The Woman Behind Healing Hotels of the World
Anne Biging co-founded Healing Hotels of the World, headquartered in Cologne with an office in New York, 11 years ago. Today, there are 105 hotels in the Healing Hotels portfolio, with members paying between $15,000 to $20,000 euros a year to join.
Biging was born in the 1950’s in post-war Germany, and worked as an advertising writer and a freelance journalist. After having traveled the world writing stories for newspapers and magazines, she decided to open her own business as a global tourism marketing specialist.
Attempting to run away from the pain she experienced in the traumatic environment of post-World War II Germany as a child, she went on her own personal healing journey to seek a life of wellbeing. That intense desire motivated her to create Healing Hotels of The World.
She and a team of experts in holistic healing from around the world then spent two years creating the criteria defining the quality standards for what a healing hotel is—or what it should be. We caught up with her to find out more.
How did you come up with the idea for Healing Hotels of the World?
I wanted to marry both my personal longing and passion for helping others to lead a better and more fulfilled life with my professional skills in the hospitality business. I have pretty much seen all of the world and stayed in the best hotels imaginable and very, very often felt that something incredibly important was missing—the soul in the space and the warmth and uplifting atmosphere and also the opportunity for travelers to use their vacation for personal growth.
Also, amid the rise of the wellness industry about 12 years ago, I wanted to create a set of quality standards so that guests can have the opportunity for a more full holistic experience. I sensed that people were in need of something deeper than just having a massage or detoxing their bodies. I am actually surprised that no one else picked it up as we did. To me it seemed so very obvious. The pink elephant in the room.
“I wanted to create a set of quality standards so that guests can have the opportunity for a more full holistic experience.”
So, what is a Healing Hotel? Describe, please.
A healing hotel is intentionally built to be a haven from the inside out. All parts of the hotel, from the grounds to the daily schedule to nutrition. In a healing hotel, guests not only experience treatments, yoga, meditation, fitness, healthy nutrition and lifestyle coaching, they also learn to take on the responsibility for themselves. They learn what to eat or not, how to prepare for a healthy sleep, how to stop focusing on terrible thoughts. They actually go on a healing journey.
Spirituality is part of the healing process. Never before have so many people practiced yoga; meditation is the cool kid on the block! People are discovering more and more that the good things they seek outside are actually already waiting for them in their own inner being. Young people are the frontrunners here.
What were the first hotels you included, and how did you find them?
The first Healing Hotel member was Ananda in the Himalayas. It was, and still is, the epitome of a supreme mix of luxury, sensitivity, stunning beauty, and a very strong sense of spirituality. The owner is not only a true yogi who has been practicing yoga and meditation all his life, but he is also heir to The Oberoi, one of the most legendary hotel chains in the world.
At Ananda in Northern India, you can learn how to live a life of holistic healing, study the sacred scriptures, meditate and do yoga, and have the most outstanding Ayurvedic treatments. We go there once a year in the European winter time to check it out, make recommendations, and immerse in the transformative environment of the Himalayas.
Do you think we need places like this now more than ever?
I do believe in the inherent goodness of all people, yet I also perceive a huge level of irritation, fear, and frustration. People are overwhelmed as they are confronted with constant stimulation. Due to media and instant communication, 7.5 billion people and their life stories are conceivably at our doorstep.
It is up to us how to deal with this.
We must continue to be open and take responsibility for our life, love, share with others, enjoy nature, and believe that there is always enough for everyone. So yes, more healing hotels are needed—and there will be more in years to come!
Where do you see the company in the future?
Can I say this? We want to become the largest hotel chain on the planet! And we will, over time. The demand is there, and more and more professionals in the hospitality industry are waking up. My personal hero is Bill Marriott, founder of Marriott Hotels and Resorts. Even back in the sixties he built hotels with consideration for the wellbeing of his guests.
What are some of your favorite retreats, and what do you like about them so much?
Depending on the time of the year, on the state of my health or my mind, I love to be in India, or the Tyrolean mountains, or by the sea. My ideal location includes personal yoga sessions and meditation in the morning, followed by an Ayurvedic treatment.
Do you have any new clients you’re especially excited about?
My latest hotel member is a wonderful new resort about an hour and a half away from Bejing, Grand Bay Resort, on the foothills of a beautiful mountain. The air there is clean—at least most of the time—and they are stringent about checking daily for the purity of their water. One of the new and exciting features of the resort is that they provide a massive meditation program and yoga sessions for corporate clients.
What I learned during my time there is how deeply so many Chinese people are rooted in traditional healing and have a very natural connection to spirituality. I knew about the 5000+ year culture of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). What I was not aware of was the depth of longing to re-connect with their spiritual heritage, especially young people. Healing is deeply embedded in their rich culture.