Alejandro Bataller, Vice President of SHA Wellness Clinic takes us through their journey as they commemorate ten years at this wellness spot
Relocating from Argentina to Spain was quite a radical change for ten-year-old Alejandro Bataller. But it felt like a natural move for the family. “My parents had a nine-month honeymoon, touring 23 countries in Europe, and fell in love with Spain. They dreamed of living in Spain for years, so when they decided to relocate, we were glad,” he tells us. The Argentinian-national has Italian and Spanish roots and reminisces his childhood between Valencia and Madrid, where life was rather slow-paced and all their time was spent with family. During the summers, Alejandro and the family visited their country home in Alacant (a Province of Alicante) perched atop a hill between the bay of Altea and the natural park of Sierra Helada. This land is now home to SHA Wellness Clinic – a leisure health and wellbeing clinic that focuses on natural therapies, nutrition, and medical innovations.
“The reason we launched SHA is because my father recovered from a very serious illness when he was in his 50s, solely by changing his diet. To bring this change to the public, he created SHA,” says Alejandro, Vice President of SHA Wellness Clinic. His father, who was previously in the real estate development business in Spain, was always on the lookout for a business project that would transform and enhance lives. “We felt this was a signal, something we could do to help others. We began with zero experience in the hospitality industry, but were very passionate to give back to the country.”
Noticing a tremendous gap in the wellness industry, the family created the concept by bringing in the best of Eastern and Western medicine, with healthy, yet enticing culinary offerings. The SHA method integrates natural therapies with the latest advancements in preventive medicine and technology, to combat everything from fatigue to anti-aging, while bringing your body, mind and soul to a balanced, healthier form. The programmes range from wellness to weight-management and detox, anti-stress, recovery, rejuvenation and fitness. To get the most out of the programme, guests are encouraged to say for a minimum of four nights. Most end up extending their stay due to the comforts of the lavish suite, which face the Mediterranean Sea and mountains. “It’s a privileged area in Spain as it has a micro-climate. We have 330 days of sunshine per year and it’s surrounded by a natural park. It was the ideal place because the environment was quite important. We wanted to create a place far from city-life, where you have great climatology and don’t feel the need to go out dining or partying,” says Alejandro.
The entrepreneur has always had a passion for the luxury industry, and prior to working at his family business and SHA, was with LVMH. He even worked at Royal Bank of Scotland right out of university. “The wellness industry, that I’m in now, is something that allows me to help people. Plus, it has the luxury element to it. We are constantly looking for innovation and excellence.”
The global wellness economy was last valued at $3.7 trillion in 2015 (according to the Global Wellness Institute, Global Wellness Economy Monitor). Wellness tourism in itself was valued at $536 billion, and it’s on the rise. The word wellness is currently on everyone’s radar, with most now boasting a deeper knowledge of the term and what it means to them. Health institutions were once considered clinical, and yes, some of these are still in existence with the element of fun so far displaced, that calling it a retreat is slightly ironic. This is how SHA stands apart. “The wellness industry is experiencing a great moment in time. It’s been growing exponentially since 2010 – over 40 per cent per year since 2013,” says Alejandro.
What’s interesting about SHA is that they attract a much younger audience, in comparison to others in the industry. “Perhaps people expect to find 60+ individuals, but they see Victoria’s Secret top models, business moguls, and of course those in their sixties and seventies too. We also have approximately 60 per cent of solo travellers, because it’s quite a nice experience to do by yourself.” The clinic sees guests from the Middle East, Europe and South America visiting quite often too. Nowadays, SHA is booked pretty much year-round. “We’ve been working with the same intensity since the beginning, and always want to be a leader in the industry. The clinic initially launched with 20 rooms and now we have over 80. We also restyled all the suites, which is quite rare for a company that’s only ten years old.”
As we sip Kukicha tea – one from their signature collection that has over 15 times more calcium than a glass of milk, and keeps the body alkaline – I learn that there’s plenty in store for SHA. “We are launching SHA residences which is very important to us as we have followed sustainable construction practices, and placed health and wellbeing at the forefront. Everything from the orientation to the air you breathe, the water and lighting, it’s all sustainable. It allows you to leave the SHA experience feeling like you were at a home away from home, which is great for those who stay for a month or so,” he says. I briefly chat to Dr. Ribero who goes into detail about their cognitive unit, another highlight that commemorates the tenth anniversary.
Those visiting SHA get to experience cognitive treatments that combine techniques from the East and West. “What we have is a different approach to stimulate the brain. With these gadgets, you can measure exactly the biological impulses, to measure if you are stressed, sleeping well, or relaxed. That’s the diagnosis point but we also have an intervention point wherein we can give you energy,” he says. The minute a guest is diagnosed with a lack of attention or memory; a certain head gear is used to give electrical impulses to stimulate the area of the brain that’s related to what needs to be improved. “It’s very new technology and something that Harvard Medical school has been working on for years,” says Dr. Ribeiro. The main objective is to treat neurological and psychological diseases such as depression or anxiety; as well as neurodegenerative diseases that enhance the cognitive capability of guests who have suffered traumatic injury or a stroke.
SHA Wellness Clinic isn’t merely a business for the family. It’s a lifestyle, their passion, and one filled with experience and fond memories. The location itself is testament to this. “The infinity pool is where our pool used to be, so we always remember our childhood. My mother always wanted us three brothers to create a home each, to spend holidays there. That obviously didn’t happen as everything was demolished to build this 6,000 square metre retreat,” says Alejandro. With the launch of SHA Residences, their mother’s dream is coming through in a way, even if it’s just as a rental.