Interview with Mr. Rayben Chen, Founder of SAVOIR RESORT
In the depths of the 5A scenic spot of National XiXi Wetland Park is located a “reclusive” hotel, which reproduces the lifestyle of ancient Chinese recluses and leads guests on an authentic humanistic journey – sipping teas, reading scriptures, wandering beside the streams… At SAVOIR RESORT, people are once again connected with Mother Nature as well as with their inner self.
Mr. Rayben Chen, the Founder of SAVOIR RESORT, is a learned and modest gentleman born in the 1970s. Despite his rich experience in politics and business circles, Rayben has always held to his deep affection for classical Chinese literature, philosophy and humanism. Not only fascinated by books, he is also fond of calligraphy and traditional Chinese painting. Then it is easier to understand why he brings us the poetic creation – SAVOIR RESORT. SpaChina interviewed Mr. Chen. He guides us back to the pristine idyllic days, and enlightens us on latest wellness and health industry trends.
What kind of experience does SAVOIR RESORT want to deliver to the guests?
Inspired by the traditional culture of Xixi Wetland and Chen Hongshou’s (a famous Chinese painter in the late Ming and early Qing dynasties) masterpiece Sixteen Scenes of Seclusion, SAVOIR Resort combines China’s recluse tradition which dates back thousands of years with modern vacation concepts. The resort reproduces the ancient Chinese philosophy embraced by reclusive scholars – living a quiet life in a waterside village. It has truly turned out to be a destination hotel brimming with the cultural and humanistic essence of the local land.
How does SAVOIR RESORT guide guests on a holistic cultural and wellness journey?
We have designed 8 distinctive chapters for guests: XiXing (walking by the streams), FangZhuang (seeking a reclusive life), YouYuan (visiting gardens), ZhenShui (living by the water), TiXiang (delicacy tasting), GuWang (be alone in tranquility), PinFan (reading and writing), and MuXi (enjoying SPA surrounded by water). These sections are richly intermingled with such elements as tea culture, aesthetic experience, zen, food, wellness and more.
All guestrooms at SAVOIR RESORT are built by the streams. Our restaurant offers authentic local cuisine as well as global dishes. Besides, we have worked out different cultural travel routes at Xixi Wetland for the guests’ reference. Spa lovers can go to the MuXi Spa for a relaxing and rejuvenating treatment. There are also sessions of flower arrangement, incense burning and tea ceremony performance. Guests will live a “Xixi life” with a boat as the main form of transportation instead of cars, and numerous bridges are built over the vast waters to connect the dry land on which houses are sparsely scattered.
What are the unique requirements of Chinese guests on wellness and aestheticism? How does SAVOIR meet these demands?
Western people love doing exercise while Chinese people emphasize holistic health. Traditional Chinese culture highlights the unity of Heaven, Earth and Mankind, believing that Man has a close connection with Heaven and Earth and they abide by the same rules of Nature. Perfect health comes from a total unity between oneself and Nature. Therefore, although SAVOIR RESORT extends over 4,000 square meters, we only built 20 guestrooms so that every guest can enjoy truly private time with Nature. The proportion between the size of construction and natural environment is 1:9. Besides, MuXi SPA is the culmination for wellness and relaxation.
What challenges and difficulties have you met while operating the hotel?
The resort is located amidst a broad wetland, 90% of which is covered with trees or streams. And this creates great opportunities for the mosquitos to breed. We have tried our best to deal with the problem, and have not yet completely solved it. This is really a big challenge for us.
How has “wellness” affected the hospitality industry in recent years? What are the “must” elements for a standard wellness hotel?
Despite continual medical investment and the longer life span of the whole society of China, more and more people just “live longer with disease” instead of “healthily aging”. With an increase in living standards, Chinese people are focusing more than before on the issue of health. Owning to high pressure from work and daily life, people’s morbidity keeps rising, especially epidemic diseases. As a result, the health industry is seeing booming development, which pushes hotels to offer more wellness services and developers to build completely “wellness hotels”.
To me, a qualified wellness hotel must have clear positioning. It should be built in a natural and beautiful setting, with construction of local traditional design and providing a rich spiritual experience that connect guests with Nature. This is what SAVOIR RESORT has done. We combine the amazing natural environment with humanistic vacation patterns to fulfill the goal of delivering the best wellness experience and health improvement.
Is there anything in the global wellness hospitality industry that is worthy of being learned by China’s hotels?
I always pay close attention to what conforms to Asian preferences. A good example I have found is Six Senses Laaum Maldives. It has several star labels including seaside scenery, water activities, an organic garden, local farming and fresh picking, an organic restaurant and Six Senses Spa, all in the effort to create a destination resort experience with Nature and health at the core.
What is your opinion on Hot Spring holidays? Have you also noticed any other popular wellness modalities?
Japan possesses rich hot spring resources. So there is no wonder that hot spring holiday has become part of people’s life, and a unique cultural label of the nation. However, in China, hot spring holidays are just at their initial stage. There is much room for improvement both in forms and services provided.
Recently, I am attracted by a domestic wellness holiday brand – BOAO Yearlings Life Conservation Center. It is a comprehensive platform that covers innovative medical technology, featured health and recuperative programs, disease prevention, life conservation, mental therapy and medical tourism for the protection and improvement of people’s health and life quality. This will surely become a new trend in future tourism.
What is your idea about the future development of the wellness hospitality industry in China?
As China has moved into an aging society, citizens’ income has increased and the consuming structure has been upgraded, the domestic medical and health industry has reached a huge industry scale of RMB 4,000 billion, with an average annual increase of 20% in the past five years, far exceeding the global average of 6%, which makes China the second biggest medical and health market in the world, next to the U.S. This drives the diversification of China’s hospitality industry. Now, we can see more hot spring hotels, spa hotels and even medical hotels coming into the public’s sight. It is estimated that the scale of China’s medical and health industry will reach RMB8,000 billion in 2020 and RMB160 billion in 2030, nearly 10% of GDP of the year. Medical and Health will undoubtedly become a pillar industry in the national economy. Such huge industry demand means equally huge opportunities. So I have a very positive outlook on the future development of China’s wellness hospitality industry.