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TD Conversations: Allen Machado, CEO, Niraamaya Wellness Retreats

He discusses his plans for the group and how they are aligning perfectly with rapidly growing interest in wellness tourism.
Niraamaya, wellness travel, CEO, Allen Machado
‘I feel wellness in this post-Covid era is going to be one of the most significant pivots for humanity.’ Images: Courtesy Niraamaya.

Known for his skills in crafting profitable businesses in the sphere of luxury hospitality, Allen Machado has recently taken over Chief Executive Officer of the Niraamaya Wellness Retreats, known for their distinctive hospitality and bespoke wellness. With an existing portfolio of seven retreats and five private residences across India, plus a luxury yacht and a private charter, the group is poised for expansion.

A hospitality professional for over 22 years, Machado has been part of various verticals of the hospitality business ranging from high-end luxury business hotels to ultra-luxurious resort brands like The Oberoi Group of Hotels, the Intercontinental Hotels Group and The One & Only Hotels and Resorts, to name just a few. 

This spectrum of experience has given him the ability to deliver at the highest levels and win awards for exemplary work in Revenue Management practices that set records in the company, such as the IHG award for the highest system delivery in the region among 40+ hotels in the brand and their long service award as well as the Hospitality Professional of the Year.

We talk to the man at the helm of the boutique brand about where he will be steering Niraamaya in the days ahead. Excerpts from the interview…

Could you please describe briefly for our readers what the Niraamaya brand stands for?

Niraamaya Retreats are an embodiment of wellness and luxury, operating in India’s most sought-after destinations, designed with craftsmanship that offer the stillness and charm of a peaceful retreat and pride of experiencing contemporary hospitality, integrating a seamless blend of regional heritage and culture facets.

Thoughtfully designed with the lowest density of rooms per acre, the lowest density of guests per acre, and the lowest density of staff per acre, all our retreats offer a sense of unmatched luxury and comfort through space and privacy bringing forth our unflinching commitment to wellness.

Our spas combine time-tested age-old traditional methods and practices, with innovative techniques to provide luxurious wellness vacations for our discerning guests. Our full board Ayurveda Wellness Destination Programmes are multi-day packages that combine Ayurveda therapies, a Yoga and wellness diet along with guests’ stay at Niraamaya Retreats. 

What are some unique must-have experiences that travellers can enjoy at the various properties?

We offer you a memorable stay with a promise of a relaxed and rejuvenated body, mind and soul through fresh air, good food and personalised services. Our in-house Ayurveda physicians and nurses at the Functional medicine centre, doctors on call, access to the top 100 doctors across the world, who are on the board of advisors, availability of functional medical equipment inhouse such as IVs, Ozone Bath, colon hydrotherapy machines, Infrared machines, etc. are some of the unique experiences that are a must-have during the visit to our retreats.

We celebrate the destinations that we operate in. So be sure to ask for some local experiences, wherever you stay with us. We have highly efficient and dedicated staff who are willing to go the extra mile and stop at nothing to ensure that every guest feels cared for and no challenge goes unresolved. This attitude of our staff helps us in keeping the high standards consistently and providing the best services to our guests.

What is the typical guest profile at Niraamaya properties?

There are guests and then there are ‘experiential travellers’ – those who have got over the hangover of ‘five-star’ living and travel because they want to enrich their souls, Niraamaya is for the latter. At Niraamaya Retreats, every guest is handheld by our team of wellness experts to create bespoke wellness immersions that combine personalised sessions, traditional Ayurvedic therapies, healthy movement, and focused diet routines. While our intense seven- to 21-day Ayurveda programmes are at the core of our offering, guests can also enjoy short interventional Ayurvedic experiences focused on relaxation and rejuvenation.

Niraamaya, wellness travel, Kerala
‘There are guests and then there are ‘experiential travellers’ – those who have got over the hangover of ‘five-star’ living and travel because they want to enrich their souls, Niraamaya is for the latter.’ Images: Courtesy Niraamaya.

What is your vision for the Niraamaya group, both short term and long term? Will you be ushering in any changes?

One of the philosophies of Niraamaya Retreats is to develop and nurture properties that provide a sense of space and well-being. The group is on the constant lookout for similar properties to build alliances and acquisitions and help smaller boutique properties leverage Niraamaya’s expertise with respect to achieving high ARRs and attracting long-stay guests. We have been setting the bar high and have been an inspirational brand for over a decade and we want to leave our legacy in the hospitality industry. 

My vision is to turn these properties into showcases of wellness and bespoke architecture and transform Niraamaya into a global wellness and luxury destination with a worldwide footprint. My short-term focus is to expand the portfolio across key destinations like Jaipur, Udaipur, Darjeeling, and other exotic locales and key cities abroad as well as strengthen the Niraamaya Private Residences portfolio across India. My long-term focus and vision is to diversify our enviable wellness quotient and expand it into other verticals of profitable business.

Now that things are opening up, how do you see the situation panning out for the hospitality sector in India in the next few months? What are your predictions for the hospitality industry emerging from these times? 

I believe that the domestic traveller will pivot towards the unexplored and the underappreciated world of wellness going forward. Not only will this hold true for the hospitality industry, but it will hold true for all aspects of human existence. People travelling on business would also want their life or their travel to have some aspect of wellness, people going for leisure breaks with their family would want some aspect of wellness, people living at home and not travelling anywhere would start introspecting whether they are doing things that take them closer towards holistic wellbeing. Hence, I feel wellness in this post-Covid era is going to be one of the most significant pivots for humanity. 

Since wellness is Niraamaya’s forte, how do you plan to position the brand so that it benefits from the increased interest in health and wellness tourism?

At Niraamaya, our belief is to turn Niraamaya into a global wellness and luxury brand. We package a very high-end model for authentic Ayurveda and Functional Medicine treatments. Bespoke in every way, Niraamaya Retreats specialises in creating individualised wellness immersions that combine focused diet routines, personalised wellness sessions and traditional Ayurvedic therapies, curative treatments in the most luxurious settings. The depth of these immersions is personalised to the preferences of every guest and tailored to their lifestyle choices. Functional Medicine is the future of conventional medicine, which seeks to identify and address the root causes of disease, and views the body as one integrated system, not a collection of independent organs divided up by medical specialities. The programmes are specifically targeted at addressing and eliminating the top chronic lifestyle issues faced by most of the world today, namely, Stress, Hypertension, Diabetes, Obesity, and a host of other ailments. We have received a good response to our introductory three nights programmes such as Detox, Gut Purification and Skin Radiance. Our long-stay packages like the immunity rejuvenation and post-Covid care programmes are also popular and are seeing a steady growth. 

Niraamaya, wellness travel, Kerala
Images: Courtesy Niraamaya.

Do you feel domestic travellers are as attuned to wellness travel as international ones? While inbound tourism may be at a standstill for a while longer, is Niraamaya offering anything tailormade to attract domestic travellers?

International travellers were all about confidence and, yes, the business did take an impact initially. India, a country with a 300 million-strong middle class, has thrived far better than ever before because the charm of going out for European and South-Eastern Asian holidays has diminished. People are finding virtue in the beauty of their own country and destinations like Goa, Uttarakhand, Kashmir, Himachal, and Kerala are predominantly popular among the travellers and are seeing a huge demand. India is the country where Ayurveda originated, and Ayurveda is the bedrock of all alternate medicine practices. With humanity forced to look inwards towards health, relationship, self-consciousness, wellness tourism will see a renewed resurgence and an even greater global acceptance and respect. We have introduced a whole range of wellness programmes including starting from three-night introductory ones – Diabetes Reversal, Metabolic Obesity, Immunity Rejuvenation, Mindfulness, Stress Management, Gut Restoration, Aesthetics, Deep Detox and Post-Covid Care – all in the lovely environs of Surya Samudra in Kovalam, Kerala, and at our retreat in Solan, Himachal Pradesh. 

Do most of your bookings come from agents or directly? What promotional measures has Niraamaya undertaken so far?

We get a healthy percentage of our business from our agents and OTAs along with 50 per cent direct business. We see domestic tourism continues to rebound as people prefer to stay local and visit destinations within their own country. From staycation packages to introducing new wellness immersion programmes, we have been mindful of the consumer behaviour and trends that are reshaping the way people travel, which would include the focus on new market segments, devising safety protocols and contactless travel experiences.

Niraamaya, wellness travel, Kerala
We don’t merely offer luxurious accommodation; we create memorable experiences. It’s all about gastronomical journeys, rejuvenation breaks, bespoke experiences and providing guests a sanctuary where they can nourish their soul with peace, joy, and bliss.’ Image: Courtesy Niraamaya.

How do you infuse local elements into your offerings? How much of the staff at Niraamaya is local and what kind of training do they undergo to be able to cater to the needs of well-travelled, well-heeled guests?

No travel experience is ever complete without indulging in local cuisine and exploring the food from the destination you are journeying to. Food, in fact, plays a vital role in transforming an interesting travel experience into a cherished one.

At the kitchens of Niraamaya, a deep respect for local food traditions and ingredients ensures that passionate chefs take utmost care to pay tribute to the coastal state’s cuisine. In the kitchens of Niraamaya Retreats, our chefs develop exciting menus that take guests on a delectable gourmet journey. They combine age-old techniques of cooking with regional ingredients to design tasty food that is high on nutrition. Our hotels have a very healthy mix of associates from all over the country and that allows a healthy diversity to be maintained across the board.

Please describe your leadership style and work ethic.

My leadership style can be described as collaborative. I believe strongly in my team’s ability and professionalism and encourage them to live their lives to the fullest and achieve what they have set out to do. I vehemently believe in the adage ‘Live with no excuses and travel with no regrets’.

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