24 May 2024 World leisure: news, training & property
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Spa Business
2023 issue 1

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Leisure Management - Generation game

Family spa

Generation game

Frances Marcellin visits a family-friendly spa hotel in the Austrian Alps with her husband and four children. But does it really have something for everyone?

Summer tourism is now almost on a par with the winter season Photo: Philippe Marcellin
Marcellin says her stay was genuine family bonding time Photo: Das SeeMount
Photo: Das SeeMount
The massage was ‘dreamy’ said Marcellin’s daughter Photo: Frances Marcellin
Rafting is one of many outdoor adventure activities Photo: Frances Marcellin
Night time swims in the illuminated pool were a particular highlight for the family Photo: Das SeeMount
Photo: Frances Marcellin
“Unbelievably, even my toddler paused at times,” says Marcellin Photo: Philippe Marcellin

In the heart of See, an Alpine village in Austria’s Tyrol region, cable cars and gondolas float up to 42km of pistes in winter. Come summer, the 10-minute ride is a gateway to endless scenic trails, a colourful playground and a shady mountain forest housing a Wellness Park. Everything is natural in this dappled glade, from the textured reflexology path to the icy Kneipp pool. Bring a picnic, calm your mind, bond with your kids – the goal is wellness.

The area has been long associated with sports and wellbeing, hosting global events such as the Winter Olympics in the colder months. But summer tourism is now almost on par with the winter season.

It’s a fitting location for family spa hotel Das SeeMount which reopened with nature-inspired biophilic interiors, following a €14m (US$13.6m, £12.5m) investment, in late 2021.

Happy kids, happy parents
I visited Das SeeMount with my husband and four children – ages 20 months, five, seven and nine – in the summer. Like many parents, we teach our children about the importance of nutrition and exercise. The spa factor and its benefits are more complicated to demonstrate, however, because spas don’t usually welcome babies and young children and heat experiences/spa pools are off-limits.

Yet Sabrina Mallaun, owner and manager of Das SeeMount (see p72), designed her new hotel with family spa time as part of the criteria. The fourth floor is an adult-only spa area and includes a steamroom, Finnish sauna and infrared sauna and has a strict spa etiquette of no bathing suits. The family-friendly fifth floor, however, is more relaxed. Guests can turn up in any kind of swimwear or casual clothing, and all facilities, including the vitality pool, hot tub and bio sauna, are open to everyone.

“Children have such a busy world, they also need me time,” Mallaun told me during our stay. “To relax deeply, I think they need that. If the children are happy, the parents are relaxed and happy.”

Of course, for parents, the reality is that spa time without kids is always going to be the optimal restorative option. However, Mallaun’s vision bridges the gap for families who value wellness practices and wish to share them with their children. It not only introduces a future generation to this form of self-care but also allows them to discover the joy of rejuvenation that spa services deliver so uniquely.

Genuine bonding time
The indoor/outdoor design vitality pool has been designed with families in mind, whatever the weather. “It’s possible for a family to be in the water together, even with a baby and even when it’s cold outside.” By the time my toddler had tentatively made his way down the steps, the three bigger kids had whipped through the flap to the outdoor infinity space and were already basking in sunshine and experiencing bubble beds for the first time. Our pool sessions are habitually filled with swimming, diving and underwater gymnastics, but I witnessed moments where they actually paused, lay amidst the bubbles and then swam to the edge taking in the pure air and breathtaking Alpine mountainscape.

As the family area was open until 10pm, we indulged in after-dinner swims on several occasions. The illuminated infinity pool with its panoramas under the night sky was an unforgettable experience, for us and the children. When we weren’t here, we’d spend an hour or so in the playroom, where the kids could play games and enjoy the mini climbing wall.

Outside, the pool connects to exterior terraces and a hot tub which all six of us could fit in comfortably. “This is amazing!” the girls squealed. They alternated between quiet moments, closing their eyes to feel the sun’s rays as the water bubbled, chatting animatedly and feeling for the water jets. It truly was genuine bonding family time and, unbelievably, the toddler even paused at times too.

The following day each of the children had 20-minute back and leg massages, using essential oils mixed with a little lemon. It was the first massage they’d ever experienced. “It made me feel like I was flying, I felt so dreamy,” said my seven-year-old daughter. My nine-year-old son said he felt relaxed afterwards and that his post-hike legs were less achy.

My husband and I found our full-body massages as equally soothing and the unexpected hot stones were particularly beneficial for muscle tension.

Base for wellness
Das SeeMount is an excellent base to stay for family wellbeing. See’s sports park and swimming lake is a five minute walk away. Twenty minutes by car in Ischgl, there’s an open pool with a waterslide, as well as mountain-top adventure park Vida Truja for boating, rafting and trampolining – there’s even a music-theme hiking trail. All mountain parks in the area are free, fun and designed to attract families.

For those with more ambitious fitness goals, there are challenging hikes, a glacier safari and some top-notch bouldering parks.

Coming up to her second summer season, Mallaun is looking to expand children’s treatment options and, in keeping with the unique wellness region, is creating a signature massage that guests won’t find anywhere else.

"Children live in such a busy world, they also need ‘me time’" – Frances Marcellin

Sabrina Mallaun
Hotel owner and manager, Das SeeMount
What’s the hotel’s backstory?

In 1994 my parents opened a small three-star hotel in See with about 20 rooms. Business grew and grew and we eventually replaced it in 2021 with a €14m new build. Running a spa hotel like this was my dream.

Why did you decide to create a family spa area?

Children are our guests of tomorrow and they should have fun too. It really is necessary for them to relax.

What massages do you offer children?

The combi massage is the most in demand. This is a customisable 50-minute treatment where clients can decide which body parts should be massaged. Our antistress and sports massages are popular too.

During the pandemic, our therapist studied how to deliver lomi lomi, a Hawaiian massage, and that has become popular. The hot stone massage is also a favourite.

What about the spa facilities?

The pool is the most used facility – the view is stunning – and the outside terraces are always full. I didn’t expect this. Even when it’s not that warm, guests sit out in their coats, or put a blanket over them and lie outside.

Tell me more about the hotel’s biophilic design.

All the wood here is oak, I wanted to have all-natural materials, including the textiles. The work has been done by people from the region – all the beds, cupboards, and so on, that was really important to us. The natural stone floor is from Italy, just across the border.

So almost everything has been locally and sustainably sourced?

Yes, we tend to work only with small independent companies. Our restaurant relies on local suppliers for cheese and milk. Eggs come from a village farmer but what he produces per week is what I need daily so we need to supplement them. We even serve a local vegan and gluten-free coke called Tirola Kola but haven’t found a substitute for Coke Zero yet.

What spa brands do you work with?

I don’t work with big brands. Our natural oils come from Tyrol. The biggest company we work with is Ada International as I didn’t want to supply soap and conditioner in small plastic bottles and this was the only firm I could find that would make refillable branded bottles for me at the time.

like to work with small businesses. Our bags for in-room spa towels, for example, were made by a mother of two at home during the pandemic. She bought the sheep’s wool and made 250 bags over six months. It feels as though we help people this way – in return, we get nice quality products that are unique to us.

Children are our guests of tomorrow. They should have some fun too
Mallaun is creating more treatments for younger guests / Photo: Das SeeMount

Originally published in Spa Business 2023 issue 1

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