one of the main bird reserves of our country and we actively participate in the reforestation and cleaning of it with the support of our talents that they are very involved in the cause. We also have a foundation, the SHA foundation, to which we pass a percentage of our turnover, focused on research and dissemination of the habits most suitable for our health. As part of the foundation's activities, last year we carried out an ecological garden project in Togo, Africa, for an underprivileged community, investing in spirulina tanks to strength their immune system.
The experience and unprecedented situation we are going through has helped advance in concepts and trends such as remote working much faster than we could imagine.
What have you learnt about yourself during the pandemic?
I think that despite the adverse situation we are going through we are facing an opportunity to grow personally, and opportunity for introspection, to find happiness in small things, to dedicate ourselves more to the family. This is being a great cure of humility for everyone. For science, for governments, for companies and for people. We must take advantage of it and learn. Let’s make that this adverse time not be in vain! Adverse moments must be moments of reflection and evolution. It is an opportunity of evolution for humanity. It is time to rethink our life goals, to rethink where to invest our time and money, who are our "life influencers" to follow and resemble. Without a doubt, I think we all learn that we are vulnerable, that our balance, our realisation, our health, physical and psychological health must be a priority, above the "packaging" of how we dress or what car we drive.