As things gradually get back to normalcy, reports and surveys predict that wellness is going to be the topmost priority for most travellers in the year 2021 with wellness staycations, immunity boosting retreats, socially distanced wellness trips and complete health and wellbeing on offer.
As wellness tourism takes centre-stage, and the focus on nutrition and rejuvenation assumes importance now more than ever, Nikhil Kapur, Cofounder and director of Atmantan Wellness Centre in Mulshi (near Mumbai) speaks to THE WEEK about his own experiences during the lockdown, plans to come bring in newer offerings at the resort and what the current year looks like for Atmantan.
On the challenges posed by the lockdown
It was an extremely challenging period because we were shut for nearly five months. We did not have any stranded guests at the property as we started getting cancellations right from January of 2020. It was in the last week of February when a large group of women from Qatar who were to come down to the property cancelled the trip, that the shock was felt. Most foreign guests who were with us, left by the second week of March.
During the lockdown, we tried to work on three key things during that period. One was to make sure that the team is engaged with and are made to appreciate the challenging situation we were in at the time so that they understand what the guests go through. We did not want to let go of the team and hence had to keep them engaged at all times even when there were no guests staying at the time.
This is because we have a very skilled and passionate team at the resort and hence, many of them lived at Atmantan itself during the period of the lockdown. We engaged with our top 50 clients during the lockdown in the form of focused group discussions because we wanted to understand what was happening in terms of customer psyche. This was something that was absolutely unprecedented and we made a project wherein we got in touch with those who typically spend a month or more with us each year. Each member of the guest relations team was in touch with the client about the goings-on in the hospitality industry.
On gradual opening up
We opened up with limited inventory and a short team. We house one hundred and fifty people at the property itself. So, this includes the general manager, senior managers, therapists, guest relations executives, because Atmantan has now developed into a safety bubble as for us we get long-stay guests. Our team is highly sensitised to how and why of precautions such as making it mandatory for each guest to undergo an RT-PCR test before entering the property within 48 hours before arrival. We do it ourselves as a part of the package in which we organise home visits from our side. We also have UV machines, automatic temperature sensors, those put up at the property are discouraged from venturing out unless it is a medical emergency so the risk of infections at Atmantan has always been minimal. Also, the pool sessions including the aqua exercises were closed and the group sizes for the other activities are small.
On Post-covid changes
We have now become a completely vegetarian property. Earlier we did serve a non-vegetarian fare, essentially chicken and fish but we will no longer do so. It will be a fine-dining veg cuisine only from hereon. The response to this has been fabulous so far and we've just hired a chef who specialises in raw veg cuisine.
On vegetarian food being better for health
We felt that we had to relook at how we were living our lives and that vegetarian food is better for one's healing, for detox and it adds a lot more. We only do limited animal protein such as egg and chicken broth but only if it is accompanied by a doctor's prescription for people with certain conditions, such as auto-immune disorders for example.
On moving from non-vegetarianism to vegetarianism at the resort
Whatever we are interacting with there is a certain energy transfer. Somewhere our beliefs say that if you're killing something and consuming it the energy which is getting transferred is not a good one. That is why we say that let's go with vegetarian cuisine. When you're going for a holiday to a destination where you actually want to improve your health, I do not think one craves for non-vegetarian fare. When one is coming to a wellness centre, one needs to be open to making healthy decisions, for instance, we do not even serve alcohol. At Atmantan, we want people to pick up healthy habits.
New verticals in 2021
We are now aiming to reach people in various formats apart from that of the wellness centre. Our e-commerce platform through which we will sell nutritional and herbal supplements is the next addition to the family. This is based on the expert advice by doctors and scientists based out of Kerala.