Integrative
PGA Catalunya – tangible results for optimal living

The team at PGA Catalunya is delivering integrative programmes as part of a 360-degree wellness model that treads new ground for the industry, finds Neena Dhillon


The PGA Catalunya resort in north-east Spain is famous for its link to the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA), with the resort having hosted the PGA European Tour numerous times since it opened in 1999.

Its flagship golf course – designed by Angel Gallardo and Neil Coles – is among the top 100 in the world and is regularly voted number one in Spain.

Resort owner, Irish entrepreneur Denis O’Brien, who also owns the Quinta Do Lago golf resort in Portugal, has spent the last two decades developing the resort as a year-round destination.

The most recent investment is a €5m (US$5.3m, £4.3m), 1,000sq m Wellness Centre which opened in April 2021, adding to the resort’s existing facilities, which include restaurants and leisure facilities, hotels and holiday rentals and high-end residences.

Ramping up the wellness offering
Although the resort featured a small gym and spa previously, CEO David Plana admits it needed a far more comprehensive facility. “Golf is not enough,” he explains. “You need family activities, outdoor pursuits, sports, gastronomy and, of course, wellness. People expect this, and as diversification is important to us, we’re looking for the new Wellness Centre to attract people for longer stays and also to appeal to guests with different budgets and demographic profiles.”

Despite a year of on-off COVID restrictions, the summer of 2021 highlighted a regional appetite for travel, with hotel occupancy reaching more than 75 per cent in July and August, while golf and hotel revenues returned to 2019 levels or higher during the same period. Plana says he’d like to retain this increasing regional and domestic clientele, and adding more wellness is part of achieving that mission.

“Accessible” and “recovery” may not be buzzy marketing terms, but they sit neatly at the heart of the Wellness Centre’s concept. Offering a programme-based approach that sits between clinics like Chenot, Lanserhof and SHA Wellness, and operators such as Aman or Mandarin Oriental, PGA Catalunya encourages guests to invest in their wellbeing with precision and efficiency that equates to accessibility, both in time and value for money.

A new business model
Wellness industry consultant, Greg Payne, who worked with the resort’s team to conceive the wellness offering, explains: “The bigger-is-better model hasn’t worked for the hospitality industry since the 2008 financial crash, with return on investment in 2,000sq m-plus facilities failing to add up. There’s been a vacuum since, as we’ve waited for the next model to be developed.

“Relaxation, a massage, a robe and a small gym are simply not enough these days, with consumers wanting more tangible results. In short, luxury alone is no longer the story.

“At PGA Catalunya, we’ve created day-long and short-stay programmes that support clients looking for symptomatic relief, by combining elements you’d find at world-leading wellness clinics, but which also offer incredible value for the operator when you remember they’re being delivered in a 1,000sq m space.

“Considering that wellness facilities and thermal areas in particular have an average build cost of €3,000 (US$3,200, £2,600) per sq m, this translates into real financial impact on the potential for profit.”

The Wellness Programmes, which start at €385 (US$411, £327) per person, per day, combine movement, fitness, relaxation, holistic touch therapies, nutritional expertise and high-tech treatments – some very new to Spain – all with a recovery focus. “Back in 2018, I visited a football club and saw how state-of-the-art technologies such as cryotherapy and oxygen chambers were being used to get athletes back on their feet,” says Payne. “I thought about the golf/sports setting at PGA Catalunya and how there could be a continuum from spa right through to athletic performance for anybody interested in optimal living.”

Wellness manager Núria Camins, a 15-year wellness industry veteran, says the new concept represents a 360-degree offering to anyone seeking to restore equilibrium, resolve a particular problem, or take preventative action. This holistic approach benefits from the integration of high-tech therapies because “they are able to access a level of the body – the deeper cellular levels – which hands cannot”.The important distinction, however, is that the tech works as a complementary and amplifying component to touch, nutrition and movement.

The programmes
While the menu will continue to evolve, there are currently three wellness programmes: Immunity Support, Weight Loss and Detox, and Ageing Well. The two-day Ageing Well programme, priced at €755, (US$807, £642) includes access to the gym, a signature hammam experience, a 60-minute massage, an IV vitamin infusion, four additional high-tech therapy sessions, light lunches and wellness refreshments.

“We personalise elements to suit our client’s needs, but each programme addresses specific concerns that are relevant today,” says Camins. “COVID-19 has shown the importance of a healthy immune system, so our Immunity Support programme works to improve its functionality through Kneipp and hammam treatments combined with infusions, photobiomodulation and oxygenation therapy.

“With our Weight Loss option, we believe that the body benefits from a seasonal reset and detox, so here we work on optimising a client’s metabolism, stimulating their circulation and sharing nutritional advice that moves them towards clean eating, rather than calorie counting. Finally, our Ageing Programme is really about the client’s quality of ageing rather than being ‘anti-ageing’ in its focus.”

The spa menu offers individual treatments and rituals alongside celebration experiences, for example, a one-day Spa-Cation is €300 per person (US$321, £255), to appeal to the Wellness Centre’s target audience. This ranges from residents who have homes or rentals at the resort, and local visitors – from Girona, Barcelona or the wider Catalonia region – to European guests, including from France, Germany, the Nordic countries, Switzerland and the UK.

Getting assessed
Experts assess guests, looking for things such as issues with sleep, feelings of tiredness, burnout or sadness and dehydrated skin, and then recommend the most appropriate high-tech treatments. If they don’t want to commit to a programme, guests can take a single session to deal with a particular complaint, such as problems with the sciatic nerve.

Indeed, the choice of technologies is designed to aid sports and workout recovery for sports enthusiasts, semi-professionals and professionals alike; recent visitors have included English and Polish football players who were particularly enthusiastic about their experience of whole-body cryotherapy – one of the most popular high-tech therapies at €60 (US$64, £51) per session.

During a cryotherapy session, clients step into a Mecotec chamber, initially set at a temperature of -60°C for 30 seconds followed by two-and-a-half minutes at -110°C. “As a client stands in the extreme cold, blood in the body rushes to protect vital organs. As soon as they step out, it floods back into the system, boosting circulation, moderating adrenal stress and releasing endorphins,” says Camins.

Popularised by personalities from Lewis Hamilton to Cristiano Ronaldo, the therapy reduces inflammation and muscular pain.

Equally intriguing but less extreme, photobiomodulation light therapy also priced at €60 entails clients lying down for 20 to 30 minutes inside a MitoGen pod, during which time a red laser light powers cellular regeneration by stimulating ATP energy production. The third tech option is Oxygen Chamber Therapy, while the fourth involves IV Infusions provided by London’s NADclinic.

IV infusions
The PGA team worked with Dr Saskia Kloppenburg of NADclinic to produce three specific infusions containing different combinations of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and electrolytes: the first is formulated for sports recovery, the second to boost the immune system and the final for essential immunity. They’re delivered on-site by a registered nurse in the privacy of a treatment room.

Camins acknowledges that IV infusions are proving the most challenging to introduce: “International guests, from the US, are the most likely to be familiar with them, so we’ve had to think carefully about how to introduce them for our European guests. We’re still testing this but, as with all the technologies, it helps when our therapists explain how they work in person during an introduction to the facilities, and how they can specifically support a guest’s particular needs.”

This challenge of ‘the unknown’ is also picked up by Payne, who says: “A few years ago, cryotherapy would have been regarded as too extreme to be included in this kind of environment, but now it’s going mainstream. And with the IV Infusions, we’ve had to tread carefully to consider the correct level of staffing and medical oversight to deliver them with a sense of security and assurance.”

While it’s still early days, are there any promising early signs about tech uptake? “When we opened in spring, we made the decision to focus on spa over the summer, returning to wellness in the winter to prepare for 2022,” says Payne. “Despite not pushing wellness, we were encouraged to see that the high-end leisure market already had an appetite for tech-led treatments, which made up 26 per cent of the treatment mix in the summer months. But the most interesting fact was that they were additional treatments, contributing to an average of 1.8 treatments per guest over a three-day stay, meaning they represented incremental income and not just a shift in the therapies sold.”

As to be expected of a facility that aims to become one of the leading European wellness centres, PGA Catalunya’s spa partners are highly regarded and include Aromatherapy Associates and Biologique Recherche. Clients booking individual rituals, treatments and facials have access to the thermal pavilion in which to recover and relax by experiencing the hot and cold pools, sauna and steam.

Food and environment
Nutritionist Mireia Cervera has worked with the destination’s executive chef David Vives to create menus for each wellness programme. “We use integrative nutrition to help our clients achieve all-round health; not just to lose weight,” she says. “In a world that can make it challenging to maintain control over your diet, we guide clients by showing them how a natural, nutritious diet can help prevent disease and improve symptoms.”

Cervera is available to personalise diets, but there is a sample seasonal menu created in advance for each programme. For example, a typical Immunity Support meal includes a salad of cabbage, celery, apple, pomegranate and raisins, followed by tofu, mushroom and pumpkin lasagne, and fruit salad with a soup of green tea, fennel and celery to finish.

Enclosed in 540 hectares of tranquil green landscape and a recipient of the IAGTO Sustainability Award for Nature Protection, PGA Catalunya’s environment is akin to a natural reserve. In-house biologist, Oriol Dalmau, is responsible for “preserving green infrastructure, nurturing botanical diversity and reintroducing near-extinct species to the terrain”. With its own organic garden, vineyard and beehives, the destination’s secure and spacious green setting is well suited to the addition of the Wellness Centre, which was built from scratch.

About PGA Catalunya
The golf course has hosted the PGA tour numerous times / PGA Catalunya

Less than an hour from Barcelona, 20 minutes from the Costa Brava and 15 minutes from Girona, PGA Catalunya Golf and Wellness is based around real estate development.

It incorporates two championship golf courses, two hotels – the 5-star Hotel Camiral, designed by architect Lázaro Rosa-Violán and the contemporary Lavida Hotel – as well as a Kids’ Club facilities and five restaurants.

PGA Catalunya Golf and Wellness offers outdoor activities designed to enable guests to enjoy the surrounding countryside, including Forest Park – a family adventure park with a zip-wire, cycling, trekking and horse-riding on trails through nearby forests and mountains.

Villa plots are for sale, enabling owners to develop their own property in keeping with the resort’s architectural concepts, while the resort offers move-in-ready, architect-designed villas.

The Residents’ Club offers owners and guests access to facilities including a 20m outdoor pool, solarium, children’s pool, Technogym -quipped gym, and the new spa and wellness offering.

www.pgacatalunya.com

The spa is part of the wellness offering / PGA Catalunya

"We’re looking for the new Wellness Centre to attract people for longer stays" – David Plana, CEO

"Luxury is no longer the story, people want tangible results" – Greg Payne, consultant to PGA Catalunya

"The concept represents a 360-degree offering to anyone seeking to restore equilibrium, resolve a problem, or take preventative action" – Núria Camins, wellness manager

"We believe in using integrative nutrition to help our clients achieve all-round health; not just to lose weight" – Mireia Cervera, nutritionist

"We’re preserving green infrastructure, nurturing botanical diversity and reintroducing near-extinct species" – Oriol Dalmau, biologist

The resort has a family wellness offering based on activity Credit: Photo: PGA Catalunya
Sports teams use PGA Catalunya for their training camps Credit: Photo: PGA Catalunya
The fitness facilities have been kitted out by Technogym Credit: Photo: PGA Catalunya
Whole-body cryotherapy reduces inflammation Credit: Photo: PGA Catalunya
Botanical diversity is nurtured at the resort, and food is nutritious Credit: Photo: PGA Catalunya
Credit: Photo: PGA Catalunya
 


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Health Club Management
2022 issue 10

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Leisure Management - PGA Catalunya – tangible results for optimal living

Integrative

PGA Catalunya – tangible results for optimal living


The team at PGA Catalunya is delivering integrative programmes as part of a 360-degree wellness model that treads new ground for the industry, finds Neena Dhillon

Guests at PGA Catalunya can enjoy a ‘360-degree’ wellness programme Photo: PGA Catalunya
The resort has a family wellness offering based on activity Photo: PGA Catalunya
Sports teams use PGA Catalunya for their training camps Photo: PGA Catalunya
The fitness facilities have been kitted out by Technogym Photo: PGA Catalunya
Whole-body cryotherapy reduces inflammation Photo: PGA Catalunya
Botanical diversity is nurtured at the resort, and food is nutritious Photo: PGA Catalunya
Photo: PGA Catalunya

The PGA Catalunya resort in north-east Spain is famous for its link to the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA), with the resort having hosted the PGA European Tour numerous times since it opened in 1999.

Its flagship golf course – designed by Angel Gallardo and Neil Coles – is among the top 100 in the world and is regularly voted number one in Spain.

Resort owner, Irish entrepreneur Denis O’Brien, who also owns the Quinta Do Lago golf resort in Portugal, has spent the last two decades developing the resort as a year-round destination.

The most recent investment is a €5m (US$5.3m, £4.3m), 1,000sq m Wellness Centre which opened in April 2021, adding to the resort’s existing facilities, which include restaurants and leisure facilities, hotels and holiday rentals and high-end residences.

Ramping up the wellness offering
Although the resort featured a small gym and spa previously, CEO David Plana admits it needed a far more comprehensive facility. “Golf is not enough,” he explains. “You need family activities, outdoor pursuits, sports, gastronomy and, of course, wellness. People expect this, and as diversification is important to us, we’re looking for the new Wellness Centre to attract people for longer stays and also to appeal to guests with different budgets and demographic profiles.”

Despite a year of on-off COVID restrictions, the summer of 2021 highlighted a regional appetite for travel, with hotel occupancy reaching more than 75 per cent in July and August, while golf and hotel revenues returned to 2019 levels or higher during the same period. Plana says he’d like to retain this increasing regional and domestic clientele, and adding more wellness is part of achieving that mission.

“Accessible” and “recovery” may not be buzzy marketing terms, but they sit neatly at the heart of the Wellness Centre’s concept. Offering a programme-based approach that sits between clinics like Chenot, Lanserhof and SHA Wellness, and operators such as Aman or Mandarin Oriental, PGA Catalunya encourages guests to invest in their wellbeing with precision and efficiency that equates to accessibility, both in time and value for money.

A new business model
Wellness industry consultant, Greg Payne, who worked with the resort’s team to conceive the wellness offering, explains: “The bigger-is-better model hasn’t worked for the hospitality industry since the 2008 financial crash, with return on investment in 2,000sq m-plus facilities failing to add up. There’s been a vacuum since, as we’ve waited for the next model to be developed.

“Relaxation, a massage, a robe and a small gym are simply not enough these days, with consumers wanting more tangible results. In short, luxury alone is no longer the story.

“At PGA Catalunya, we’ve created day-long and short-stay programmes that support clients looking for symptomatic relief, by combining elements you’d find at world-leading wellness clinics, but which also offer incredible value for the operator when you remember they’re being delivered in a 1,000sq m space.

“Considering that wellness facilities and thermal areas in particular have an average build cost of €3,000 (US$3,200, £2,600) per sq m, this translates into real financial impact on the potential for profit.”

The Wellness Programmes, which start at €385 (US$411, £327) per person, per day, combine movement, fitness, relaxation, holistic touch therapies, nutritional expertise and high-tech treatments – some very new to Spain – all with a recovery focus. “Back in 2018, I visited a football club and saw how state-of-the-art technologies such as cryotherapy and oxygen chambers were being used to get athletes back on their feet,” says Payne. “I thought about the golf/sports setting at PGA Catalunya and how there could be a continuum from spa right through to athletic performance for anybody interested in optimal living.”

Wellness manager Núria Camins, a 15-year wellness industry veteran, says the new concept represents a 360-degree offering to anyone seeking to restore equilibrium, resolve a particular problem, or take preventative action. This holistic approach benefits from the integration of high-tech therapies because “they are able to access a level of the body – the deeper cellular levels – which hands cannot”.The important distinction, however, is that the tech works as a complementary and amplifying component to touch, nutrition and movement.

The programmes
While the menu will continue to evolve, there are currently three wellness programmes: Immunity Support, Weight Loss and Detox, and Ageing Well. The two-day Ageing Well programme, priced at €755, (US$807, £642) includes access to the gym, a signature hammam experience, a 60-minute massage, an IV vitamin infusion, four additional high-tech therapy sessions, light lunches and wellness refreshments.

“We personalise elements to suit our client’s needs, but each programme addresses specific concerns that are relevant today,” says Camins. “COVID-19 has shown the importance of a healthy immune system, so our Immunity Support programme works to improve its functionality through Kneipp and hammam treatments combined with infusions, photobiomodulation and oxygenation therapy.

“With our Weight Loss option, we believe that the body benefits from a seasonal reset and detox, so here we work on optimising a client’s metabolism, stimulating their circulation and sharing nutritional advice that moves them towards clean eating, rather than calorie counting. Finally, our Ageing Programme is really about the client’s quality of ageing rather than being ‘anti-ageing’ in its focus.”

The spa menu offers individual treatments and rituals alongside celebration experiences, for example, a one-day Spa-Cation is €300 per person (US$321, £255), to appeal to the Wellness Centre’s target audience. This ranges from residents who have homes or rentals at the resort, and local visitors – from Girona, Barcelona or the wider Catalonia region – to European guests, including from France, Germany, the Nordic countries, Switzerland and the UK.

Getting assessed
Experts assess guests, looking for things such as issues with sleep, feelings of tiredness, burnout or sadness and dehydrated skin, and then recommend the most appropriate high-tech treatments. If they don’t want to commit to a programme, guests can take a single session to deal with a particular complaint, such as problems with the sciatic nerve.

Indeed, the choice of technologies is designed to aid sports and workout recovery for sports enthusiasts, semi-professionals and professionals alike; recent visitors have included English and Polish football players who were particularly enthusiastic about their experience of whole-body cryotherapy – one of the most popular high-tech therapies at €60 (US$64, £51) per session.

During a cryotherapy session, clients step into a Mecotec chamber, initially set at a temperature of -60°C for 30 seconds followed by two-and-a-half minutes at -110°C. “As a client stands in the extreme cold, blood in the body rushes to protect vital organs. As soon as they step out, it floods back into the system, boosting circulation, moderating adrenal stress and releasing endorphins,” says Camins.

Popularised by personalities from Lewis Hamilton to Cristiano Ronaldo, the therapy reduces inflammation and muscular pain.

Equally intriguing but less extreme, photobiomodulation light therapy also priced at €60 entails clients lying down for 20 to 30 minutes inside a MitoGen pod, during which time a red laser light powers cellular regeneration by stimulating ATP energy production. The third tech option is Oxygen Chamber Therapy, while the fourth involves IV Infusions provided by London’s NADclinic.

IV infusions
The PGA team worked with Dr Saskia Kloppenburg of NADclinic to produce three specific infusions containing different combinations of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and electrolytes: the first is formulated for sports recovery, the second to boost the immune system and the final for essential immunity. They’re delivered on-site by a registered nurse in the privacy of a treatment room.

Camins acknowledges that IV infusions are proving the most challenging to introduce: “International guests, from the US, are the most likely to be familiar with them, so we’ve had to think carefully about how to introduce them for our European guests. We’re still testing this but, as with all the technologies, it helps when our therapists explain how they work in person during an introduction to the facilities, and how they can specifically support a guest’s particular needs.”

This challenge of ‘the unknown’ is also picked up by Payne, who says: “A few years ago, cryotherapy would have been regarded as too extreme to be included in this kind of environment, but now it’s going mainstream. And with the IV Infusions, we’ve had to tread carefully to consider the correct level of staffing and medical oversight to deliver them with a sense of security and assurance.”

While it’s still early days, are there any promising early signs about tech uptake? “When we opened in spring, we made the decision to focus on spa over the summer, returning to wellness in the winter to prepare for 2022,” says Payne. “Despite not pushing wellness, we were encouraged to see that the high-end leisure market already had an appetite for tech-led treatments, which made up 26 per cent of the treatment mix in the summer months. But the most interesting fact was that they were additional treatments, contributing to an average of 1.8 treatments per guest over a three-day stay, meaning they represented incremental income and not just a shift in the therapies sold.”

As to be expected of a facility that aims to become one of the leading European wellness centres, PGA Catalunya’s spa partners are highly regarded and include Aromatherapy Associates and Biologique Recherche. Clients booking individual rituals, treatments and facials have access to the thermal pavilion in which to recover and relax by experiencing the hot and cold pools, sauna and steam.

Food and environment
Nutritionist Mireia Cervera has worked with the destination’s executive chef David Vives to create menus for each wellness programme. “We use integrative nutrition to help our clients achieve all-round health; not just to lose weight,” she says. “In a world that can make it challenging to maintain control over your diet, we guide clients by showing them how a natural, nutritious diet can help prevent disease and improve symptoms.”

Cervera is available to personalise diets, but there is a sample seasonal menu created in advance for each programme. For example, a typical Immunity Support meal includes a salad of cabbage, celery, apple, pomegranate and raisins, followed by tofu, mushroom and pumpkin lasagne, and fruit salad with a soup of green tea, fennel and celery to finish.

Enclosed in 540 hectares of tranquil green landscape and a recipient of the IAGTO Sustainability Award for Nature Protection, PGA Catalunya’s environment is akin to a natural reserve. In-house biologist, Oriol Dalmau, is responsible for “preserving green infrastructure, nurturing botanical diversity and reintroducing near-extinct species to the terrain”. With its own organic garden, vineyard and beehives, the destination’s secure and spacious green setting is well suited to the addition of the Wellness Centre, which was built from scratch.

About PGA Catalunya
The golf course has hosted the PGA tour numerous times / PGA Catalunya

Less than an hour from Barcelona, 20 minutes from the Costa Brava and 15 minutes from Girona, PGA Catalunya Golf and Wellness is based around real estate development.

It incorporates two championship golf courses, two hotels – the 5-star Hotel Camiral, designed by architect Lázaro Rosa-Violán and the contemporary Lavida Hotel – as well as a Kids’ Club facilities and five restaurants.

PGA Catalunya Golf and Wellness offers outdoor activities designed to enable guests to enjoy the surrounding countryside, including Forest Park – a family adventure park with a zip-wire, cycling, trekking and horse-riding on trails through nearby forests and mountains.

Villa plots are for sale, enabling owners to develop their own property in keeping with the resort’s architectural concepts, while the resort offers move-in-ready, architect-designed villas.

The Residents’ Club offers owners and guests access to facilities including a 20m outdoor pool, solarium, children’s pool, Technogym -quipped gym, and the new spa and wellness offering.

www.pgacatalunya.com

The spa is part of the wellness offering / PGA Catalunya

"We’re looking for the new Wellness Centre to attract people for longer stays" – David Plana, CEO

"Luxury is no longer the story, people want tangible results" – Greg Payne, consultant to PGA Catalunya

"The concept represents a 360-degree offering to anyone seeking to restore equilibrium, resolve a problem, or take preventative action" – Núria Camins, wellness manager

"We believe in using integrative nutrition to help our clients achieve all-round health; not just to lose weight" – Mireia Cervera, nutritionist

"We’re preserving green infrastructure, nurturing botanical diversity and reintroducing near-extinct species" – Oriol Dalmau, biologist


Originally published in Health Club Management 2022 issue 10

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