An Interview with Mr. Vaipanya Kongkwanyuen, General Manager of Chiva-Som
Peacefully located at Hua Hin, a seaside town in Thailand, Chiva-Som was the first comprehensive wellness resort in Asia and has been praised as a top healing destination in the world. Its holistic approach to the health of body, mind and soul has won numerous hearts around the globe for Chiva-Som. Intensive retreats, treatments and other health options, with the guidance of wellness advisors, lead every guest on a fruitful journey of achieving their wellness goals. Being in operation for 25 years so far, Chiva-Som still continues to enhance its wellness offerings on the way of further development and innovation. An overall renovation was just completed by the end of last year.
To have a deeper exploration of this top wellness resort and its role in the current overseas medical tourism, SpaChina interviewed Mr. Vaipanya Kongkwanyuen, the General Manager of Chiva-Som.
Mr. Vaipanya is returning home to Chiva-Som, having been the Director of Food & Beverage for the resort in 1994 in the early stages of the journey, during the pre-opening phase. He was recently based in China (Beijing, Lijiang and Hangzhou) for the Aman Group, where he was General Manager since 2012. He has extensive experience and a career background in food & beverage in Thailand and overseas from the beginning of his career in 1984. Mr. Vaipanya is the first Thai General Manager at Chiva-Som, and with his experience and capabilities from a 30-year career in five-star hospitality, he brings his experience to execute further development and significant service to Chiva-Som.
Please introduce Chiva-Som to our readers.
Located on the beautiful Gulf of Thailand, Chiva-Som is a secluded ‘Haven of Life’, promoting good health and wellbeing. Our guests embark upon unique journeys of self-discovery with a holistic approach to wellness, incorporating mind, body and spirit, to bring a healing balance to individual lifestyles.
For the last 25 years, Chiva-Som has provided a Haven of Life for guests seeking to improve their health and wellness. Our programs are founded upon our six wellness modalities: Spa, Fitness, Physiotherapy, Holistic Health, Wellness Cuisine and Aesthetic Beauty, offering you the empowerment to fulfill your individual goals.
Chiva-Som has just completed a large renovation. What big changes have taken place?
I am very excited to share that all areas of the resort renovation are complete. Our guests will certainly enjoy the new design of accommodation and guest facilities such as our Health & Wellness facilities, Hydrotherapy Suites, Bathing Pavilion, outdoor pool, gym, our two restaurants, the Orchid Lounge and Niranlada Medi-Spa.
Step into our Health & Wellness reception area and experience luxurious comfort, with refurbished treatment rooms and superior massage beds providing a greater sense of tranquility.
How do you enable guests to enjoy a smooth journey at Chiva-Som instead of getting lost in the midst of so many choices?
The stay with Chiva-Som begins with the retreat the guest chooses to embark upon. Our wellness advisors guide our guests towards personal goals and a path that leads to the holistic healing the guest is searching for, and therefore, our guests can maximize their time spent with us. An advisor continuously monitors our guests on a daily basis to ensure they are on track to achieve their personal goals.
What medical programs do you offer?
We offer over 200 treatments and services to help address holistic wellness for our guests. The main medical treatment and services are:
Laboratory Testing: Wellness laboratory testing, partnering with local certified laboratories, is a program offered at Chiva-Som in line with the organization’s vision of providing personalized service to our guests. This program helps our Specialists to design the tailor-made programs based on their personal health profile and preferences.
Colonic Hydrotherapy: Colonic hydrotherapy involves the infusion of water into the bowels to cleanse and flush out accumulated waste from the colon. The procedure – called colonic irrigation or colonic hydrotherapy – is designed to flush out the fecal matter that can accumulate and harden in the colon. The benefits of the treatment are to strengthen the intestines and improve colon health. The treatment provides preventative health benefits, as it is theorized that diseases including cancer begin in the gastrointestinal tract. A poorly functioning colon is a precursor to illness, and proper elimination is a natural way to maintain and restore health. Due to its outstanding benefits this treatment is included in our Art of Detox Retreat and also in our treatment menu.
JalaNeti: JalaNeti is a technique that is used by yogis to stay disease-free, and most importantly to use the breath well during their yogic practices without any nasal blockages. Just as brushing the teeth is dental hygiene, the practice of JalaNeti is nasal hygiene. This technique uses water to purify and clean the nasal paths, right from the nostrils to the throat. JalaNeti goes beyond nasal cleansing and helps in aligning your body, mind, and spirit. Hence, it should be practiced daily and not only when one has a nasal blockage or a cold. Due to its benefits, this treatment is included in our Yoga for Life retreat and also in our treatment menu.
Aesthetic Beauty Treatments: Adhering to the philosophy of Chiva-Som, aesthetic beauty is what we strive for to balance the mind, body and spirit by addressing the guests’ needs with advanced technology and our experienced team. It complements Chiva-Som’s world-renowned approach to total wellness with the latest developments in both modern aesthetic treatments and micro-invasive cosmetic treatment. Our guests may undergo aesthetic assessments, corrective treatments and minimally-invasive treatments to regain healthier and younger-looking skin.
Physiotherapy Treatments: In our bespoke Optimal Performance retreat, coordinated guidance from our Fitness and Physiotherapy experts will help alleviate pain and improve posture. Guests’ physical and mental state will feel replenished and rejuvenated from the treatments. Programs of Re-functional Exercise, Physiotherapy, Super Stretch, group classes and Deep Tissue Massage help to restore our guests’ physical condition.
Who are the fans of these medical programs? How much do you charge for these medical programs?
Top three nationalities of these five treatments are Russian, British and Australian.
Pricing are: Blood testing programs 20,000 – 60,000 THB; Colonic Hydrotherapy4,500 – 5,500+ THB; JalaNeti 2,800 ++ THB; Aesthetic Beauty treatments5,000 – 50,000+ THB; Physiotherapy Treatment: 1,750 – 6,100 + THB.
Please tell us about your medical team. Who are the team leader and members? What expertise do they possess?
Our medical team includes Medical doctors, Dermatologists, Register Nurses, Nurse Aids and Physiotherapists, all of whom are licensed in Thailand.
What do you think of “overseas medical tourism” in terms of its current development and future potential? How will Chiva-Som participate in this global trend?
The Asia-Pacific region currently dominates the medical tourism market and it is expected to continue as its stronghold for years to come. We provide high-quality medical services at a much lower rate, as compared to the developed economies. There are companies that cater to all the medical and non-medical needs of the tourist during their travel. In the future the market will absolutely expand and the competition will grow to gain larger portions of the market shares.
Chiva-Som is aware of this global trend and we are now moving forward to improve both our hardware and software resources. Our practitioners and staff are encouraged to join the international summits and useful training related to their expertise to keep them at the cutting edge and be able to develop new treatments and services that align with our philosophy, global trends and the most important aspect, our market share. Apart from service and process development, the new technology and service programs are carefully selected to support our core vision and cover all directions of wellness.
As more and more wellness resorts arise, how does Chiva-Som update in line with the new health and beauty trends in order to attract more guests while at the same time keeping its core character?
Apart from our intensive retreat offerings, we have our wellness and nutrition experts working in-house with our guests. Our Research & Development colleagues are constantly researching and developing the new retreats in line with industry trends striving for the greatest benefit of wellbeing and healthcare to put into practice. Our mission is to establish sustainable health and wellbeing through education and modification of lifestyle for our guests to carry on their wellbeing behavior on a daily basis.
You have worked both in China and Thailand for no short time. What commonalities and differences do you see between the two markets concerning their wellness needs and wellness consumption patterns?
My experience working with Chinese in general is that they do not pay as much attention to lifestyle for optimal wellness as do Thais. They have a busy lifestyle and many occasions for social events disturb their eating habits and sleep patterns. I assume that they prefer to get the results faster than sustaining their approach to health improvement. In other words, normally they will see the doctor when they feel sick instead of paying attention to preventive maintenance through healthy lifestyles to avoid illness. But I have to say I see more and more Chinese begin to establish stronger wellness awareness nowadays and seek after different kinds of health activities. For instance, there are willing to improve the methods of cooking and eating habits once they experience healthy and delicious food.
For the younger generation in China, the major concern is nutrition and digital appliances, i.e. mobile phones and electronic devices. These are part of their lives and they seem to ignore the side effects from both eating unhealthy food and the usage of mobile phones all the time. High stress is another influence as they want to stay competitive at all times.
Rooted in the profound culture and slow-paced lifestyle of Thailand, and supported by global advanced medical technology, Chiva-Som is striving to educate every guest on how to achieve sustaining health by embracing a right lifestyle. A long-lasting healthy life surely starts from your daily wellness behaviors.
Regarding Chinese guests, is there any upward trend in numbers in recent years? What kind of profile do they have and what is their age range? How many days do they stay in Chiva-Som? What kinds of programs attract them the most?
For the last two years, we were heavily engaged in the Resort renovations. This required closure of the entire resort for six months in both years. We experienced a decline in global guests, including Chinese; however we have laid out the plan to visit our partners and have been re-visiting travel agents to update them on products, retreat services and the newly-renovated facilities. We expect to see the number of Chinese guests grow by 3-5% in the market this year. Most of our Chinese guests are business executives and also guests who are seeking health improvement. The majority of their age range is from 40 to 65 years old. They stay from three to five nights with us and the most popular retreat is ‘A Taste of Chiva-Som’ where our Health and Wellness Advisors will guide guests through our wide range of therapies, fitness programs and nutritional options to help them decide on the path that best suits them. Whether it’s a stay of pure relaxation or a lifestyle transformation, we assist guests in making the entire experience truly fulfilling to address their needs.
Do you have any future plans for targeting the Chinese market?
We are working with our Sales Representative for mainland China. Heaven’s Portfolio is our partner with their offices in Shanghai and Beijing. They represent us for Sales and Marketing activities, Public Relations related activities and booking accommodation. In 2018, I as the General Manager with our Head of Sales visited our business partners to maintain the business relationship and to update them on new services and enhance their knowledge to promote Chiva-Som to their clientele. We recognize the Chinese market as our potentially growing market where we are working to enhance the education of our guests to achieve their personal, optimal wellness and practices in everyday life for good health and longevity.