Making Christmas count for flood-ravaged bush businesses
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Making Christmas count for flood-ravaged bush businesses

These bush businesses are going to Sydney, even if they have to kayak their way there

By Robyn Willis
Sat, Nov 26, 2022 7:00amGrey Clock 3 min

In flood ravaged parts of Australia, there’s a common refrain, says Buy From the Bush founder, Grace Brennan. 

“The community sentiment has been the same: that they would take the rain over the drought any day,” she says.

But that positive spin on weather events that have devastated regional communities is starting to wear thin. And rural businesses need all the support they can get right now.

Based on a farm in the NSW town of Warren, 120km west of Dubbo, Ms Brennan started Buy From the Bush as an Instagram account in October 2019 to connect city dwellers with small businesses in drought-stricken regional areas. The idea was to create second income streams for farming families, as well as creating new markets for regional businesses who were trying to maintain an income in communities with considerably less disposable cash.

The response surprised everyone, as BFTB garnered more than 450,000 followers across Facebook and Instagram and city shoppers voted with their wallets, providing additional income, as well as hope and support, to struggling communities. Since launching, $10 million has been generated for small businesses in rural Australia as savvy shoppers seek fashion, homewares, jewellery, skincare and more.

Three years later, the source of the crisis is different, but the need is greater than ever, as farms and businesses try to deal with widespread damage and isolation. 

In Ms Brennan’s case, Warren and the surrounding region have been experiencing heavy rainfalls which have flooded the Macquarie River, isolating communities and individual families for weeks or even months

“We have not had a bus running since July,” she said.

But she’s quick to point out that many are dealing with much worse.

Throughout recent years, many in regional communities have tried to maintain a positive mindset. That’s getting a harder proposition as areas are repeatedly inundated with water.

“The attitude until recently was stoicism and optimism because rain presents opportunity for next year (for sowing crops),” she said. 

“But the more it goes on, the more I see that same feeling from the drought. What the flood brings that the drought did not is constant disruption. You can’t access roads and people can’t get into town.”

The impacts of being cut off from town are felt across the community. Where the floods have swept through the main business district, businesses have struggled to reopen, while access to services like the post office have made filling online orders difficult. Maintaining a sense of normality for families has been hard.

“Parents are thinking about how to get their kids to school,” Ms Brennan said. “At the moment, for me it would be a 400km round trip to get my kids there for drop off and pick up (to avoid flooded roads). So you plan differently. You know you’ll be in town for the day on those days.”

At the same time, Ms Brennan said many are aware that there are others in regional communities doing it tougher this time round.

“With the drought, we were in this shared experience,” she said. “But with the floods, there’s a spectrum of impact, and how much debt each farmer is carrying. Some people have big loans because they were expecting an enormous crop and prices are amazing.
“It’s devastating because you can see that crop, you can touch it. But it’s flooded.”

Next month, 20 creators, makers and designers from regional areas will be making the journey to Sydney for a Christmas market at The Rocks on December 9 and 10. Some will find the trip harder than others.

“Some who are coming to the Christmas market will be kayaking out or taking a dinghy out and relying on friends,” she said. 

Stallholders will be travelling from Molong, Condobolin, Dubbo, Warren, Minja, Narromine and Quambone, among other towns.

The market will also host An Hour for Eugowra, a live auction to raise funds for the small town positioned between Forbes and Orange in the NSW Central West. Eugowra was completed flooded last week by a volume of water from Mandagery Creek that left the town looking, in the words of mayor Kevin Beatty, like a bomb had gone off.

Not everyone will be able to make it to the Sydney market. Ms Brennan urged shoppers to consider Buy From the Bush businesses this Christmas. There are more than 185 creators, makers and designers to choose from.

“It’s a longer term commitment,” she said. “We need small businesses to be robust enough to survive these downturns.”

  • The gallery is a selection of product on offer from bush businesses attending the market including: Bright Threads, Dumble Collective, Kennedy the Label, Note Couture, Seeking Summer, Castleden Co, French Soda, Riverina Gin and Cathy Hamilton Artworks


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Booming demand for wellness tourism shows no slowing, with travel related to health and well-being projected to have reached $1 trillion last year and to hit $1.3 trillion by 2025, according to the Global Wellness Institute, a nonprofit based in Miami.

Curated wellness travel programs are especially sought-after, specifically holistic treatments focused on longevity. Affluent travellers not only are making time to hit the gym while gallivanting across the globe, they’re also seeking destinations that specifically cater to their wellness goals, including treatments aimed at living longer.

“I believe Covid did put a spotlight on self-care and well-being,” says Penny Kriel, corporate director of spa and wellness at Salamander Collection, a group of luxury properties in places like Washington, D.C., and Charleston, South Carolina. But Kriel says today’s spas are more holistic, encouraging folks to understand the wellness concept and incorporate it into their lifestyle more frequently.

“With the evolution of treatment products and technology, spas have been able to enhance their offerings and appeal to more travellers,” Kriel says.

While some growth is connected to the variety of treatments available, results and the digital world are also contributing to the wellness boom.

“The efficacy and benefits of these treatments continue to drive bookings and interest, especially with the support of social media, influencers, and celebrity endorsements,” Kriel says.

While genetics, environmental factors, and lifestyle choices such as regular exercise, a diet free of processed foods, sufficient sleep, and human connection play essential roles in living well and longer, experts believe in holistic therapies to help manage stress, boost immunity, and ultimately influence length and quality of life.

Anti Ageing and Beyond

“For years, people have been coming to spas, booking treatments, and gaining advice on how to turn the clock back with anti ageing and corrective skin treatments,” Kriel says. However, today’s treatments are far more innovative.

On Marinella Beach in Porto Rotondo, on the Italian island of Sardinia, guests at the five-star Abi d’Oru Hotel & Spa can experience the resort’s one-of-a-kind “longevity treatment,” a unique antiaging facial using one of the island’s native grapes: Cannonau. The world’s first declared “Blue Zone”—one of five designated areas where people live longer than average, some into their 100s—Sardinia produces this robust red wine varietal, the most widely planted on the island.

Known as Garnacha in Spain and Grenache in France, Cannonau supposedly contains two to three times more antioxidants than other red-wine grapes. By incorporating Cannonau, Abi Spa says its unique 50-minute longevity session increases collagen production for firmer, younger-looking skin.

Maintaining a youthful appearance is just one facet of longevity treatments, which range from stress-reduction sessions like massage to nutritional support and sleep programs, Kriel says. Some retreats also offer medical services such as IV infusions and joint injections.

Keeping with the trend, Kriel is expanding Salamander Collection’s existing spa services, such as detox wraps and lymphatic drainage, to include dedicated “Wellness Rooms,” new vegan and vegetarian menu items, and well-being workshops. “Sleep, nutrition, and mindfulness will be a big focus for integration in 2024,” she says.

Data-Driven Wellness

Skyler Stillings, an exercise physiologist at Sensei Lanai, a Four Seasons Resort—an adults-only wellness centre in Lanai, Hawaii—says guests were drawn to the social aspect when the spa opened in November 2021.

“We saw a huge need for human connection,” she recalls. But over the past few years, what’s paramount has shifted. “Longevity is trending much more right now.”

Human connection is a central draw for guests at Sensei Lanai, an adults-only and wellness-focused Four Seasons Resort in Hawaii.
Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort

Billionaire co-founder of tech company Oracle Larry Ellison and physician and scientist Dr. David Angus co-founded Sensei. After the death of a mutual close friend, the duo teamed up to create longevity-based wellness retreats to nurture preventative care and a healthy lifestyle. In addition to the Lanai location, the brand established Sensei Porcupine Creek in Greater Palm Springs, California, in November 2022.

Sensei has a data-driven approach. The team performs a series of assessments to obtain a clearer picture of a guest’s health, making wellness recommendations based on the findings. While Sensei analyses that data to curate a personalised plan, Stillings says it’s up to the guests which path they choose.

Sensei’s core three-day retreat is a “Guided Wellness Experience.” For spa treatments, each guest checks into their own “Spa Hale,” a private 1,000-square-foot bungalow furnished with an infrared sauna, a steam shower, a soaking tub, and plunge pools. The latest therapies include Sarga Bodywalking—a barefoot myofascial release massage, and “Four Hands in Harmony,” a massage with two therapists working in tandem. Sensei Guides provide take-home plans so guests can continue their wellness journeys after the spa.

Sensei Lanai, an adults-only and wellness-focused Four Seasons Resort in Hawaii.
Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort

Sanctuaries for Longevity

Headquartered in Switzerland with hotels and on-site spas across the globe, Aman Resorts features an integrative approach, combining traditional remedies with modern medicine’s advanced technologies. Tucked behind the doors of the storied Crown Building in Midtown Manhattan, Banya Spa House at Aman New York—the brand’s flagship spa in the Western Hemisphere—is a 25,000-square-foot, three-floor urban oasis.

Yuki Kiyono, global head of health and wellness development at Aman, says the centre provides access to holistic and cutting-edge treatments benefiting physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being. Aman’s customisable “Immersion Programs” consist of a three- or five-day immersion. “The programs encompass treatments and experiences that touch every significant aspect to create a path for longevity, from meditation and mindfulness to nutrition and movement,” Kiyono explains.

Banya Spa House at Aman New York.
Robert Rieger

The spa’s “Tei-An Wellness Solution” features 90- to 150-minute sessions using massage, cryotherapy, and Vitamin IV infusions. Acupuncture is also on offer.

“With its rich history of Chinese Medicine, modern research, and the introduction of sophisticated electro-acupuncture medicine, acupuncture has been proven to assist with problems and increase performance,” Kiyono says.

Resetting the Mind and Body

Beyond longevity, “healthspan”—the number of years a person can live in good health free of chronic disease—is the cornerstone of Mountain Trek Health Reset Retreat’s program in British Columbia, Canada.

Kirk Shave, president and program director, and his team employ a holistic approach, using lifestyles in long-living Blue Zones as a point of reference.

“We improve our daily lifestyle habits, so we live vitally as long as we’re meant to live,” Shave says of the retreat. He built the program from an anthropological stance, referencing humans as farmers, hunters, and gatherers based on their eating and sleeping patterns. Food includes vegetable-centric meals sans alcohol, sugar, bread, or dairy.

Guests wake at dawn each day and have access to sunrise yoga, several hours of “flow” or slow hiking, spa treatments, forest bathing, calming crystal singing-bowl and sound therapy sessions, and classes on stress reduction—one of Mountain Trek’s primary goals. The program motivates people to spend much of their time in nature because it’s been proven to reduce cortisol, the stress hormone that can lead to inflammation and disease when elevated for extended periods.

While most guests aren’t aware of how immersive Mountain Trek’s program is when they arrive, they leave the resort revitalized after the structured, one-week program. Set in the Kootenays overlooking its eponymous river, the resort and adventure promise what Shave calls a “visceral experience of transformation.”

“They’re interested in coming to be in nature,” Shave says of the guests. “They hit a wall in their life and slipped backwards, so they know they need a reset.”

Banya Spa House at Aman New York provides access to holistic and cutting-edge treatments benefiting physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and social well-being.
Robert Rieger

This article first appeared in the Winter 2024 issue of Mansion Global Experience Luxury.

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