With people living longer and keen to live healthier, the wellness tourism industry is skyrocketing. It’s no surprise that the supply to fulfill this demand is also booming. What takes time however is to decipher the value of the countless resort medi-spa offerings out there and to select the perfect place to suit your needs, taste and budget.
Remember what was written on Madonna’s t-shirt in the 1980’s video ‘Papa don’t Preach?’ Probably not, but I do, it was: “Italians do it better.” Arguably they do when it comes to cooking, fashion and fast cars. Does the maxim hold true in terms of their organisational prowess? Definitely not. What if you add some Swiss precision to the equation? The result is a seamless fusion of ‘bella vita’ and evidence-based wellbeing results impeccably delivered. Cultural clichés notwithstanding, what makes Palace Merano a winner in its wellbeing resort category is essentially threefold.
A mere 40 kms from the Austrian border, ensconced in the sunny Italian Alto Adige region, lies Palace Merano. Built in 1910 when Merano was a part of the Austro- Hungarian Empire, this picturesque town is particularly well suited to tourism thanks to its unique micro-climate that is relatively warm all year round, sheltered by the majestic Dolomite Mountains.
As the founder of the school of ‘Biontology’ (meaning ‘the study of the essence of life and its evolution’), Henri Chenot and his family who all work together took over the Palace in the 1990’s establishing the Espace Henri Chenot, a research lab dedicated to wellness and detoxification housed in this five star ‘fin de siècle’ splendour.
Based on the Chinese belief that Mind Body health issues derive from poor digestion, the well deigned detoxification plan invariably results in weight loss; but for the team this is secondary to the full-on cleansing and rest that organs are given.
Global Wellness Tourism is not medical tourism; it is a dynamic new travel category that exists at the powerful intersection of two of the world’s largest markets. Such as the US$2-trillion wellness economy and the US$3.2-trillion global tourism industry.
With guests of varying fitness levels from all over the world, General Manager Maximilian Newiger is proud of the excellent rate of repeat visitors. He believes the resort’s popularity is because they leave “Full of energy, like a younger, fresher version of themselves — a version that is hard to come by in today’s stressful conditions.”. He also claims that visitors are loyal to the Chenot experience because it works and the effects tend to “last months, rather than days” he adds.
With over 6,000 guests visiting annually, Henri Chenot’s ‘method’ apparently cleanses even the most toxic. From celebs and plutocrats to statesmen and footballers. Reassuringly undistinguishable, guests can be seen, discreetly clad in white robes, padding from one treatment experience to another with their schedule and beach bag full of detoxification goodies on a pilgrimage to purity.
Blossom With Biontology
More than 40 years’ experience is the basis on which Henri Chenot developed the ‘Biontology’ method, a new holistic concept for studying the evolution of psycho- physical ageing. He founded the Academy of Biontology in 2004 and the Biontology Laboratory in 2008 to help foster vibrant longevity by reducing biological age and enhancing “better living, for longer and in the best conditions.”
Chenot explains that “Biontology unveils a concept of wellness linked to the evolution of the idea of ageing. To slow the ageing process you need to eliminate toxins and fatigue levels – physical, sensory, emotional, mental and physiological.”. Of Catalan origin, but French by adoption, Chenot studied Biology at the Research Centre for Marine Biology, adjoining the Sorbonne. He developed a passion for Anthropology, Philosophy and Chinese Medicine, as well as Bio-Energetic Psychology and Naturopathy (natural remedies to cure illnesses).
In the seventies, Henri Chenot created phyto-cosmetics and phyto-therapy laboratories, travelling worldwide to illustrate his own idea of preventive healthcare thanks to adequate diet, proper lifestyle and use of natural remedies
Aside from the effective healing protocols, what made my stay different from the other medi-spas I have visited was the ubiquitous presence of the Chenot family, actively involved in implementing the ‘method.’
Take Henri’s wife, the delectably glam Dominique Chenot who as the creator of the gourmet macrobiotic fare is in charge of nutrition, one of the pillars of preventive health and an aspect that impacts results like nothing else. Not only does she handle this crucial area; Dominique seems to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of every product, technique and machine in the global wellness sphere. Exuding boundless energy in developing their own vast range of natural cosmeceuticals, exotic teas and more, Dominique’s charisma mirrors Henri’s pragmatic holistic approach in perfect Ying Yang harmony.
Her ebullient sexy sister, Marie Pierre, a specialist in Chinese Medicine, manages the Energetic Medicine side. She meets all guests and never tires of explaining the mechanics of chronobiology from a Chinese medicine angle. For example, the five elements of the human body and the regeneration cycles of our cells. Since this is complex info for a neophyte like me, throughout the several personal consultations we had, she relied on hilarious metaphors to describe my body and its mechanics. Dominique’s evening lectures delivered in three languages are not to be missed…
Henri and Dominique’s son and daughter are also active in the business, living close by in Switzerland. One runs the laboratory researching and developing new creams and products, the other manages business partnerships and spas set-ups. With spas in Italy, Greece, Montenegro, Morocco, Kiev and Moscow all using the Chenot product line, the only medical health resort is the one in Merano.
Genesis Of Health And Disease
In simple terms, to live we must burn fuel, and the body inevitably produces toxins as a result that causes ageing or in inflammation. When diets go awry, this interferes with smooth digestion causing increased toxaemia, a condition that is also compounded by stress. This is inevitably followed by illness of some sort, the localisation of which in different organs depends on things like genetic pre-dispositions which takes you back to the old adage that ‘genes load the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger.’
The body’s ageing process is progressive and unavoidable, but depending on how you care for yourself, it is delayed. Nutrition is vital, and if the body and its component parts is provided with its daily ration of nutrient-rich foods, the organs perform
their roles efficiently. Ideally we should eat between 12 p.m. and 8 p.m., and only have some light fruit at breakfast. I recommend you do not mix complex carbohydrates with proteins and eat proteins at night, and chew your food well, of course.
– Marie Pierre, Chinese Medicine specialist, and manager of Energetic Medicine
How Was It?
The first few days are particularly busy for guests at Merano Palace. While the detox programmes start immediately in nutrition and fitness, you move from specialist to specialist who conduct thorough assessments. Is this is where the proverbial Swiss thoroughness emerges perhaps?
Consulting with doctors, energy specialists, nutritionists, I underwent a series of tests and scans that gave the team immediate feedback. A full diagnostic laboratory onsite means that urine and blood screenings are processed on the same day and used as a starting point to personalise the course of treatment.
What’s impressive is that with over 800 treatments a day carried out, the programming of these runs like clockwork which also means punctuality is expected. With lots of friendly staff around to give directions, getting into the daily rhythm comes naturally.
Elements Of The Treatment Programme
- Internal Laboratory Service
While offering routine tests, specific haemato-chemical tests to help diagnose underlying illnesses, studies of intestinal bacteria ora, vitamin balance, hormone levels, and toxicity from heavy metals are an intrinsic component of anti-ageing medicine recommended to detect early cell ageing.
Diets are designed to induce deep cleansing to rebalance the body’s functions. The portions are controlled (around 800 calories a day) in order to reduce strain on the digestive system. The food is absolutely delicious and artistically presented. If you are with your partner, the trick is to order different dishes so that you can variate and share.
- Analyses and check –ups
Evaluations are made through questionnaires and examinations to determine toxicity levels and my physical structure was studied in terms of lean mass, body fat percentages and base metabolic rate to create a bespoke diet for the stay. A scanner identities the quality of the bone structure, tissue composition and distribution of fat in the body. I also underwent a bio-energetic check-up to analyse my vital functions and energy flow through the body. All according to Chinese traditional medicine teachings. A particularly useful test I had was the food intolerance screening which again can be a wakeup call. This can explain why many people often do not feel right with no particular reason.
Designed to keep guests busy, as boredom is dangerous when you are on 1,000 calories a day, the healthcare packages and treatments give everyone the chance to recover through personalised techniques aimed at detoxifying and re-activating inner energy and organic functions under four main categories – Overweight, Stress, Anti Ageing, Health and Prevention.
- Cellular Resonance Therapy
This therapy uses high radio-frequency waves to stimulate ionic channels and acupuncture points. Depending on the findings of the bio-energetic check-up, points can be stimulated to strengthen and restore balance. A second check-up is conducted three to four days into the treatment. It’s great to see how much my body’s energy flows had improved.
- Hydro–Energetic Treatment
Every day guests have three treatments starting with hydro-aromatherapy. It consists of being massaged and pummelled by jets of water and the addition of essential oils to stimulate the capillary system, all 100,000 kilometres of it. It is extremely relaxing and assists with the detoxification by moving toxins embedded in the fat.
After a glass of ‘champagne’ consisting of magnesium and potassium, you are moved to a water bed and coated in mud enriched with pure micro-algae, essential oils and mother tinctures; wrapped in plastic and blankets and gently warmed by the water bed that blissfully envelopes.
Supremely relaxing, I drifted away every day. Then the third and final stage where a therapist directs jets of water on your body. This cleans off the mud and algae for squeaky clean freshness.
- Lymphatic Massage
Everyday this massage follows the hydro treatments and focuses on manually releasing energy blocks by acting on muscles and tendons. It is practised using cupping glasses to speed up the wave rhythm of liquids. This stimulates the elimination of waste and regenerates the cells. The good news about these treatments is that all the therapists and specialists who look after you for the week are thoroughly knowledgeable about the Chenot method. Multilingual and charming, if you do go on your own it’s impossible to feel lonely.
Meals are served on the garden-facing terrace and are rigorously but tastily ‘hypotoxic’. They purify the body by expelling toxins and stimulating the liver’s natural purifying functions. Dominique sources the ingredients with care: balanced carbohydrates, no salt, proteins and fats almost exclusively of vegetable origin. As such, the guests enjoy delicious meals fine-tuned by over thirty years of research. Her work has culminated in her writing several cookbooks and pioneering new cooking techniques.
Fitness And Leisure
At Palace Merano, like at most wellness resorts, spare time needs re-invention, with no habitual pastimes filling it. Every afternoon we would either go to the gym, swim, go jogging, cycle or power walk. All this up the Promenade Gilf and the Tappeiner, which wind their way upwards from the medieval town.
The rosy glow achieved after a couple of hours of exercise got us through to 6 pm. Then a hot ginger and goji berry tea or cold basil and parsley revived our spirits before eating dinner. My wife tells me that Merano is a wonderful place to shop. With a long street with covered arcades on both sides, boutiques are small and independent with informed and polite staff.
It is wisest to visit after dinner to avoid being tempted by the restaurants in Merano interrupting the hard work. This happened to a fellow guest from Africa who had succumbed to pizza during the one- week programme.
The notorious Espace Henri Chenot’s one week detox separates the ‘wheat from the wheatgrass.’ To be seen padding along the corridors of the Merano Palace clutching a regulation beach bag packed with miscellaneous detox goodies doled out by numerous physicians and therapists, is to gain (sugar-free) brownie points from hard-core spa a aficionados.
Last year Dominique Chenot launched Revital on the top floor of the property. This presented the most advanced wellbeing, aesthetic and cosmetic medicine treatments available worldwide. Being tucked away and out of circulation means that guests can discreetly benefit from non-invasive treatments. This may require some downtime early in the week, to look and feel fabulous by the time they leave.
Enter the dizzying plethora of high technology treatments to firm, lift, sculpt and tighten face and body. Apart from your standard lasers, botox and fillers, interesting new services include Threading (where biodegradable threads that gift a lift to jowls and bingo wings are ‘sutured’), Cryolipolysis (freezing fat cells), anti-cellulite high energy shock wave therapy that have honestly modified the conformity of my wife’s derriere and the latest type of wrinkle and skin tightening treatment called ‘Pelleve ́that celebs swear by.
From revitalising intravenous vitamin infusions to ozone therapy, I opted for a popular Chenot Method bio-energetic Facial Treatment. This differs from conventional spa offerings as it utilises cupping glasses for drainage for more potent results.
Cleansing is not restricted to removing visible impurities. It is carried out more deeply to speed up the elimination of impurities and toxic residue in the cell metabolism. Micro-massages on the facial energy points help activate tissue regeneration. Sounds complicated but the feeling was heavenly.
I also tried the Scalp Treatment, a manual stimulation with essential oils to jumpstart circulation and increase tissue oxygenation. It was also an excellent anti- stressor, super relaxing and ideal for treating dandruff – if I had any hair… You can always spot someone who has done the scalp treatment as their heads are wrapped in silver paper cask. They look like spacemen for a few hours afterwards, to allow the creams to soak in. The beauty is that nobody stares and we all remain blissfully anonymous in this secluded haven of wellbeing. Looking and feeling younger by the day.