Wellness tourism is evolving from time spent by the pool or in the spa to a search for a more holistic experience. Travellers are looking to make a connection and have a life experience, from physical challenges to spiritual and cultural awakening and wellbeing. This is particularly true with luxury travel – a market valued at $891 bn in 2018 and predicted to be the fastest growing segment of the travel industry worldwide. “Transformational travel” is growing in popularity, according to reports by Bain & Company, Euromonitor and others, with an emphasis on travel experiences that allow travellers to align with the community. One of the key elements for city dwellers is also to spend time reconnecting with nature.
Our Parnas wellness hotel project, on the holiday island of Jeju off the coast of Korea approached this growing market by creating a concept centred around a deep dive research project into the physical and cultural environment of the island. This provided fertile ground for an inspiring and place-based design that gives visitors an opportunity for transformational travel, connecting them with nature and culture on Jeju Island. Heta architects’ remodelling of an existing hotel and the design of a new wing, provides a luxurious, holistic experience, focusing on a sense of place of Jeju and a deeper integration with the local community. The property also has transformable spaces for cultural performances and events.
People have been visiting the island for many years and having transformational experiences and we were inspired by the UNESCO forests, volcanic lava tubes and ocean. Drawing on the rich cultural and environmental life source of Jeju Island we have fashioned a holistic place-based experience that protects and nurtures tranquil and happy life. The cloud topped volcano, verdant forests and emerald waters of the dramatic coastline are honoured throughout the resort, creating a unique ambience of calm and restorative placement in the natural world. Respecting and integrating with the natural surrounding the hotel is inspired and grounded by the volcanic rock strata. The additional building has been designed to follow the natural contours of the slopes respecting the natural surroundings.
People are seeing the benefits of connecting with nature during wellness holidays and seeking out destinations and experiences that provides space and time to rejuvenate. The hotel grounds have been landscaped to display the beauty of the island’s flora and culture. It is planted with local vegetation and there are areas to view the gardens where the changing seasons feature blossom in the spring and impressive autumnal displays. There is also a mindfulness peace garden - a quiet space to reflect.
As more consumers adopt wellness as a dominant value, they will increasingly filter their travel experiences through a holistic wellness lens. Analysts have taken note of the rising traveller interest in authenticity — that is, things rooted in local culture, traditions, history, and/or natural environment.
Spa and Wellness Facility
Heta’s design of a thermo spa explores the immersive cultural experience of the traditional Korean Jjimjilbang, inspired by the relationship between the heat of lava flow cooled by the sea. The décor echoes the dark volcanic lava tube caves that can be visited on the island, creating an enveloping, hidden retreat with elements recalling the waterfalls in the forest. The flooring reflects the geometric shapes of the volcanic basalt rock columns that feature along the coastline and the thermos spa extends out to an infinity pool looking out onto the ocean.
The facility has been designed to accommodate bespoke, personalized spa journeys, tailored to support authentic physical, cultural and spiritual experiences for individuals and groups. We have conceptualised that the hotel might offer Jeju-inspired alternative healing rituals and group or individual activities such as tea blending, blending of Jeju scents and local crafting.
The suggestion is that the hotel will also provide wellness treatments and activities set in the beautiful natural setting, ranging from spa safaris through Jeju forests, forest bathing and guided hiking trails.
Dining - a transformative cultural experience
Luxury travellers are increasingly concerned about ethical eating and value a sustainable approach to dining. The restaurants have been designed to nurture the innate human-nature connection, providing an in-depth immersion into the destination’s culture. The hotel connects the customer to Jeju through the venues and their design and cuisine.
The menu celebrates local produce and dishes inspired by Jeju as well as other Korean foods and features sustainably harvested, carefully selected seafood.
There is a rich ceremonial tea culture in Korea and accordingly the hotel has a tea and book lounge with a tea mixing service. As well as tea, guests will be able to enjoy Jeju themed honey and Satsuma chocolates and sweets.
Retail - quality and the identity of the destination
Sustainability and local authenticity are also important in the retail offerings. The development has a carefully curated selection of high-quality shopping options that brings the very best sustainable, healthy and selective retail to Jeju. This includes the latest hiking gear – an important status signifier in Korea. Other goods include fitness wear, spa products, sustainable beauty products, sustainable fashion, a bookshop, healthy foods, vitamins and natural supplements, Jeju tea and ceramics, high quality decorative accessories and Korean Art.