Ramy James Salameh reports from the High Tatras with a cool idea for wellness and incentives

Wearing just a headband, face mask, shorts, gloves and clogs, I stood nervously before two chambers within the  Cryotherapy Centre’ of the AquaCity Wellness Resort in the Tatras region of Slovakia. One chamber was set to -60°C, ready for me to acclimatise to the eye-watering temperatures, and the other at -125°C, for the main event, a 2-minute blast of Arctic temperatures. This whole ritual was part of a (pre-Covid) meetings package, which this eco-resort had designed around MICE wellness trends, yet who could have envisaged how pertinent health issues would become.

The extreme temperatures cause vasoconstriction, which leads to the body cleansing the blood by narrowing blood vessels and pulling the blood back into the core. Other positive effects include the release of adrenaline, noradrenaline and endorphins which boosts one’s mood and mental alertness. And it seemed towork! In the proceeding ‘meeting’ our delegate group felt wide awake, engaged and buzzing with ideas.

Lucia Blaskova, AquaCity Representative, said: “We have built long-term relationships with premier league youth teams and athletes, but we are now seeing corporate clients wanting detailed programmes using sport, wellness, nature and tech connectivity as key drivers.”

Cryotherapy was once seen as the preserve of elite athletes trying to expedite the recovery of an injury. In today’s ‘new-normal’ landscape, it exemplifies growing demand for ‘immuno-balancing, mindful and sustainable’ meetings and incentives; a quick and cost-effective way to boost morale, mental creativity and reflect the corporate world’s social responsibility towards employees or indeed delegate wellness.

Eva Lickova, MD of Slovakian events agency Elcop, highlighted the pull of the Tatra, having tendered for the 15th European Company Winter Games last year (cancelled due to Covid). “We secured 113 of 120 votes from the European Federation for Company Sport to run this event,” she said, citing the region’s capacity, natural diversity and spectrum of activities as a major draw. It bodes well for future business.

AquaCity has a 360-degree focus on wellness, combined with hotel rooms, meeting spaces and, importantly, is situated in the sought-after Tatra Mountain region. Cryotherapy is something I can now positively advocate; even more so in the current climate where trends no longer suggest ‘digital detox’ but ‘working wellness retreats/meetings’ where you are technologically s witched-on not off. This ties in with new advancements in virtual/hybrid event tech, evolving opportunities to ‘work from anywhere’ and, in turn, will activate new-normal incentives.

Disparate teams can be brought together in natural environments for health-oriented activities. Some health pioneers and enlightened leaders are already ‘prescribing nature’ through outdoor conservation projects for employees.

Gabriela Kothuhova, DMC director at Enjoytatras.com, agrees: “Our region is at the forefront of several key trends, motivating growing demand for working wellness retreats and meetings in nature, so we continue to develop products around responsible, active adventure and wellness using the region’s natural assets.”

From geothermal to glacial, ‘water’ continues to sustain the Tatras landscape and is very much part of this unique portfolio of incentives and is utilised by most regional MICE hotels. There is enough here to take meeting and incentive groups out of their comfort zone, including Speleo-trekking & Speleo-therapy (respiratory health) in subterranean cave networks, to ‘bear watching’ by bike or even getting the low-down from scientists at the Solar Observatory perched on Lomnicky Stit (mountain), the region’s second highest peak.

“All of our events are integrated with healthy pursuits which emphasise physical and mental balance. Demand will grow; at 1,351m above sea-level, surrounded by mountains, inside a National Park, we are aware organisers are looking away from cities,” says Michal Sadovsky, assistant director of sales, Grand Hotel Kempinski High Tatras.

Jan Bosnovic, key account manager of TMR Group, which runs 13 hotels and six ski resorts in the region adds: “Short-term, I forecast smaller corporate stays/meetings in the bosom of nature and away from major cities”.

TMR’s two rooms located at the summit of Lomnicky Stit is just the ticket for getting away from everyone else and another chance to ‘freeze-frame’ healthy experiences.