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Spa People
Alla Sokolova

We’re thinking about wellbeing from the ground up … it’s not about creating a spa just because we need to have a spa


At the Hotel J in Stockholm, a new initiative has seen an atmospheric, turn-of-the-century villa onsite turned into a venue for cultural activities, with chamber music and other classical concerts for residents and guests alike – all with a focus on their health benefits.

Weekend retreats, like a Spring Awakening, hosted in collaboration with wellness practitioner Sophie Benge, combine wild herb foraging, meditation, treatments and cold-water bathing in the archipelago, to create a transformative experience.

These are all part of a series of programmes created by Alla Sokolova, who last year took on a new head of wellness role with Hotel J’s parent company, Nobis. Her brief is to bring more guests to the family-owned, contemporary group which owns nine hotels in Stockholm, Sweden and additional locations in Copenhagen, Denmark and Palma, Mallorca.

Sokolova – who herself is a cultural mix of Swedish, Russian and Latvian – grew up in Sweden, but had spent the past 16 years in Latvia, where she co-founded the Balans International Wellness Centre. She also co-authored a book with Benge delving into the healing traditions of central and eastern Europe (see www.spabusiness.com/healingsources).

Outside influences
With a deep understanding of the importance of Nordic heritage and connections with nature, Sokolova began her mission of positioning Hotel J as more of a destination. The property is set on an archipelago on the city outskirts and Sokolova uses the water, woods and seasons to her advantage to create numerous alfresco experiences.

Regular forest bathing sessions, as well as meditation and foraging outings, for example, are offered by herbalist and author Lisen Sundgren. The 2 to 3-hour experiences involve a deliberately slow walk in the trees where guests are guided in different exercises to engage their senses, then end with a ‘fika’, or tea ceremony, using locally foraged herbs.

“We’re thinking about wellbeing from the ground up,” says Sokolova, adding that there’s an emphasis on that elusive idea of happiness since Sweden is consistently placed in the Top 10 happiest countries. “It’s about creating experiences that will make our guests and ourselves feel better – it’s not about creating a spa just because we need to have a spa.”

To this end, Sokolova is also introducing wellness to business guests as the hotel has always been a popular setting for conferences. Breathwork has been the most popular add-on for this audience so far, but other optional extras include sauna rituals, yoga, mindfulness sessions and forest bathing – helping to create a sense of unity among team members and reduce stress and fatigue. “We’re bringing more health and wellness into conference rooms,” she explains. “We work with all kinds of companies and groups to develop mindfulness, to inspire and to help people see new perspectives.”

Local community
All of the programmes at Hotel J “have a very strong alignment with a sense of place and community and a real Swedish flair” says Sokolova, to help entice more locals.

The classical music concerts have had great feedback and attract up to 150 people each time – many from the capital which is only a short boat journey away. While pop-up programming by local wellness specialists, including sauna rituals and holistic pilates, keeps the offer fresh and interesting.

And on Saturday mornings, Hotel J hosts a breathwork and guided cold bathing session in the often icy waters of the archipelago – something that grounds guests in the location and offers a dramatic connection to nature, as they are quite literally immersed in the landscape. Sokolova has partnered with local company MindDate, whose coaches first teach the science and essentials of breathwork, then invite guests to use the powerful practice in a controlled cold exposure in the water. So far, more than 800 people have attended these sessions since they started offering them last summer.

However bringing wellness to all the Nobis properties will not look the same across the portfolio, as each of the nine hotels has its own identity; several are urban boutique hotels, and the company also has locations in Denmark and Mallorca. “Wellness will mean different things to every property,” says Sokolova. “We want to create an individual feeling for every brand and adapt to the location. It’s about meeting the guests where they are.”

Wellness is being used to position the Nobis J hotel as more of a destination Credit: photo: Nobis Hospitality Group
Classical music concerts attract up to 150 people at a time Credit: photo: Nobis Hospitality Group
Kitchen braving the icy waters of the Swedish archipelago Credit: photo: jane kitchen
Wild-herb foraging is a new feature Credit: photo: Jane Kitchen
Pop-up programming keeps the offer fresh Credit: Photo: Nobis Hospitality Group
The natural setting is used to create alfresco experiences Credit: photo: Nobis Hospitality Group
 


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SELECTED ISSUE
Spa Business
2024 issue 2

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Leisure Management - Alla Sokolova

Spa People

Alla Sokolova


We’re thinking about wellbeing from the ground up … it’s not about creating a spa just because we need to have a spa

Sokolova is a cultural mix of Swedish, Russian and Latvian photo: Nobis Hospitality Group
Wellness is being used to position the Nobis J hotel as more of a destination photo: Nobis Hospitality Group
Classical music concerts attract up to 150 people at a time photo: Nobis Hospitality Group
Kitchen braving the icy waters of the Swedish archipelago photo: jane kitchen
Wild-herb foraging is a new feature photo: Jane Kitchen
Pop-up programming keeps the offer fresh Photo: Nobis Hospitality Group
The natural setting is used to create alfresco experiences photo: Nobis Hospitality Group

At the Hotel J in Stockholm, a new initiative has seen an atmospheric, turn-of-the-century villa onsite turned into a venue for cultural activities, with chamber music and other classical concerts for residents and guests alike – all with a focus on their health benefits.

Weekend retreats, like a Spring Awakening, hosted in collaboration with wellness practitioner Sophie Benge, combine wild herb foraging, meditation, treatments and cold-water bathing in the archipelago, to create a transformative experience.

These are all part of a series of programmes created by Alla Sokolova, who last year took on a new head of wellness role with Hotel J’s parent company, Nobis. Her brief is to bring more guests to the family-owned, contemporary group which owns nine hotels in Stockholm, Sweden and additional locations in Copenhagen, Denmark and Palma, Mallorca.

Sokolova – who herself is a cultural mix of Swedish, Russian and Latvian – grew up in Sweden, but had spent the past 16 years in Latvia, where she co-founded the Balans International Wellness Centre. She also co-authored a book with Benge delving into the healing traditions of central and eastern Europe (see www.spabusiness.com/healingsources).

Outside influences
With a deep understanding of the importance of Nordic heritage and connections with nature, Sokolova began her mission of positioning Hotel J as more of a destination. The property is set on an archipelago on the city outskirts and Sokolova uses the water, woods and seasons to her advantage to create numerous alfresco experiences.

Regular forest bathing sessions, as well as meditation and foraging outings, for example, are offered by herbalist and author Lisen Sundgren. The 2 to 3-hour experiences involve a deliberately slow walk in the trees where guests are guided in different exercises to engage their senses, then end with a ‘fika’, or tea ceremony, using locally foraged herbs.

“We’re thinking about wellbeing from the ground up,” says Sokolova, adding that there’s an emphasis on that elusive idea of happiness since Sweden is consistently placed in the Top 10 happiest countries. “It’s about creating experiences that will make our guests and ourselves feel better – it’s not about creating a spa just because we need to have a spa.”

To this end, Sokolova is also introducing wellness to business guests as the hotel has always been a popular setting for conferences. Breathwork has been the most popular add-on for this audience so far, but other optional extras include sauna rituals, yoga, mindfulness sessions and forest bathing – helping to create a sense of unity among team members and reduce stress and fatigue. “We’re bringing more health and wellness into conference rooms,” she explains. “We work with all kinds of companies and groups to develop mindfulness, to inspire and to help people see new perspectives.”

Local community
All of the programmes at Hotel J “have a very strong alignment with a sense of place and community and a real Swedish flair” says Sokolova, to help entice more locals.

The classical music concerts have had great feedback and attract up to 150 people each time – many from the capital which is only a short boat journey away. While pop-up programming by local wellness specialists, including sauna rituals and holistic pilates, keeps the offer fresh and interesting.

And on Saturday mornings, Hotel J hosts a breathwork and guided cold bathing session in the often icy waters of the archipelago – something that grounds guests in the location and offers a dramatic connection to nature, as they are quite literally immersed in the landscape. Sokolova has partnered with local company MindDate, whose coaches first teach the science and essentials of breathwork, then invite guests to use the powerful practice in a controlled cold exposure in the water. So far, more than 800 people have attended these sessions since they started offering them last summer.

However bringing wellness to all the Nobis properties will not look the same across the portfolio, as each of the nine hotels has its own identity; several are urban boutique hotels, and the company also has locations in Denmark and Mallorca. “Wellness will mean different things to every property,” says Sokolova. “We want to create an individual feeling for every brand and adapt to the location. It’s about meeting the guests where they are.”


Originally published in Spa Business 2024 issue 2

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