Therme Group’s wellbeing resort concept, originally seen in Germany and now being taken worldwide, was born from a strong belief that wellbeing should be accessible for everyone, and that thermal facilities should be about fun and leisure as well as relaxation.
Therme Group’s wellbeing resorts have been described as waterparks, water theme parks and thermal spas, but the truth is they combine all of those elements – with forthcoming resorts also set to feature vertical farms, immersive art installations, health and fitness and innovative technology – to create a new genre of attraction.
“At a basic level, we all connect with water; we find it incredibly calming to be in and around,” says Richard Land, Therme Group UK’s chief development officer. “Whether it’s children playing or adults bathing, there’s been lots of research showing the significant wellness benefits that come from these activities. We’re looking to bring all of that together and create amazing environments where people can enjoy and connect to water.”
The Group currently has four resorts – three in Germany and one in Romania – and is working on new projects across the world, with resorts underway in Toronto, Canada and Manchester, UK and plans outlined for four more in the UK and further destinations across the US, Asia and Europe.
As we speak, the Group has just announced plans for its second UK wellbeing destination, on the waterfront in Glasgow, Scotland.
“We’re creating urban oases, where we bring together fun and relaxation to nurture mental and physical health,” explains Land, speaking to me from Glasgow. “We’re looking to embed ourselves in communities; to be a catalyst for greener, healthier, more liveable cities and provide wellbeing for all.”
ONTARIO PLACE, CANADA
In Toronto, Canada, Therme Group is developing a family-friendly attraction featuring indoor and outdoor pools, waterslides and a wave pool, natural relaxation spaces, sports performance and recovery services, and botanical gardens.
The future of the Ontario Place site – which was built for the 1967 Montreal Expo – has been a topic of debate since the Ontario Place theme park closed down in 2012. The masterplan for the new resort, designed by Diamond Schmitt in partnership with Therme Group’s in-house design team Therme ARC, aims to reconnect the public to Lake Ontario. The glass and steel main building will be clad in energy-efficient, triple layer, bird-friendly glass on a steel structure and will house the aquatic pools and botanical gardens. The building will be surrounded by parklands and beach areas.
A new bridge will connect the mainland and West Island, providing public access to the island park and a new public beach. As part of the group’s mission to bring immersive art to the public outside of traditional spaces such as museums and galleries, the Therme Entrance Pavilion will host a series of site-specific art installations by local artists.
“What’s special about Ontario Place is that it really brings back the connection to the waterfront,” says Land. “Part of the concept is to bring together the public realm – there will be walkways around it so people can come and walk and feel the building is part of their space without necessarily paying to enter.”
In Manchester, UK, the £250m+ Therme Manchester destination is taking shape. Due to open in 2023, on a site owned by Peel L&P, the huge 28-acre attraction will feature a family zone with indoor and outdoor swimming pools including a wave pool, water slides, steamrooms and palm tree relaxation areas. The venue will also feature a dedicated adults’ area with swim up bars, therapeutic mineral baths, warm-water lagoons set in botanical gardens and steam rooms and saunas.
Other features include a two acre wellbeing garden in the shape of a rose, a range of bars, cafes and restaurants, and vertical gardens which will grow salad and herbs for the restaurants.
As with Therme’s other projects, art will play a central role in Manchester.
“Art is one of the many new features we’re bringing into our facilities,” says Land. “Artists love the idea of their work being immersive and people spending time in their art without the constraints of traditional galleries, and we hope it will encourage dialogue and discussion.
“We have several projects running with various artists – one that we’ve already done was with Jeppe Hein – he’s an amazing artist who ran a large-scale public participatory artwork in Central Park in New York called Breathe With Me. He adapted that for schools around Manchester, which enabled us to reach out to them and engage local students. It encouraged the students to create art by focusing on their breathing, which helped them to relax. The artwork created will be made into tiles which will go into Therme Manchester. That brings the community with us and gives them something to relate to when they come.
“We have lots of other ideas and collaborations which we’ll use in the design – they’ll create a rich tapestry of colour and experiences that will make us unique.”
Over the past two years, the Group has announced plans to expand around the world. A regional division has been set up in the US, and plans have been outlined to introduce urban wellbeing centres to five US cities, likely to include New York, Los Angeles and Washington, DC.
Co-founder of New York’s High Line, Robert Hammond, has been appointed as president and chief strategy officer for Therme Group’s US expansion plans.
“We’ve now got a very strong team in the US, who are making good ground quite quickly. North America is a huge market, and is key to us,” says Land.
“We’ve also been open about the fact we’re looking at Asia as well, and we have a good pipeline of many very well progressed discussions around the world.
“We’re looking at urban destinations, as people will continue to move towards cities and they will become mega cities of the future. We’re looking to see how we can embed ourselves within those cities to create spaces of wellbeing where you can focus on that pre-emptive health element and support the cities in providing a wellbeing and health offer.”
How many Therme resorts would they like to open globally? I ask Lund.
“Who knows?” he replies. “We’re not really constrained by fixed targets and timelines. We’re able to adapt when opportunities arise. We’re quite specific about what we’re looking for – we don’t want to be 20 miles out of town in a field, we really need to be embedded within the cities we’re in. That depends on what land’s available, and how open the authorities are to working with us. We really feel the time is right to be creating these kinds of wellbeing spaces.”
In the UK, in addition to Manchester and Glasgow, the group has announced it’s looking at sites in Wales and London. In November 2021, it was announced that Therme Group had signed a deal with Peel L&P to construct a resort on the 21.5 acre Glasgow Waters site next to Glasgow’s Riverside Museum. The resort – set to be the group’s second in the UK – will feature a next-generation waterpark, thermal pools and spa, a health and wellbeing centre and a vertical farm.
A CATEGORY OF ITS OWN
With Therme Group resorts described variously as ‘wellbeing destinations’ ‘waterparks and spa resorts,’ ‘wellness centres’ and ‘wellness theme parks,’ I ask Land how Therme Group would describe its own facilities.
“We’ve discussed our elevator pitch, but because we’re so complex, it’s hard to sum up in one simple sentence,” he acknowledges. “That’s part of our challenge – helping people to understand what we’re about. It’s a new concept – kind of a new market. It’s about leisure and spas, but we’re more than all of that – we have our own category. It’s actually quite nice that people will have a sense of reveal once we open our new facilities.
“Basically our resorts are places where people can come, and whatever wellbeing means for them, they can find it within our facilities – whether that’s relaxing in a spa or sauna, enjoying the waterslides, having a treatment, or having good, nutritious food. There’s something for everyone.
“It comes back to mixing fun with relaxation, and being affordable and accessible from a wellbeing perspective.”