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  • Stephanie Shiu

Meet our Founder: Michelle executes an aligned wellness vision for authentic transformation

How did your wellness journey begin?

I’m fortunate that hospitality chose me at a young age. I grew up in a small town with no hotels or spas, so a wellness journey was a completely foreign concept. But in life, we’re all on a wellness journey if we strive for good health, personal growth and to be better humans every day. I became more aware when I started working in Asia, by enjoying the region’s amazing spas. It inspired me to go deeper into wellness, exploring different practices and modalities, so I could share the positive impact I experienced with others. The openness and warm hearts of the Vietnamese people made me a better person too — “We are the sum of all people we have ever met; you change the tribe and the tribe changes you.” — Dirk Wittenborn

How does Luminary Wellness respond to a gap in the wellness market?

Wellness is a relatively new concept in Vietnam, and our team has a holistic skillset to support owners, operators, general managers and spa directors. We provide all their needs in one place through authentic, purposeful wellness offerings. This can be anything from a full resort set-up, to a spa project, retreat calendar or digital content and training. What sets us apart is our team, who are all grounded visionaries and thought leaders in their area of expertise, and our extensive network of skilled practitioners who live and breathe wellness, which naturally enhances our offerings.

Why did Luminary Wellness integrate design and creative direction into services?

We feel that a wellness brand’s visuals and marketing must align with their philosophy, both in authenticity and energy. It is the starting point for any new spa or resort, as well as the guest journey. It sets the standard of what is to come during development, playing a crucial role in setting the foundational vision and mission. We differentiate ourselves in markets of ‘same-ness’ with innovative ideas and by creating stand-out products that build future brand value.

When executing a wellness vision, how is the Luminary Wellness approach unique?

Our holistic ecosystem ensures that all areas, from communication to F&B and operations are aligned in purpose. While a spa can operate in isolation, wellness requires a harmonious ecosystem if the product is authentic. It is not just a skill to be trained, but a philosophy to be embodied by the team. We provide both technical skills and soft skills to elevate the team's personal wellness with our signature educational and training programs.

How do the brands you work with benefit from your wellness approach?

We were honored to have the opportunity to rebrand, reposition and develop an entirely new concept for the previous Fusion Maia Da Nang, now known as TIA Wellness Resort. The concept was founded during COVID, taking bold action by activating new possibilities in life and unlocking personal creativity. Mind and body are supported with breathwork practices, customized therapies and tools to help guests move into stillness, listen to their truth, and take steps towards creating a splash in their life.

Thoughtful interior design touches, such as mindfully handcrafted designs of a mala, a string of beads used in meditation to count mantras or prayers, to a Zen circle are seen throughout the resort as part of the story. We worked closely with local artists to develop custom-designed photography and artwork aligned with the concept.

The biggest impact was made via the ‘Eat light, feel bright’ food philosophy designed by our team in collaboration with a nutritionist to raise awareness of the body-mind-mood connection through refreshing menus with a wellness focus. Not only do the guests benefit, but the team were also inspired to make conscious nutritional changes themselves.

As a former hotel general manager, what has shaped your own growth and transformation?

My work was the catalyst for my wellness journey, both personally and professionally. I love learning and took professional courses, namely Executive Development in Innovation Strategies & Design Thinking at The Stanford Center for Professional Development, to support my work as a GM, in both spa and wellness, to develop a design approach to innovation. At one stage, I experienced burnout, but through the support of wonderful retreats, skilled energy healers, online training courses and yoga and meditation classes, was able to discover what works best for me. After leaving hotels, I started a wellness center in Hoi An, which became the starting point for A Luminary Life, helping to identify future potential and market needs.

My personal development includes Bert Hellinger’s systemic coach training, which resonated due to its roots in Ubuntu, which is an African philosophy that emphasizes 'being self through others'. Ubuntu is a form of humanism expressed through the phrase "I am because of who we all are” in the Zulu language. This specific modality works on acknowledging the collective for individual healing.

The journey is ongoing, inspiring and challenging, one that has also unexpectedly drawn me to healing sites, from Glastonbury to Uluru. I’m also excited to start a yin yoga teacher training soon that was delayed due to lockdowns.

What does the future of wellness look like to you?

I’d love to see the future of wellness be ordinary and just a natural way of life, but we’ve still got a long way to go. Wellness goes beyond ourselves — we aspire to live in harmony with family, colleagues, our community, the planet and beyond.

That is why we are currently developing our own online platform, to support a wellness first approach in all life, by raising new awareness and providing supporting tools. This foundation will serve as the catalyst to transformational healing, but it starts with truly putting wellness first.

In addition, our retreat platform taps into the new need for adventure in wellness, guests can join a retreat and explore different destinations and immerse in nature, while enhancing their well-being.

In the area of spas & hospitality, we believe that wellness will expand strongly into the digital space. Pre and post-stay online wellness programming from home combining with in-person retreats and supporting digital content delivered via apps during the stay to enhance and track the guest journey.

What are your top three tips for general managers, spa directors or owners aspiring to become wellness hospitality leaders?

  1. Be clear on your values, so you can align your work and personal life and wholly stand for what you believe in. Living by your values reflects your unique individuality, and authenticity shows in everything you say and do, building stronger trust and relationships. By being clear about who you are, you will stand out as a wellness leader.

  2. Do personal healing work (whichever modality resonates with you) that focuses on your traumas and triggers. It’s for the good of others. Ongoing personal growth allows us to deal with situations, with compassion and understanding when they arise, and shift our own behaviors when needed, to become better leaders.

  3. Learn the basics insights of energy dynamics. It is a science and this energy flows throughout daily life and business. Energy can be harnessed in the guest experience, which has a clear, positive impact on the P&L.This will enhance the culture of your people, reflecting in overall happiness and increased employee retention.

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