Ancestral Handmade Hotels is a new concept of regenerative wellness hotel that aims to revive tribal indigenous traditions, from construction methods to a holistic vision of wellness. Colombian architect Ana Ramírez is behind this project in Medellín and will participate as a guest in the Business Meeting hosted by Piscina & Wellness Barcelona to analyze the current and future perspectives of the markets in Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, and the Middle East. We talked to her about her project, the role of wellness spaces and spas in her understanding of hotels, and the networking and collaboration opportunities she hopes to find during her visit to the fair.
1. Where did the idea of creating Ancestral Handmade Hotels, your own hotel brand, come from?
The genesis of Ancestral Handmade Hotels arose not only from a vocation for service, shared by both my husband and me, but also from a profound passion that unites my commitment to sustainability and well-being with my love for cultural heritage. I noticed a gap in the market, especially in South America, where hospitality not only offered luxury through unique experiences but also fostered a genuine connection with a place’s ancestral heritage in harmony with the land.
2. You are also part of the OBM International team. With your global perspective, what are the most notable differences you perceive between different regions?
My involvement with OBM International has allowed me to appreciate the subtleties and contrasts in architecture and design across different continents. Each region provides a unique canvas for creativity and innovation, driven by cultural preferences and local sensibilities. Post-pandemic, hotel design has undergone significant transformations due to guests’ new expectations and market dynamics. Some of the most notable differences among regions focus on the evolution of guest preferences and hotel brands’ response to these emerging needs: emphasis on outdoor experiences, focus on holistic well-being, attention to longevity and health, as well as investments in luxury projects and loyalty programs.
Globally, customization is key and synonymous with luxury in any destination worldwide. Regarding design, climate and locality can offer differentiators in both narrative and architectural design. While providing indoor relaxation spaces is crucial in hotels in the Middle East due to the climate, in a setting like the Caribbean, the connection with the outdoors and the sea is an essential allure.
3. Can you provide some examples of wellness concepts put into practice at Ancestral Handmade Hotels?
Ancestral Handmade Hotels adopts holistic approaches to wellness integrated into every aspect of the guest’s and hosts’ experience. Each property is designed as a sanctuary where constructions are artisanal works based on biophilic design – a concept used in the construction industry to increase occupants’ connectivity with the natural environment – bioclimatic, and sacred geometry principles, which have shown to have restorative influences at the cellular level in humans. In our resort, the sensory herbal spa and retreat area combine ancient ancestral healing practices with contemporary therapies and functional medicine to achieve comprehensive balance.
4. How have the spa spaces been designed, and what key equipment do you consider essential?
In international brand spas I have been involved with, their luxury offerings include hydrotherapy pools, Jacuzzis, pools with hot and cold water, steam rooms, and saunas.
At OBMI, we are currently developing an Angsana Hotel & Spa, and this brand offers even more options, such as rainforest circuits – hydrotherapy circuits with a river for rehabilitation massages and different experiential showers – bubble beds, dedicated cabins for steam showers, herbal sauna, showers at different temperatures, vichy shower therapy cabin, ice fountain, sauna, and steam room.
Regarding our offerings at Ancestral, we are designing sensory experiences combined with herbal therapy, chromotherapy in hydrotherapy circuits, and reflexology, medicinal mud pools, infrared light sauna, oxygen chambers, cryotherapy, ice tanks, temazcal, water caves for sensory deprivation therapies with sound frequency, digital visual art, watsu, and thalassotherapy, among others.
5. What role does water play in your hotel and wellness concept?
For our ancestors, water has always been valued as a fundamental source of life and healing. Similarly, we will honor it in all our facilities and therapies that incorporate its use. Our commitment is to develop a sustainable system that allows responsible use of this resource, while implementing recycling and conservation systems. Additionally, along with our environmental engineers, we will work on the restoration and strengthening of existing water sources on our properties to promote a healthy and balanced flow within the ecosystem.
6. Regarding demand, do you perceive differences among customers of different nationalities?
Luxury guests seek authentic and personalized experiences, and this is reflected in the interactions, services, and programming offered at each hotel we design at OBMI. European travelers may be more interested in exploring local culture and participating in wellness retreats, while guests from the Middle East may value privacy and opulence. We tailor the narrative of our spaces and programming to provide an experience that resonates with each group. We see a common demand across all regions that has been accentuated much more after the pandemic, which is the need to socialize and enjoy outdoor spaces in complete connection with the elements. Biophilic design is always present both in the exterior and interior of our hotels.
7. If you had to mention three areas of improvement in the sector or challenges it has to face, what would they be?
The hotel industry faces significant challenges on the path toward sustainability and regeneration. It is crucial for the industry to adopt regenerative practices that go beyond intention and become executable and demonstrable plans. In this regard, education and commitment to collecting data and success indicators are crucial. Moreover, close collaboration between hotels and local communities is essential to ensure that the benefits of tourism are distributed equitably. Lastly, continuous innovation in wellness experiences addressing guests’ holistic needs is a constant challenge, as expectations constantly evolve.
8. What do you think the Latin America, Caribbean, Europe, and Middle East Business Meeting to be held at the Piscina & Wellness Barcelona fair brings to professionals in the sector?
This event offers a space for the exchange of ideas, knowledge, and best practices among experts from different regions, enriching the understanding of global trends and market needs. Furthermore, this meeting promotes collaboration and networking among key industry players, allowing the creation of strategic alliances and exploration of new collaboration opportunities. Attending this meeting provides professionals in the sector a platform to broaden their perspective, drive innovation, and strengthen their presence in international markets.
Cristina Benavides, Colaboradora de Piscina & Wellness Barcelona