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Interview
Esin Güral Argat

The owner of Joali Being is on a mission to make the Maldives the go-to destination for wellness travellers. Neena Dhillon reports from the island dedicated to transformative wellbeing


Even before launching Joali Being in the Maldives, Turkish businesswoman Esin Güral Argat was deeply invested in her own wellbeing, incorporating mindful eating habits, yoga, long walks, meditation and daily exercise into her lifestyle. Still, as she geared up to create her own wellbeing hospitality concept, she faced a significant learning curve. “We knew this would require a deeper understanding of the industry’s nuances and the ability to craft a unique experience for our guests,” she says. “So we identified an expert team to explore the most valuable offerings, incorporating science-based principles.”

Güral Argat was at the top of her business game five years ago, working as vice president of family business Gürok Group, a Turkish conglomerate spanning industries from glassware to construction, tiles to tourism. Since 2008, she’d been managing the tourism division of the business, including Turkey’s Ali Bey brand. But the Maldives had a special place in her heart, for its “breathtaking beauty, genuine local hospitality and ease of access”.

This passion for the destination resulted in the entrepreneur and her team launching Joali in 2018. The island resort brought a fresh, art-immersive concept to the Maldives. At the same time, Güral Argat spotted an opportunity to develop another island in the same Raa Atoll. Seeking to carve out a distinct identity for this sister resort, she brainstormed the possibility of devoting a Maldivian island to transformative wellbeing.

POOL OF EXPERTISE
Güral Argat and her team dived into research, connecting with practitioners globally to forge the philosophy for this new resort. “We travelled extensively, seeking insights from experts and experiencing various wellness concepts and products,” she reveals. “Immersing ourselves in events, such as the Global Wellness Summit, proved invaluable. During these explorations, we had the privilege of connecting with consultants, professor Gerry Bodeker and Claire Way. Both the expertise of Claire at Spa Strategy [especially on design and layout] and professor Bodeker’s research work on the science behind our core concept became key assets for our new destination.”

Joali Being opened on Bodufushi island in November 2021, providing an immersive, 360-degree wellbeing offering. “Every detail has been meticulously studied, ensuring a thoughtfully crafted guest journey,” says Güral Argat. “We’ve built our offering around four pillars – Mind, Skin, Microbiome and Energy. For me, the Mind pillar resonates the most because it offers solace and rejuvenation, helping people find balance.”

These pillars work in combination with a central theme of weightlessness, which informs the resort’s biophilic design principles, with spaces created to facilitate the flow of energy and promote lightness and joy.

There’s a moment of symbolic arrival at the Gate of Zero welcome jetty, which invites guests to shake off excesses and baggage. But it’s the four pillars that really guide individual journeys, with a 15-minute pre-arrival Wellbeing Consultation followed up by a 60-minute Integrative Lifestyle Assessment on the first day, performed by senior wellness consultants such as ayurvedic doctors, naturopaths, a TCM specialist and nutritionists. After this diagnostic assessment, guests are assigned one of the four pillars, with meal selections, treatments, workshops and movement guided by this choice.

While there are 13 pre-designed packages, 95 per cent of guests have a personalised programme.

FOUR PILLARS OF HEALTH
“Our practices are rooted in the four pillars, to align with the broader scope of wellbeing,” Güral Argat explains. “In my personal view, there’s a difference between wellbeing and wellness, with the former encompassing physical, social and mental health while the latter generally focuses on physical health and preventative care.”

The facilities on the island are indeed truly comprehensive, from a herbology centre to watsu pool, cryotherapy chamber to sound therapy hall, culinary learning centre to meditation deck and aufguss sauna to Himalayan salt inhalation room. The island’s 68 villas are matched by 39 treatment rooms, a ratio reflective of the wellbeing focus. Multidisciplinary studio Autoban, responsible for designing both Joali resorts, has created a series of incredible, high-ceilinged structures that reinforce connections to the island’s rich natural vegetation through organic indoor-outdoor transitions.

Güral Argat visits the island regularly, most recently staying with her family for a month. Her feedback on treatments is relayed to the resort team of 350 staff. As a fan of the Mind pillar, two therapeutic experiences stood out during her last stay, as she explains: “Aligned with our philosophy of ‘joy in weightlessness’, I found our watsu treatment to be particularly transformative. The experience of floating and being guided gently through the water was incredibly profound, allowing me to let go of physical and mental tension and leading to a sense of inner peace. Sound healing, curated by the talented [visiting] practitioner Aurelio Hammer, was also a soul-enriching journey, with the ethereal sounds and vibrations leading to a state of deep relaxation and introspection.”

FEMALE EMPOWERMENT
Güral Argat faced logistical challenges when it came to persuading a small army of professionals to relocate to Bodufushi. The resort team, drawn from more than 30 nationalities, has a female ratio of 35 per cent, the highest in the local hospitality sector. This is no accident, as Güral Argat is renowned for championing female entrepreneurship, with her glassware company dominated almost entirely by women.

Senior managers at Joali Being work hard on staff retention – an issue for Maldivian resorts, which find it hard to keep young, ambitious employees on one island for more than a year. A weekly wellbeing programme for staff includes massages, nutritional activities, access to the pool and gym and regular sports tournaments to keep up spirits. This helps create a close-knit camaraderie and some employees have been with Joali Being since launch.

This also means staff can share the resort’s wellbeing intentions in a natural, non-intrusive way. The food is delicious, nutritious and plentiful, for example, but employees may need to explain why salt or a traditional bread basket aren’t automatically available, or why tea is gently promoted as a beverage of choice, rather than alcohol. This doesn’t mean alcohol isn’t available, it’s just not advertised. Instead, it’s matched by an equally appealing list of nutritionally beneficial mocktails.

EVOLUTION AND EXPANSION
The ambition to become established as a global leader in wellbeing hospitality means keeping technology and treatments updated. Reiki, chi nei tsang and outdoor group cycling are all being added to the menu, along with treatments from magnesium-rich product line The Tides Wellness and anti-inflammatory skincare brand Dr Barbara Sturm.

Most recently, the spa at the original Joali resort has been rebranded as Joali Being Cure to create an “elevated experience”. It now offers a taster of the signature massages, specialised treatments and a network of visiting experts from the wellbeing island.

Overall, the goal is for the Maldives to become a viable alternative to Thailand or the Middle East for wellness travellers.

Beyond Bodufushi, Güral Argat is eyeing expansion for the Joali brand, as she confirms: “We’re open to opportunities in other captivating destinations around the world.” Meanwhile, back in Turkey, Gürok has revealed a new hospitality brand called Bijal. Given Güral Argat’s mission to keep driving the tourism arm of her family business, could this become her next introduction to the Maldives?

Read more about Claire Way and Gerry Bodeker’s involvement at www.spabusiness.com /jbpreview

TARGETING THE WELLNESS TRAVELLER

Picking up awards from Condé Nast to Forbes, Joali Being is attracting consumers who are keen to be seen at the next big thing in luxury Maldivian hospitality. Such is this demand that the resort could fill its spacious villas with this business – occupancy, at its highest rate since opening, has hit 70 per cent. However, the resort’s senior management is determined to preserve the centrality of wellbeing and is working closely with travel agents and influencers to give the industry a chance to get to grips with the proposition.

The aim is to increase the ratio of wellness travellers. Although the resort is unable to disclose what that ratio is, it reveals the repeat business from this guest pool is high, at around 25-30 per cent. While guests don’t have to choose a retreat programme to visit, a short complimentary wellbeing consultation is available should they wish to convert during their stay.

LEARNING FROM THE EXPERTS

During my three-night stay at Joali Being, I make the most of the complimentary wellbeing activities programmed daily, gaining insights from the experts I interact with.

There’s a fascinating talk with senior nutritionist Sneha Rai who offers simple, attainable advice that’s applicable in real life, while a perfume-making workshop took me on a journey of discovery into how our mind processes smells.

In the Aktar Herbology Centre, director of wellbeing Magdy Abdelaty talks me through the healing properties of medicinal herbs used in treatments and I’m bowled over by a session led by Polina Samargina – the only certified tea master in the Maldives – learning how good quality tea, brewed correctly, brings about so many positive effects in the body, from boosting metabolism to strengthening bones.

Learning aside, my sound healing and watsu experiences were particularly high points.

SOUND HEALING AT SEDA

I’ve undertaken sound healing in a few different settings around the world but when I’m led into the low-lit sound therapy hall at Joali Being, I’m impressed. There are more than 10 svaram instruments, including chimes and gongs, surrounding a specially constructed massage bed called the Nidranator, under which 50 strings and a resonator are installed (see p61). Having had a consultation with my therapist, who specialises in energy and chakras, I’m invited to lie on the bed.

Over the next 45 minutes, my mind rushes through thought after thought as vibrations reverberate through my entire being. But at some point, my mind quietens. I start drifting off and I’m surprised when it comes to an end. Post-treatment, my therapist explains which chakra she felt was particularly blocked, an observation that chimes with the hormonal shifts I’ve been feeling.

AQUATIC MASSAGE

In the glorious domed surroundings of the mosaic-lined watsu pool, I’m invited to put my trust in the warm and empathetic therapist Josephine Wairimu Njenga. Weightless, but supported by neck and arm floats, she moves me around the warm water with small movements at first, getting me used to the different angles and shapes she’s choreographing. There’s a growing sense of freedom: I almost feel balletic at points, far more graceful than when on land.

Josephine stretches parts of my body, focusing on acupressure points and a form of aquatic massage to release energy blockages and tension points. As I whirl, the twinkling lights from above add to the otherworldly atmosphere. It’s a truly moving experience.

As I whirl in the water, twinkling lights add to the otherworldly atmosphere
Talks were fascinating and experiences were truly moving, says Dhillon / photo:
Güral Argat heads up the tourism arm of Turkish conglomerate the Gürok Group
Every detail of the resort has been meticulously planned around wellbeing
Spaces have been created to promote a feeling of lightness and joy
The quiet zone at the retreat offers a sanctuary
Entering the spa at Joali Being
The Gate of Zero arrival jetty marks the start of the transformative journey
Areka, an expansive spa, is the beating heart of the island
While there are 13 pre-designed packages, 95 per cent of programmes are personalised
The watsu experience is “incredibly profound”, says Güral Argat
The aim is to increase the ratio of wellness travellers
Tea is gently promoted as the beverage of choice over alcohol
FEATURED SUPPLIERS

Book4Time unveils enhanced day and resort pass functionality
Book4Time has announced the launch of Day & Resort Passes on its award-winning platform to help hotels and resorts drive staycation business. [more...]

bbspa_Group's Gabriella Francia talks balancing tradition and tech in spas
For Gabriella Francia, co-founder of bbspa_Group and training manager, the powerful touch of a massage is the stand-out element that makes a spa experience truly unique. [more...]
+ More featured suppliers  
COMPANY PROFILES
TAC | The Assistant Company

Founded in 2001, TAC is an owner-managed company with more than 110 employees and four locations: in [more...]
Blu Spas, Inc.

Blu is a full-service firm offering project feasibility, planning and design as well as operational [more...]
+ More profiles  
CATALOGUE GALLERY
 

+ More catalogues  

DIRECTORY
+ More directory  
DIARY

 

22-22 Jun 2024

World Bathing Day

Worldwide,
22-24 Jun 2024

IECSC Las Vegas

Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, United States
+ More diary  
 
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©Cybertrek 2024
Uniting the world of spa & wellness
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News   Products   Magazine   Subscribe
Interview
Esin Güral Argat

The owner of Joali Being is on a mission to make the Maldives the go-to destination for wellness travellers. Neena Dhillon reports from the island dedicated to transformative wellbeing


Even before launching Joali Being in the Maldives, Turkish businesswoman Esin Güral Argat was deeply invested in her own wellbeing, incorporating mindful eating habits, yoga, long walks, meditation and daily exercise into her lifestyle. Still, as she geared up to create her own wellbeing hospitality concept, she faced a significant learning curve. “We knew this would require a deeper understanding of the industry’s nuances and the ability to craft a unique experience for our guests,” she says. “So we identified an expert team to explore the most valuable offerings, incorporating science-based principles.”

Güral Argat was at the top of her business game five years ago, working as vice president of family business Gürok Group, a Turkish conglomerate spanning industries from glassware to construction, tiles to tourism. Since 2008, she’d been managing the tourism division of the business, including Turkey’s Ali Bey brand. But the Maldives had a special place in her heart, for its “breathtaking beauty, genuine local hospitality and ease of access”.

This passion for the destination resulted in the entrepreneur and her team launching Joali in 2018. The island resort brought a fresh, art-immersive concept to the Maldives. At the same time, Güral Argat spotted an opportunity to develop another island in the same Raa Atoll. Seeking to carve out a distinct identity for this sister resort, she brainstormed the possibility of devoting a Maldivian island to transformative wellbeing.

POOL OF EXPERTISE
Güral Argat and her team dived into research, connecting with practitioners globally to forge the philosophy for this new resort. “We travelled extensively, seeking insights from experts and experiencing various wellness concepts and products,” she reveals. “Immersing ourselves in events, such as the Global Wellness Summit, proved invaluable. During these explorations, we had the privilege of connecting with consultants, professor Gerry Bodeker and Claire Way. Both the expertise of Claire at Spa Strategy [especially on design and layout] and professor Bodeker’s research work on the science behind our core concept became key assets for our new destination.”

Joali Being opened on Bodufushi island in November 2021, providing an immersive, 360-degree wellbeing offering. “Every detail has been meticulously studied, ensuring a thoughtfully crafted guest journey,” says Güral Argat. “We’ve built our offering around four pillars – Mind, Skin, Microbiome and Energy. For me, the Mind pillar resonates the most because it offers solace and rejuvenation, helping people find balance.”

These pillars work in combination with a central theme of weightlessness, which informs the resort’s biophilic design principles, with spaces created to facilitate the flow of energy and promote lightness and joy.

There’s a moment of symbolic arrival at the Gate of Zero welcome jetty, which invites guests to shake off excesses and baggage. But it’s the four pillars that really guide individual journeys, with a 15-minute pre-arrival Wellbeing Consultation followed up by a 60-minute Integrative Lifestyle Assessment on the first day, performed by senior wellness consultants such as ayurvedic doctors, naturopaths, a TCM specialist and nutritionists. After this diagnostic assessment, guests are assigned one of the four pillars, with meal selections, treatments, workshops and movement guided by this choice.

While there are 13 pre-designed packages, 95 per cent of guests have a personalised programme.

FOUR PILLARS OF HEALTH
“Our practices are rooted in the four pillars, to align with the broader scope of wellbeing,” Güral Argat explains. “In my personal view, there’s a difference between wellbeing and wellness, with the former encompassing physical, social and mental health while the latter generally focuses on physical health and preventative care.”

The facilities on the island are indeed truly comprehensive, from a herbology centre to watsu pool, cryotherapy chamber to sound therapy hall, culinary learning centre to meditation deck and aufguss sauna to Himalayan salt inhalation room. The island’s 68 villas are matched by 39 treatment rooms, a ratio reflective of the wellbeing focus. Multidisciplinary studio Autoban, responsible for designing both Joali resorts, has created a series of incredible, high-ceilinged structures that reinforce connections to the island’s rich natural vegetation through organic indoor-outdoor transitions.

Güral Argat visits the island regularly, most recently staying with her family for a month. Her feedback on treatments is relayed to the resort team of 350 staff. As a fan of the Mind pillar, two therapeutic experiences stood out during her last stay, as she explains: “Aligned with our philosophy of ‘joy in weightlessness’, I found our watsu treatment to be particularly transformative. The experience of floating and being guided gently through the water was incredibly profound, allowing me to let go of physical and mental tension and leading to a sense of inner peace. Sound healing, curated by the talented [visiting] practitioner Aurelio Hammer, was also a soul-enriching journey, with the ethereal sounds and vibrations leading to a state of deep relaxation and introspection.”

FEMALE EMPOWERMENT
Güral Argat faced logistical challenges when it came to persuading a small army of professionals to relocate to Bodufushi. The resort team, drawn from more than 30 nationalities, has a female ratio of 35 per cent, the highest in the local hospitality sector. This is no accident, as Güral Argat is renowned for championing female entrepreneurship, with her glassware company dominated almost entirely by women.

Senior managers at Joali Being work hard on staff retention – an issue for Maldivian resorts, which find it hard to keep young, ambitious employees on one island for more than a year. A weekly wellbeing programme for staff includes massages, nutritional activities, access to the pool and gym and regular sports tournaments to keep up spirits. This helps create a close-knit camaraderie and some employees have been with Joali Being since launch.

This also means staff can share the resort’s wellbeing intentions in a natural, non-intrusive way. The food is delicious, nutritious and plentiful, for example, but employees may need to explain why salt or a traditional bread basket aren’t automatically available, or why tea is gently promoted as a beverage of choice, rather than alcohol. This doesn’t mean alcohol isn’t available, it’s just not advertised. Instead, it’s matched by an equally appealing list of nutritionally beneficial mocktails.

EVOLUTION AND EXPANSION
The ambition to become established as a global leader in wellbeing hospitality means keeping technology and treatments updated. Reiki, chi nei tsang and outdoor group cycling are all being added to the menu, along with treatments from magnesium-rich product line The Tides Wellness and anti-inflammatory skincare brand Dr Barbara Sturm.

Most recently, the spa at the original Joali resort has been rebranded as Joali Being Cure to create an “elevated experience”. It now offers a taster of the signature massages, specialised treatments and a network of visiting experts from the wellbeing island.

Overall, the goal is for the Maldives to become a viable alternative to Thailand or the Middle East for wellness travellers.

Beyond Bodufushi, Güral Argat is eyeing expansion for the Joali brand, as she confirms: “We’re open to opportunities in other captivating destinations around the world.” Meanwhile, back in Turkey, Gürok has revealed a new hospitality brand called Bijal. Given Güral Argat’s mission to keep driving the tourism arm of her family business, could this become her next introduction to the Maldives?

Read more about Claire Way and Gerry Bodeker’s involvement at www.spabusiness.com /jbpreview

TARGETING THE WELLNESS TRAVELLER

Picking up awards from Condé Nast to Forbes, Joali Being is attracting consumers who are keen to be seen at the next big thing in luxury Maldivian hospitality. Such is this demand that the resort could fill its spacious villas with this business – occupancy, at its highest rate since opening, has hit 70 per cent. However, the resort’s senior management is determined to preserve the centrality of wellbeing and is working closely with travel agents and influencers to give the industry a chance to get to grips with the proposition.

The aim is to increase the ratio of wellness travellers. Although the resort is unable to disclose what that ratio is, it reveals the repeat business from this guest pool is high, at around 25-30 per cent. While guests don’t have to choose a retreat programme to visit, a short complimentary wellbeing consultation is available should they wish to convert during their stay.

LEARNING FROM THE EXPERTS

During my three-night stay at Joali Being, I make the most of the complimentary wellbeing activities programmed daily, gaining insights from the experts I interact with.

There’s a fascinating talk with senior nutritionist Sneha Rai who offers simple, attainable advice that’s applicable in real life, while a perfume-making workshop took me on a journey of discovery into how our mind processes smells.

In the Aktar Herbology Centre, director of wellbeing Magdy Abdelaty talks me through the healing properties of medicinal herbs used in treatments and I’m bowled over by a session led by Polina Samargina – the only certified tea master in the Maldives – learning how good quality tea, brewed correctly, brings about so many positive effects in the body, from boosting metabolism to strengthening bones.

Learning aside, my sound healing and watsu experiences were particularly high points.

SOUND HEALING AT SEDA

I’ve undertaken sound healing in a few different settings around the world but when I’m led into the low-lit sound therapy hall at Joali Being, I’m impressed. There are more than 10 svaram instruments, including chimes and gongs, surrounding a specially constructed massage bed called the Nidranator, under which 50 strings and a resonator are installed (see p61). Having had a consultation with my therapist, who specialises in energy and chakras, I’m invited to lie on the bed.

Over the next 45 minutes, my mind rushes through thought after thought as vibrations reverberate through my entire being. But at some point, my mind quietens. I start drifting off and I’m surprised when it comes to an end. Post-treatment, my therapist explains which chakra she felt was particularly blocked, an observation that chimes with the hormonal shifts I’ve been feeling.

AQUATIC MASSAGE

In the glorious domed surroundings of the mosaic-lined watsu pool, I’m invited to put my trust in the warm and empathetic therapist Josephine Wairimu Njenga. Weightless, but supported by neck and arm floats, she moves me around the warm water with small movements at first, getting me used to the different angles and shapes she’s choreographing. There’s a growing sense of freedom: I almost feel balletic at points, far more graceful than when on land.

Josephine stretches parts of my body, focusing on acupressure points and a form of aquatic massage to release energy blockages and tension points. As I whirl, the twinkling lights from above add to the otherworldly atmosphere. It’s a truly moving experience.

As I whirl in the water, twinkling lights add to the otherworldly atmosphere
Talks were fascinating and experiences were truly moving, says Dhillon / photo:
Güral Argat heads up the tourism arm of Turkish conglomerate the Gürok Group
Every detail of the resort has been meticulously planned around wellbeing
Spaces have been created to promote a feeling of lightness and joy
The quiet zone at the retreat offers a sanctuary
Entering the spa at Joali Being
The Gate of Zero arrival jetty marks the start of the transformative journey
Areka, an expansive spa, is the beating heart of the island
While there are 13 pre-designed packages, 95 per cent of programmes are personalised
The watsu experience is “incredibly profound”, says Güral Argat
The aim is to increase the ratio of wellness travellers
Tea is gently promoted as the beverage of choice over alcohol
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FEATURED SUPPLIERS

Book4Time unveils enhanced day and resort pass functionality
Book4Time has announced the launch of Day & Resort Passes on its award-winning platform to help hotels and resorts drive staycation business. [more...]

bbspa_Group's Gabriella Francia talks balancing tradition and tech in spas
For Gabriella Francia, co-founder of bbspa_Group and training manager, the powerful touch of a massage is the stand-out element that makes a spa experience truly unique. [more...]
+ More featured suppliers  
COMPANY PROFILES
TAC | The Assistant Company

Founded in 2001, TAC is an owner-managed company with more than 110 employees and four locations: in [more...]
+ More profiles  
CATALOGUE GALLERY
+ More catalogues  

DIRECTORY
+ More directory  
DIARY

 

22-22 Jun 2024

World Bathing Day

Worldwide,
22-24 Jun 2024

IECSC Las Vegas

Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, United States
+ More diary  
 


ADVERTISE . CONTACT US

Leisure Media
Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385

©Cybertrek 2024

ABOUT LEISURE MEDIA
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