SYNERGY, The Retreat Show
XO Private Interview

Hosted in an awe-inspiring location, Synergy has an eye for sustainability and an aim to change lives through unforgettable experiences. Bringing together highly insightful retreat entrepreneurs and inspiring industry leaders, all seeking new connections to help create a truly successful, sustainable retreat business.

Join us for this interesting interview with Laura Montesanti 
and discover a transformative and highly insightful community.

 Directly post-COVID, the timing couldn't be any better, right? How has this dark episode impacted the wellness industry as a whole?
Following the effects of the pandemic, personally and professionally, we can see that travel is shifting. People are prioritising more meaningful, transformative experiences at the top of their ‘must have’ holiday requirements, and wellness is at the centre.

Now more than ever, there is a collective need and desire for more immersive experiences targeted towards regeneration, self-discovery and spiritual exploration. Following the pandemic, travellers are re-emerging and more carefully determining how they want to spend their hard-earned resources.

The wellness industry has experienced consistent growth in recent years and is now experiencing even more demand for informed and in-depth experiences. With access to online resources, consumers are keenly aware of what is available and what they would like to try.
We have also noticed that wellness has undergone a general shift in demographics and consumer behaviour. Clients seeking wellness experiences are younger and more savvy. They are not scared of trying new things and are realizing how their bodies and minds are important. The act of taking care of themselves is essential for a happier and healthier life. There are also more solo travellers venturing into wellness experiences, in addition to more men taking a step towards prioritising wellness in their life.

So, as much as the pandemic has hit the wellness industry, in the same way it has many others, we can acknowledge how it has allowed wellness to flourish. Today people are better informed and hungry for a more dynamic choice of practices to adopt as part of their selfcare routine.
The pandemic has taught us that time for yourself is necessary, and for some, essential. Wellbeing is now at the top of our agenda. Having once been considered as an exclusive luxury, it is now an increasingly accessible necessity. Thinking beyond spas into a new dimension of wellness, we are adapting by catering to a broader audience of wellbeing seekers, making wellness more available and accessible.

People want more from their wellness experiences in design, products, food and practices, all of which need to be in sync and aligned. Research in these areas is continually evolving, bringing new discoveries and products that are more focused towards wellness. There is a particular emphasis on full health and sustainability, as people lean towards experiences that go beyond 'feeling good', to transforming and impacting their lives in a meaningful way. Instead, today’s consumers are looking for a sense of purpose, a desire to grow creatively and intellectually, as well as flourish emotionally.

According to research by the Global Wellness Institute, the wellness industry is currently valued at $4.5 trillion, as health and wellness converge to bring a larger conversation to the table, seeing growth at an historic rate. So yes, COVID had a significant impact on the industry, but fortunately we have been able to learn from it and shape it into something positive.
Can you tell us a bit more about the retreat niche within the global wellness industry?  
The retreat industry is continually developing, from being associated with the “hippie” scene and unsophisticated wellness experiences, to now being understood as a comprehensive and sophisticated offering led by experienced holistic practitioners.

In one way, it has evolved with the changing world of wellness, where alternative and holistic therapies now play a prominent role. With ongoing research and information available, the public perception of these practices has changed, creating space for a broader understanding of what wellness retreats mean.
Retreats are the art of crafting a complete wellness journey; their design involves taking into consideration space, an individual’s goals and the practices available. The aim is for everyone to flourish, emerging regenerated and transformed, with tools they can take back and apply in their daily lives.

Practitioners, with in-depth knowledge of their discipline, know how to shape and craft each experience to achieve this end. You can have retreats designed for groups or individuals, each with a different focus depending on the hospitality context. For instance, this might be delivering a retreat experience for a couple on a summer holiday hotel stay, or a group retreat at the same property with a completely different feel and outcome.

What we see in groups, for example, is how the power of sharing an experience with peers, leads to a very powerful experience. Overcoming something together, sharing it, the feeling of belonging, the group support or even the direct confrontation and exchange that a group can create, allows for a very specific journey and transformation.

In this way, the retreat industry has great potential to bring positive impact to the hospitality industry. Wellness practitioners are not only leading transformative experiences across the world, but they also are able to bring new guests to wonderful properties, enhancing their wellness potential.

Practically, the hospitality industry can benefit greatly from embracing retreats as they can be an excellent generator of bookings, especially during quieter months of the year. At the same time, they are a great way to attract qualified clientele with an interest in wellness.

In other words, it's a win-win formula for everyone!
Where and why did the idea originate to organize SYNERGY The Retreat Show?

Synergy was born during the pandemic. As it did for many people, this time gave me the opportunity to really explore what I am about and what impact I want to make in the world.

Throughout my past experiences in attending travel shows, wellness shows, yacht shows, and all sorts of trade-centred gatherings, I never felt the experience was fully complete or that there was a constructive way to evolve together as an industry. Also, I never found something fully focused on wellness travel and retreats, so I set about to fill this gap.

I had a vision of bringing the two industries together in one place. This way they would be able to learn from each other and evolve in a more informed and conscious way.
I believe in the power of retreats and in the power of wellness experiences. I have experienced it first-hand and know how much impact it can have on one’s life. Ultimately, I want these experiences to be available to more people.

That is why Synergy is designed to encourage each participant to find their own wellness journey, stimulating the mind through talks and the body through experiences, in the same way a retreat would do. It is not only designed to bring clarity and inspire new wellness experiences, but also stimulate a sense of unity and purpose.

To achieve this, I brought together a team of wellness, travel and event experts, out of the box thinkers who helped design this unique formula of business networking. The different skillsets present in our team will deliver a sophisticated holistic business event for wellness and travel professionals.

When we talk about wellness, it is important to feel it and be informed. By collaborating and drawing strength from community, we can achieve fantastic results for our clients.
My hope is that people will immerse in unparalleled experiences which will touch their lives forever. We can help people heal, which is why as an industry we have a very precious responsibility that needs to be fulfilled in the best possible way.

My belief is that retreats are the masterpieces of each practitioner. They put together the colours, the strokes and all the other elements that allow them to create a beautiful piece of art, instigating an emotion in everyone that experiences it and in a way that is unique to each individual.

For me, Synergy is also a personal calling. It was inspired by a personal experience – a loss in my family due to mental health a few years back. My cousin had access to great retreats, hotels and resorts, however he never found a wellness program that spoke to him. For this reason, I feel it is my duty to continue championing the potential and power of wellness experiences, making them more accessible for those who need them most.
Synergy Event Location - Ca Na Xica in Ibiza                             Laura Montesanti
How would you describe the DNA of your show?
Synergy’s DNA is well defined and can be summarised in the following few words:
At the core of it all is wellness.
The show is very focused – we are bringing together properties that provide wellness opportunities in various forms and are eager to expand their offering. For many, they want to further develop what wellness means and how it can be elevated to continue to meet the ever-evolving guest demand.
The same is true for the Buyers. All the LTDs and Concierge Companies in attendance have a strong wellness focus or are exploring the introduction of wellness as part of the experiences they offer.
We include sustainability as we believe this should be considered in every conversation across all industries nowadays. Furthermore, when we talk about wellness and retreats, sustainability and conscious travel needs to be at the forefront, as it can only drive additional growth and enrichment of the experience.
Synergy is unique in its format. Not only is it informative, focused on a B2B audience delivering 30+ meetings to each participant over the 3 days, it is also experiential, allowing attendees to feel wellness through their own body and mind.
We aim to make a positive change. We want the two industries – wellness and travel - to come together to make a deep impact across the world of wellness hospitality and the way we enhance people’s lives through wellness experiences. For us, the future is stronger, more informed, and powerfully collaborative.

I suppose the concept of your show will be way beyond the traditional meetings around a table? What should participants expect? What is the goal?

The show has a very distinctive structure. As we are talking about wellness, it is important for us to create the feeling of wellbeing for all those who attend.

People will feel regenerated and inspired by attending Synergy, just as a retreat would do for them. We are breaking out of the standard canons of business settings by delivering the experience in contact with nature and in a three-dimensional format.

The event will be:
• Experiential – as we talk about wellness we want people, to experience a variety of practices so that they can feel for themselves the benefits and sensations they can create for others.
• Informational – for industries to grow and develop in the right direction, there will be experts from a variety of fields speaking on many subjects to spark the conversation and interaction amongst the attendees.
• Business meetings (30+ meetings of 20 min throughout the 3 days) – we will have business meetings as many industry events do, but set up in an eco-conscious environment, elevating the experience.
SYNERGY supplies a well-balanced platform for meetings, talks, creativity and experiences.
From where are you going to source both the buyers as well as the exhibitors for the show? What are your selection criteria? What numbers are you looking at?
We are keen to keep the event to a maximum of 300 attendees as we don’t want the experience to be diluted and connections to be missed. Also, we want to keep it very targeted to wellness, therefore every attendee is selected with this in mind.

The common denominators in our selection criteria are: wellness focused, with a sustainable and conscious travel approach.
Sourcing buyers and exhibitors is happening in a variety of ways, that involve extensive research of who the real players are in wellness hospitality combined with word of mouth across the industry. Today we are proud to have a refined list of top tier attendees from the wellness travel industry around the world.

We hold a meeting with every applicant to discuss their vision and values. This ensures the final selection of attendees really reflects the goal and spirit of the show.

It is very exciting for me, as an organiser, to see this list of attendees taking shape. Bringing such a wonderful selection of people together in one place; great minds in the industry gathering to discuss important topics and actively participating and connecting with each other, has been and will continue to be very rewarding. The result can only mean a positive impact for the individual participants and industry as a whole.

You decided to organize SYNERGY The Retreat Show on the island of Ibiza. What motivated you to choose this destination? Where will the show be hosted on the island?

We have picked Ibiza as we felt it was a great fit as a location for the show. The sole idea of showing the different side of an island that has been perceived as a party island for so many years, was appealing in itself.

Once you look beyond this false portrayal, you can see how much more Ibiza has to offer. Since the 70s', Ibiza has been the destination for healers and practitioners seeking a place to experience and develop their practice. Ibiza is one of the most magnetic places in the world, with Es Vedrà being the centre point.

Still today, Ibiza has a wonderful community of wellness practitioners and healers, and it is very inspiring thanks to the many activities it offers. The island has been proactive in sustainability projects which aligns with Synergy’s core values, and that will be included as part of the activities we will do during the event.

Nature in Ibiza is wild and raw, you feel the power of the sea and the energy of the earth. For this reason, we have combined the two elements with the two main locations that we have picked for the show. The event will be held at Ca Na Xica Hotel and Spa, in the heart of the island, a wonderful agroturismo space, which will allow attendees to really feel the power of the land and be fully immersed in nature throughout the show. The partner hotel that we have picked is Sol Beach House, with panoramic sea views from every angle of the hotel. This combination will deliver an unparalleled experience of the island to all the attendees.
SYNERGY provides exclusive access to specially selected retreat leaders and tailer-made experiences.
Are there any pre- & post-show experiences planned for the participants to your show?
Yes, we are definitely including pre and post tours. Many attendees have been very curious about discovering the Balearics and the surrounding regions more in depth. Furthermore, many new hotels have recently opened in the region, and we are excited for people to experience them.  

Who is Laura Montesanti?

With a career
story that spans wellness, travel, retail, yachting and hospitality, I am not only well versed across these respective industries, but I also have a deep understanding of where they interconnect and complement each other. Having always worked in luxury roles, from retail and development to hospitality consulting, I combine business skills across five languages with meaningful connections across four continents.

In addition to training as a yoga teacher in India, as well as in massage and reflexology and opening a yoga school in South Africa, I have spent extensive periods volunteering with community causes, alongside visiting a number of luxury hotels and spas around the world. My journey has also led me to managing a luxury furniture company, working closely with architectural firms on fittings, design and wellness offerings for private properties, hotels, and spas, as well as overseeing retail development and customer service at the exclusive Porto Montenegro. This allowed me to gain valuable insight into how wellness properties can both stand out and enhance the guest experience. Prior to starting Synergy, I consulted on several luxury wellness projects. This includes curating yacht wellness experiences, helping hotels to host retreats, and partnering with some of the industry's most esteemed wellbeing practitioners.

My passion for each of these projects has always been driven by making a positive change. Helping businesses flourish has been the most rewarding part of my job and this is what I aim to do with Synergy together with our wonderful.

What are the Synergy Awards?

As part of Synergy – The Retreat Show, we will celebrate our colleagues and peers with a number of awards – from Retreat Leaders and Travel Designers, to the incredible Properties paving the way for the future of wellness travel.

Given how much the industry has suffered as a consequence of the pandemic, the winners will each receive a cash price. Not only do we anticipate this will be more useful than a material prize in the current climate, but it is aligned with our sustainable values.
Yvan Vermeesch
Belgian by birth, Yvan Vermeesch grew up across Africa before heading to the Caribbean followed by the stunning city of Prague before calling the Mediterranean island of Mallorca home. Always looking to innovate across the board and with a clear penchant for everything experiential in travel, Yvan Vermeesch takes great pride in connecting the finest players in bespoke travel around the globe.