Ho Renyung, like many in Singapore, spent much of the past two years grounded on the little red dot after Covid-19 hit in 2020. As a result, when it came time for her to leave Singapore on her first leisure trip—a family vacation to Switzerland — last November, she recalls feeling a little anxious about leaving this safe cocoon.
”Once there, it was almost like a veil lifted and my senses were completely engaged in a way I had not realised that I missed,” says Ho, Banyan Tree Group’s Senior Vice President of Brand HQ. “Singapore is a small place, and I am someone who comes alive in nature, so being able to go for long walks in the mountains and to breathe in the fresh air was so rejuvenating.”
The sense of well-being one experiences while exploring the planet is one Ho hopes to share with the hospitality group’s guests as travel picks up again.
This year, the group is launching two new properties in Bali and Phuket that aim to encourage exploration both within oneself and across borders. In Thailand, it unveiled Veya Phuket, a new wellness hotel brand inspired by the pandemic.
“For Veya, the concept is that the next frontier of travel is internal. People have realised they want to invest in their own health and well-being,” says Ho, whose parents are Banyan Tree’s founders Ho Kwon Ping and Claire Chiang.
Besides design elements in the rooms such as sleep lights, blackout curtains and night aromatherapy, guests also have access to unique wellness programmes such as sound therapy, sensory detox and weightless therapy to decompress from the pandemic and reconnect with themselves.
If she has her way, there may be plant- based therapeutic programmes inspired by traditional practices and remedies to explore as well. “There are tools, rituals and practices that we humans have used for thousands of years to better understand ourselves and exist in balance and in awe of nature and living systems.”
“I see Veya as a platform where we can explore this mindfulness aspect and blend it with cognitive tools and therapy, thereby evolving what the spa and wellness looks like,” she says.
Then there is Buahan, a Banyan Tree Escape in Bali that aims to encourage guests to get close to nature with its unique “no walls, no doors” villas. The sprawling estate, slated to launch in June, is set within a lush mountain peaks and picturesque rice fields.
“We wish to bring guests back to basics while still catering to what people look out for in terms of luxury. This is no longer a set of amenities, but a radical set of experiences as there is a deep need to escape and a desire to be immersed in remote locations in nature,” observes Ho.
Reflecting on her stay in a mock villa before construction began, she recalls the “magic” when the mist came rolling into her room and fireflies danced before her eyes. “We wanted to make this place a destination where you can forget the outside world exists.”
This sense of oneness with nature reminds Ho of her annual birthday trips, when she typically takes a solo trip to a mountainous region such as Mt Fuji in Japan or Vietnam’s Sapa Valley.
“I’ve always had a deep desire to retreat inwards and use solitude to connect. It’s a particular type of travel that always brings me back to myself, and gives me a sense of being connected to something larger. Covid-19 gave me the pause to integrate that wisdom with the offerings we have,” she reflects. “Our core value proposition has always been enabling people to experience and explore new frontiers.”