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Breaking: former Canyon Ranch, Miraval, Two Bunch execs form new wellness hospitality company

06 Sep 2017
A group spa industry veterans have come together to create a new hospitality and real estate company, Civana, based around sustainable wellness through an affordable travel and lifestyle platform.

Led by Kevin Kelly – who was former Canyon Ranch president and chief branding officer, and most recently was CEO and co-owner of California’s Two Bunch Palms – Civana will bring together wellness programming, sustainable design and hotel asset and property management.

Joining Kelly is Larry Lamy, former VP of finance for Miraval and Canyon Ranch; and spa and wellness brand executive Rianna Riego, who assisted Kelly in the re-branding of Two Bunch Palms. Peter Smith, former COO of Canyon Ranch, is an advisor and senior board member of Civana.

Civana will invest US$40m to transform the 189-bedroom Carefree Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, US, which will open in September 2018; the company hopes to have between three and five wellness resorts and communities open within the next five years.

Civana wellness resorts will focus on sustainable wellness, along with a consumer appetite for a deeper guest experience, social connection, and an affordable health and wellness environment.

“The established wellness immersion resorts target the top 10 per cent of the affluent travellers, leaving 90 per cent of this market underserved,” said Kelly, who is Civana’s chair and CEO. “Civana will bring a more attainable wellness experience to a larger target market, designed for today’s sophisticated traveler of all ages.”

Civana’s transformation of the 1964 mid-century modern Carefree hotel – designed by Joe Wong, a Frank Lloyd Wright protege – will result in updated rooms and public spaces, along with a “world-class spa,” movement studios and new fitness centre. The group will focus on sustainable design, and will also add a new healthy cuisine menu.

“Much of the modern spa world has focused on style versus substance – particularly hotel companies,” Riego told Spa Opportunities. “The Civana spa will restore the origins of spa – health through water – with intentional design of water rituals integrated into pre- and post-treatment spaces. The emphasis will be on developing a spa culture where guests will understand and appreciate the true benefits of legitimate spa therapies.”

Riego said Civana’s model on sustainable wellbeing, together with its focus on “therapies versus commodities” and its affordable model, make it a different kind of wellness company.

“The core of our belief about wellbeing is that everything is interconnected: individual, community and the environment,” Riego explained. “Sustainable wellness seeks to make the connection between individual wellbeing and planetary health.”

The team is no stranger to the idea of environmental design; while at Two Bunch, Kelly converted the property into the first carbon-neutral resort in North America.

Riego said Civana properties will put an emphasis on developing a spa culture where guests understand and appreciate the true benefits of spa therapies – in part by focusing on pre- and post- treatments.

“We seek to reconnect the body and spirit by having beautiful, inspiring and therapeutically sound pre and post water treatments,” she explained. “A customer should see their treatment as a two-hour experience – not a 50-minute backrub.”

She also expects the model to appeal to wellness-focused millennials – both through its pricing and its design.

“The established high-end wellness brands have priced themselves out of reach for 90 per cent of the spa leisure travel market, particularly millennials,” Riego told Spa Opportunities. “Our model attracts the larger wellness-conscious target market who is not prepared to commit 100 per cent of their time on healthier pursuits while on vacation, but can still benefit from spa therapies, two out of three healthy meals a day, a good workout, and maybe exploring or expanding their healthier practices while on vacation.”

Civana has plans to develop not just resorts, but to add homes to those properties where the size allows, creating wellness communities. Civana Carefree will be the first property to include residential homes alongside a resort.

Civana Carefree will be co-managed by Holualoa Companies, a real estate investment firm with over $2B of transactions founded by ironman and tri-athlete Michael Kasser, who is also a Civana board member.

Additional founding partners and board members include Atlanta-based manufacturing entrepreneurs and real estate developers Marc Skalla, Beau King, and Adam Ross.

Skalla is the managing partner of Blackshear Capital Management, which has holdings in wellness, hospitality, manufacturing and real estate.

King is president of Kim King Associates, a Georgia-based family development company founded in 1972. Ross has developed both technology platforms and real estate and is co-founder of HEX, a digital consultancy.

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