The Holistic Sanctuary serves as the Farm's center for all of its medical treatments
By the time the sun rises, a group of men and women are already gathered at the wooden-roofed amphitheater, standing on their mats as they prepare for a yoga session. A few meters off is a lagoon, giving a clear view of Mount Malarayat. At 1,005 meters above sea level, the mountain range is one of the major features of the Southern Luzon landscape.
The yoga class is the day's first order of business for guests at The Farm at San Benito, a luxurious spa retreat resort in Lipa, Batangas, located about 80 kilometers south of Manila. The 50-hectare property has attracted wealthy travelers around the world in search of wellness treatments that restore the balance between mind, body and spirit.
One of the guests liked it so much he stayed for good and bought a controlling stake in Narra Wellness Resorts Inc., the company that owns the "sparadise".
“Ten years ago I came here for a detox. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be buying the property,” 73-year-old Naresh Khattar told Entrepreneur Philippines. “I’m a firm believer that the God up there is guiding you to where you should be. And there was a calling within me that this is what I need to do.”
The Indian-born entrepreneur from New Delhi was active in the real estate and construction business before he decided to acquire The Farm at San Benito, which claims to be the sole sanctuary of its kind in the Philippines and one of the best in the world.
The Farm has earned recognition 44 times from award-giving bodies and travel publications here and abroad
Founded in 2002, the spa and wellness facility was previously owned by German expatriates. Khattar took over in 2008, saying he considers his time and efforts at the Farm at San Benito his "end station."
The Farm at San Benito has built a worldwide reputation as a wellbeing sanctuary where extremely wealthy and stressed visitors can reboot physically, mentally and spiritually. "The Farm won’t be for everybody but for some (those with diabetes, heart or serious weight problems, skin or digestive difficulties) it could be life-changing. There are tales of people who arrive scarcely able to walk, but after weeks of tender care and a supervised detox leave walking upright," wrote the Financial Times in a short review of the facility.
Its four-to-seven-day health retreats promise both physical and emotional rejuvenation. Some guests leave several pounds lighter just after a few days' stay in the farm, which serves fresh salads and juices made from homegrown organic fruits and vegetables.
Not surprisingly, The Farm at San Benito has won at least 44 international awards from travel associations and magazines since it opened its doors.
But Khattar is not somebody who likes to sit still on his laurels. Though well past retirement age, he remains driven to make The Farm "the best in the world" and a strong force in the emerging medical tourism industry. In 2015, the Philippines ranked eighth among the top medical tourism destinations in the world, according to the International Healthcare Research Center and Medical Tourism Association.
Last month, The Farm inaugurated a new three-story building, called the Holistic Sanctuary. Featuring state-of-the-art equipment, the sanctuary offers integrated medical services that aim to heal naturally and cleanse the body from within. The facility, which is home to consultation and treatment rooms as well as an after-care lounge, will offer "naturopathy healing" later this year.
By mid-2017, The Farm also plans to launch the Acqua Sanctuary, which will offer water-based wellness programs and treatments. These include thalassotherapy, which uses saltwater and marine products, and Vichy multiple showers.
All meals offered in the resort are vegan, made with homegrown ingredients
The Farm's expansion plans underscore Khattar's efforts to keep up with the demands and expectations of the facility's discriminating clientele. Around 85 percent of The Farm's customers are visitors from places ranging from Switzerland in Europe to Hong Kong in Asia. The rest are expats living or working in the Philippines.
Half of The Farm's revenues come from its luxurious 32 private villas. These range from modern tree houses that cost about Php9,000 a night to the newly-built 400-square-meter luxury suites that come with their own 60-square-meter pools. (The latter cost almost Php60,000 a night). “On average, we have an occupancy rate of 75 percent year-round. With the expansion, we’re hoping to grow it by at least five (percent more),” says Rouel Guanzon, The Farm's manager.
The Farm is keen to offer new services and activities that would engage their customers and make their stay truly memorable. This explains the flurry of expansion projects such as the newly completed Holistic Sanctuary and the planned Acqua Sanctuary. At present, these services account for only 30 percent of the company's revenues.
“Most of the time when you get to a new place you look for the activities available but never the ones that will help you meditate or commune with yourself,” says Guanzon. “What we offer is an alternative holiday, a healthy holiday.”
With the completion of the new facilities, Khattar said he expects that the company's revenues will rise by as much as 20 percent next year. That should help propel revenues higher, which grew rapidly from only Php66.9 million in 2010 to Php180.1 million in 2014 but eased slightly to Php175.8 million in 2015.
The new projects should also help lay the ground for The Farm's next stage of development—the rise of a wellness community that will expand the built-up area of the property from only 10 hectares at present to 50 hectares in the next five to seven years.
The resort is set to expand to 50 hectares in the next five to seven years, with plans of building a residential community
Khattar says he envisions the emergence of an entire residential community of people who will adopt The Farm's lifestyle and philosophy as they go about their daily lives. “My final vision is to make a whole village of people who adopt The Farm as their lifestyle and live here," he says. I want everybody to copy this. It’s a new way of life and I want more people to adopt this. It gives me happiness.”
Elyssa Christine Lopez is a staff writer of Entrepreneur PH. Follow her on Twitter @elyssalopz