With the recent opening of GOCO Spa Venice at the JW Marriott Resort, Italy’s spa heritage continues to thrive. I caught up with Ingo Schweder to learn more about it.
If the spa were a woman, how would you describe her?
Stylish, elegant, quietly spoken, but with a strong presence and an ageless beauty.
What’s your philosophy and inspiration behind the spa?
GOCO Spa Venice offers a dedicated focus on wellness coupled with world-class spa and beauty services. The tranquil and private setting invites guests to relax and rejuvenate in one of the world’s most picturesque destinations. The wellbeing menu authentically reflects the surroundings imparting harmony with its surroundings to offer guests classical spa rituals, advanced beauty treatments, luxury thermal experiences, and bespoke mind and body programs. We have been involved with the project since the beginning of 2013, so it has taken just over two years to bring this to reality.
How does the spa embrace the heritage of its locale?
Isola delle Rose offers beautiful natural surroundings that were perfect for the creation of this spa. Stunning panoramic views and the sounds of lapping water immediately give visitors a sense of place. Guests arrive by water and are greeted by buildings designed to offer their own visual experience. The use of water, both indoors and outdoors at the spa, also gives a constant reminder of the integral part that water plays in the life of this historic city. Combining this with the human element, we have made a conscious effort to recruit a young and highly enthusiastic team of Venetian wellness professionals who are able to naturally communicate the spirit of Venice and wider Italian culture.
The use of water, both indoors and outdoors at the spa, also gives a constant reminder of the integral part that water plays in the life of this historic city.
How does this spa stand apart from other spas in Italy?
Firstly, its location is truly stunning. Venice is one of Europe’s most historic and unique cities, and the spa is only 15 minutes from St. Mark’s Square by boat. The GOCO Spa reflects the history of its location, and paired with modern design, it truly has a sense of place, rather than being a luxury spa, which could be in any hotel or resort environment. Many Italian spas are based around thermal springs and rely on this to create there experience, whereas the GOCO Spa does have water as an integral part, yet any of the services on offer can stand alone as a world-class experience.
Let’s talk about your wellbeing menu. I’m curious about how it authentically reflects Venetian charm and, as you say, “captures the passion and zest for life that is indicative of Italian culture.”
Our wellness menu is a small but carefully crafted selection of treatments and experiences. We have replaced the usual vast number of unrelated treatments with a fine-dining menu style of great experiences. The charm of the location comes through in the delivery of these treatments given by our Venetian team within settings that bring the beautiful outdoors inside. Italian culture is synonymous with charm, elegance, and the finest design, and this is reflected throughout the spa.
GOCO Spa Venice embraces what we term a “modern spa philosophy,” which is a blend of traditional treatments with modern beauty techniques. The menu guides guests through the experience, while working at demystifying spa products and services using simple language focused on showcasing proven benefits rather than an endless list of features. We have combined ancient healing traditions such as hamam with advanced beauty treatments from QMS Medi Cosmetics, while offering the highest quality of massages and facials. Our GOCO Signature Oriental massage is an example of how we have created experiences that expertly marry techniques to create highly effective treatments.
An example of a standout treatment is our GOCO Oriental Massage, featuring a harmonious combination of Eastern and Western massage techniques the therapist performs a pressure-point release ritual along the body, coupled with gentle Thai massage stretches. These techniques open the meridian, allowing energy to flow freely, releasing tension, and restoring vitality.
What’s your favorite space in the spa?
I don’t really have a single favorite space in the spa, however I must say that having spent time in the advanced beauty rooms, located above the thermal facilities, I had to stop and pause a moment to take in the view from the window, as the sun set across the spa pool and the beautiful lagoon beyond. This added dimension really enhances this space and I feel a sense of pride in what we have created and what guests will enjoy.
The design of the spa was envisioned by leading European architect and designer, Matteo Thun. He is truly a master of his craft and was able to take an ancient historical location and give it a contemporary edge. This can be seen in the clean design and layout of all public spaces, limited decorations, and soft light colors are enhanced the inflow of natural light and sunlight, which changes throughout the day.
Do you think that this new spa will change the spa landscape in Italy?
Italy has a strong heritage of spas, so rather than this spa changing the landscape, I feel it adds a significant and aspirational spa destination to the landscape, which I hope will be viewed as a leader in, not only Italy, but also Europe as a whole. The spa is able to go beyond normal luxury spas by embracing wellness programming, lifestyle classes and exceptional treatments with the goal of creating a true spa destination.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your relation to spa in general. Why did you choose a career in spa—and what keeps you in it, wanting to do more?
While I was working in several senior positions with Westin International, The Ritz-Carlton, Shangri-La International, the Oberoi Group, and the Rafael Hotel Group, I worked extremely hard and did not take care of my health. I was diagnosed with cancer at 34, and while I was fighting the disease, I visited spas all over the world, trying out holistic treatments, which might aid my recovery. I credit my full recovery to a combination of holistic treatments and my newfound love for yoga and meditation and consequently decided to combine my career in hospitality with spa and wellness.
In 2000, I became the Group Director of Spas for the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group and established their Lifestyle Division from the ground up. I was responsible for the worldwide operation, design, and development of 15 resort spas on four continents. Seven years ago I decided to open my own company, GOCO Hospitality, and have developed successful spas since.
I am challenged every day by this ever-evolving segment of our industry and creating and innovating new concepts excites me. We are at the forefront of wellness hospitality and will continue to push boundaries, while continuing to bring authentic wellness into the mainstream.
Where do you go and what do you do for your own downtime?
I live in the heart of one of Asia’s busiest cities, and in a country famous for its spa culture. I am surrounded by five-star hotels, but my favorite place at the moment is a small side-street day spa located opposite of our office. It truly provides a great relaxing experience, literally meters from four lanes of traffic. I enjoy a foot massage and a Thai massage within this location where I can be immersed in the treatment within 10 minutes of arriving. I also enjoy walking in the parks of Bangkok during the early morning as the sun rises and before the heat becomes oppressive.
Mary Bemis is Founder & Editorial Director of InsidersGuidetoSpas.com. She is a pioneering spa journalist, most recently honored as one of the "Top 30 Influential Voices Transforming Wellness." She is an inaugural recipient of Folio's Top Women in Media Award, and was honored by ISPA with its distinguished ISPA Dedicated Contributor Award. In 1997, she launched American Spa magazine, and in 2007, Mary co-founded Organic Spa magazine. A pioneer in the sustainable spa and beauty worlds, Mary is co-curator of Cosmoprof North America's Discover Green Pavilion. She is a Global Wellness Day Advisor, and a co-founder of the Washington Spa Alliance.
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