At Miami’s Turnberry Isle Resort, spa director Tammy Pahel has just led a US$2.5m (€2.2m, £1.9m) spa expansion and renovation, adding in functionality and comprehensive, integrative guided wellness programming with the aim of bringing the resort spa to the forefront of the industry.
The transformation of the âme Spa & Wellness Collective has upped the game for the 38-year-old Turnberry Isle Resort, which is facing competition from several new and noteworthy area spas. Those include the Carillon Miami Wellness Resort and the Tierra Santa Healing House at the Faena Hotel in Miami Beach, both of which offer wide programming beyond that typical of resort spas.
Turnberry Isle Resort, which opened in 1979, is located between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, and includes two 18-hole championship golf courses, tennis courts, and an array of family activities. Its 25,000sq ft (2,323sq m), three-storey spa opened in 2001 and after 15 years, was due for a renovation. Pahel, who joined the team in 2014, knew she needed to modernise programming and make the spa’s offerings more current.
Turnberry does well with corporate events, with 60 per cent of guests coming for conferences. It also has a popular membership option, with 1,100 people signed up as members – 600 of whom are between 30 and 40 years of age.
Pahel wanted to offer programming that catered to both of these markets. With 20 years' experience in large resort spas, she felt certain the resort would benefit from a completely new approach to spa. “I wanted to find a way to add wellness-oriented activities and provide more value for both members and guests,” she explains.
A strategic visioning session, facilitated by branding firm The Marshall Plan, brought together 19 wellness experts, department heads and practitioners, and the result is âme Spa. The spa’s approach focuses on four pillars – fitness, beauty, body therapy and health – and combines functional medicine with yoga, fitness, aesthetic medicine and therapies.
While the footprint and size of the spa didn't change during the renovation, architects Nichols Brosch Wurst Wolfe & Associates (NBWW), together with interior designer John Sands of Hirsch Bedner Associates, worked to redefine the space, combining treatment rooms to make larger suites, creating new offices for the medical practitioners, adding a spin studio and relocating the relaxation lounge.
Several experiential features were added, including a Himalayan salt suite, aromatherapy and chromotherapy steam room, a refurbished Swiss shower and a cryotherapy chamber. Gharieni supplied almost half a million dollars’ worth of spa equipment to âme, and the spa also serves as the brand’s North American showroom (see our report on the facing page).
Âme Spa takes its name from the French word for ‘soul’. Looking at wellness in a holistic sense, involving both mind and body, is central to its philosophy. For Pahel, a crucial piece of the puzzle was finding the right partner to deliver functional medicine. After interviewing 10 integrative practices, she found Hollywood, Florida-based Rezilir Health. “I was looking for a team of doctors who want to make a difference to people and their lifestyles through education and a mind/body perspective, rather than through popping a pill. And they had to have a great bedside manner,” says Pahel. “But it was Rezilir’s philosophy of building what they call ‘resilient communities’ that really caught my attention.”
About Rezilir Health
Rezilir combines conventional and integrative medicine, and believes in a therapeutic, healing relationship between doctor and patient, with doctors and nurses also acting as lifestyle coaches. Its clinicians specialise in brain health, women’s health, reversal of chronic illness, workplace wellness and nutrition.
Co-founder Dr Craig Tanio is on faculty at Johns Hopkins University and also serves as chair of the Maryland Healthcare Commission. “We believe strongly that you achieve wellness when you realign your lifestyle and environmental exposures so that your genes can express themselves towards health, not disease,” he says. “Our long-term vision is to work on improving health not only at the individual level, but also through group and community engagement. We know from numerous examples that engaging people at the community level with simple, integrated options for healthy living is when truly powerful change can happen.”
Pahel has taken this sense of lifestyle and community to heart, enlisting a variety of specialist practitioners in nutrition and mind/body wellness to visit the spa for ‘Camp âme’ weekends or day-long retreats known as ‘âme-azing Sundays’ – 14 retreats are scheduled for this year alone. The titles are designed to communicate the relaxed, enjoyable nature of the retreat programming. Pahel explains: “We wanted people to remember how they felt when they were kids, and bring the youthful, fun feeling of those memories back.”
Practitioners include New York yoga maven Nikki Costello, raw food chef Matthew Kenney, Yin yogi Magen Banwart and celebrity personal trainer Marco Borges – all of whom have large social media followings that Pahel hopes to attract to Turnberry. Âme-azing Sundays, held monthly, feature experts, speakers and trainers like Vixen Workout, Janet Jones and Ernanda Bensten, and are designed as a way for locals to experience the spa’s expanded offerings.
Rezilir’s programming also provides a way for Turnberry to integrate with its sizeable corporate and conference business at the resort, providing customised packages that can include specific doctor talks, workshops around workplace wellness, and one-on-one integrative nurse coaching.
A new energy
In addition to offering access to Rezilir's clinicians, âme also offers medical spa services through new partnerships with the Physician’s Institute of Cosmetic and Reconstructive Surgery and the Center for Holistic Rejuvenation, which does office hours at âme and offers a variety of services, including acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine, lymphatic drainage, diagnostic medical sonography and lifestyle coaching.
The renovated fitness area offers more than 96 classes a week, including spinning, yoga, Pilates, Zumba, water aerobics and HIIT. A staff member with a master’s degree in exercise physiology creates customised programmes and evaluations after interviews with clients to assess their fitness status and goals.
The spa offers treatments by featured partners Natura Bisse, Emergen C, Skinceuticals and Om4 Men. The wide-ranging menu now offers more than 70 treatment options, including unconventional choices such as Japanese Iyashi Dome and ayurvedic experiences.
“To me, the most important thing is the magic that happens in the treatment rooms,” says Pahel. “I’ve had some of the same therapists for 20 years, and they’re very energised by the new spa and eager to help heal and renew our guests.”
A worthy investment
So far, the US$2.5m cost of creating this new model for integrative wellness looks to be well spent; Pahel reports that revenue for the month of May is double that of the previous year. The resulting offer combines the features of a top destination spa with the amenities of a tropical resort; guests can easily spend three or four days at Turnberry, combining wellness experiences with a traditional beach, pool and golf-oriented vacation.
South Florida has no shortage of spas, all claiming to provide a highly personalised approach for each guest, but Pahel feels that the combination of Turnberry’s loyal guests and members, along with the alliance of wellness providers and therapists she’s built, creates an integrative wellness retreat that offers an antidote to 21st-century living.
“I know destination spas have done this kind of programming for decades, but I’m convinced that the time is right to bring all these wellness elements together under one roof in a resort spa,” says Pahel. “It’s a pioneering idea, and we’re still working hard to convince resort guests that it’s worth investing in preventative care, but the reactions we’re getting from those who do try it convince me we’re on the right track. We’re having lots of fun at the vanguard of the industry right now.”