Interview with Ms. Phoebe Boonkerd, N.D., Director of Wellness Operations and Development, Amatara Wellness Resort
Amatara, Thailand’s premium wellness resort, located on the majestic Cape Panwa, offers guests Asia’s best coastal views in Phuket, surrounded by the calming tranquility of the Andaman Sea’s blue waters and endless skies with the 180 degree sea views.
The Amatara experience is one of total wellness. Seek comfort at Phuket’s luxurious wellness sanctuary and indulge in its holistic wellness programs which promote good health and well-being. As the first and only luxury wellness resort in Phuket, Amatara’s health and wellbeing programs combine accommodation, organic and nutritional food, along with personalized wellness and leisure activities.
Phoebe graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Health Science in Naturopathy from the Endeavor College of Natural Heath in Australia, in 2003. Her studies also included a Diploma of Nutrition and of Western Herbal Medicine. Since that time, Phoebe has been immersed in the health and wellbeing industry, both as a way of life and throughout her career. She spent five years as a Naturopathic practitioner at Chiva Som, one of the most prestigious health retreats in Southeast Asia. She also did extensive private clinical work as a Naturopath in Brisbane, Australia.
Phoebe is currently the Director of wellness operations and development at Amatara Wellness Resort. Phoebe was instrumental in the development of Amatara’s wellness retreat programs. She has the demonstrated the ability to create, implement, manage and operate such programs within a luxury spa retreat setting. Creative and hands-on, she consciously uses a heart-centred approach to managing and coaching a team, and delivering the highest standard of wellness retreat experience.
SpaChina interviewed Ms. Phoebe Boonkerd, to learn more about Amatara and its core wellness concept.
When was Amatara established? What does the name “Amatara” mean?
Amatara was established at 2013. Firstly, Amatara was a spa in resort of Regent Phuket Cape Panwa. Amatara was born out of the desire to set a new benchmark for luxury wellness, and to be a leading wellness destination and solution to promote health and well-being for our guests. We offer variety range of solutions including wellness retreat programs, consulting or testing services, spa products, healthy cuisine and many more in the future. We are committed to develop and create innovative wellness programs that integrate modern medicine, holistic knowledge, and ancient oriental spa wisdom with Thai hospitality for our guests.
Amatara is a way to not only rest, relax and recharge as you would on a conventional holiday, it is a way to consciously invite wellness into your life. We propose the retreat experience with us as a way to go deeper into your personal wellness and enhance your life well beyond the confines of the stay itself. More and more people globally need ways to be more well, to reach towards their potential, in order to live a happier and more fulfilled life. This is what we are aiming at. We want to help make a positive difference in the way people feel in daily life.
In 2015 we rebranded the hotel and spa to come under the name Amatara Wellness Resort, to better reflect our mission and concept. Really, we were answering the need of guests to experience integrated and pervasive wellness in every aspect of their stay.
‘Amatara’ is a combined word, taken from Sanskrit, which is a spiritually significant language in Thailand. ‘Ama’ refers to immortality, and ‘tara’ refers to water, but water in its purest sense, a life-giving water. So the meaning of Amatara refers to living timelessly, literally immortal water, or more poetically, the elixir of life. We acknowledge the power and healing of water, and, the property being surrounded completely by the Andaman sea, hold a deep and grateful respect for water and all it provides us.
Tell us about the wellness programs please.
Our wellness programs are designed around a particular health goal or concept, and we aim to make this clear by their names and descriptions. This really helps to guide our guests in regard to the theme or aim of their stay. Treatments within each retreat package are carefully chosen and sequenced for optimal outcome. In all we have seven programs; Amatara Detox and our Yoga Retreat being most popular, as well as Spa Revive, Weight Management, Amatara Active, Holistic Anti-Aging and Bespoke. All of our packages form a framework, and these are further personalized according to individual needs and the guest’s health picture. Prices ranges from THB 51,700++ (RMB 10,300++) for a 3 nights’ stay retreat package.
In addition to the programs mentioned, we have two very unique and innovative programs which we have co-created with medical wellness industry leaders. These programs include a Brain health enhancement program as Bangkok hospital as a key partner, and a Holistic Vitality program with Vitallife Integrated Health centre. Both of these key partners were carefully selected due to their expertise in preventative medical health care. They are each the best in their field. We believe that true wellness lies in the integration of forward-thinking integrative medicine, holistic treatments and healthy living.
Please tell us more about your Thai Hammam. What brought about this “Hammam” idea?
All Amatara wellness programs include our unforgettable Thai Hammam Experience. Our exquisitely designed Thai Hammam is a world first and brings together traditional Turkish and Moroccan bathing practices with the wisdom and gentleness of Thai spa therapies. This session takes around three hours and has so many health benefits. It completely revitalizes the skin, stimulates the immune system, relieves muscle pain and tension, and promotes relaxation. We simply couldn’t not include it in all our programs, due it its myriad benefits.
Why do guests choose Amatara as their Phuket destination? How can Amatara fulfill all of their requirements?
It’s true that we have many different nationalities of guests. I couldn’t really say who our main nationality group is. I think that really reflects the global trend towards wellness. There will always be a group of people within each country who make health and wellness a priority in their lives, and we will always appeal to this segment, regardless of where they are from. Our guests are also quite varied in age, we have had guest in their early to mid-twenties up to guests in their sixties. But if we were to narrow it down, we could say 35-50 would be our main age range for guests.
Families are less common but highly welcome, we have a kids’ club with plenty of activities and offer babysitting services. This is a real point of difference as many wellness retreats have strict ‘no children’ policies. We like to think of ourselves as being quite inclusive and have had couples come with small children and successfully complete a wellness package with good outcomes for all concerned.
Certainly, too, guests all have their own needs. We pride ourselves on being able to cater to these with a flexible treatment and food program. At Amatara we have three restaurants, each with a different focus. We must bear in mind too that we have a number of leisure guests staying with us so it is essential that we are flexible. The Retreat is solely focused on healthy cuisine and we encourage wellness guests to eat exclusively there, especially if they have very specific goals around their health. This is also the main outlet for our detox and weight management meal plans. The food is delicious, fresh, very much plant-based and full of health benefits. Amatara wellness cuisine concept is deeply rooted in ancient traditions, making it a peaceful sanctuary to embrace authentic healing and living foods. The food was created based on local Thai culture inspiration, which encourages us to nurture harmony with spirit, the environment and to re-connect with one another and it is our hope that the guest returns home feeling nourished and rejuvenated, and inspired to continue the journey of good health through optimal nutrition. The Grill is a real treat – it combines very high quality fine dining, exceptionally thought-out meal sets and healthy cuisine. Lastly our largest venue, simply called ‘The Restaurant’ offers a combination of western dishes, Thai cuisine and healthy cuisine. With so much on offer and with all meals included in our wellness retreat guest’s stay, we can tailor our guests’ eating plans according to their goals and preferences.
How about the guests’ feedback? Do they feel they are more “healthy” by staying with Amatara?
Guests overwhelmingly report feeling more rejuvenated, energetic, and ‘back to themselves’. We observe that stress really takes a person into a different state and they become a version of themselves that they don’t always like. We’ve had wonderful success with anxiety, insomnia, digestive issues, lack of energy, and burnout. We recently had a guest suffering from post-traumatic stress and lack of self-esteem who made massive internal shifts within a 10-night stay. This was achieved through daily yoga and meditation, and I believe also through nutrition. We often underestimate the brain-gut connection and what healthy food can do for our mental and emotional wellbeing.
We are really all about making these results sustainable and strive to give our guests as much knowledge and support as needed to continue key elements of what they have learnt here at home. This might come in the form of a new posture-saving exercise routine, a new fitness routine, healthy eating, or a meditation practice, just to name a few.