In his 1880 work A Tramp Abroad, Mark Twain wrote, “the beauty of the lake [Lucerne] had not been exaggerated… in truth, a trip on that lake is almost the perfection of pleasuring.” Indeed, guests can attain such pleasure at Park Weggis’ Sparkling Wellness center, ranked 2012’s Best Day Spa in the Swiss business magazine Bilanz. The stately hotel opened in 1875 along the banks of Lake Lucerne, with the snowy summits of Mt. Pilatus, Mt. Rigi, etc., unfolding before it. But Twain, who once stayed at the resort, would be astonished today by the Tibetan influence that has since taken glorious hold of the resort.
The Sparkling Wellness center consists of six traditional, Japanese-style wood and stone cottages discreetly tucked behind the resort’s 19th-century buildings, among a garden of rocks and 100-plus-year-old, imported bonsai trees. This decidedly Eastern accent is a major selling point,
says manager Brigitte Bünder. “We always try to be different and ahead of our competitors, and were the first to add private spa cottages. Our Tibetan treatments are also unique in Switzerland,” asserts Bünder, who received a 2012 Wellness Aphrodite award for Best Spa Manager from the German magazine Top Hotel.
After China seized the Himalayan kingdom and the Dalai Lama fled, many Tibetans went into exile; but some, drawn by the Alps that reminded them of home, relocated to Switzerland. “We offer authentic treatments using herbs, oils and stones from Tibet,” reports Bünder. “Our Tibetan therapists are educated in their ancient culture of massage. Many have trained in Tibetan monasteries or schools.”
Park Weggis holds particular appeal for Americans, who Bünder says are “searching for a more private atmosphere. They are really impressed when they see that there are private rooms to rent with sauna or steam bath, Jacuzzi, cold water pool with natural river stones, waterbed and a surround-sound media system.” Yet, there is also space for family or friends, she says, adding, “Swiss tradition is to join with others for a time-out in a public sauna, steam bath and wellness area.” She concludes that American and Swiss citizens share high expectations with regard to the quality of a spa’s interior design, atmosphere, products and treatments. Weggis’ newest offering is a stem cell center led by famed cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Harald Gerny, which offers state-of-the-art serums paired with meso needling techniques.
Nevertheless, the economy is having its expected impact. “Our hotel and spa is affected by the difficult economy in Europe and the strong Swiss Franc,” Bünder confesses. “Switzerland has become more expensive for foreign tourists, and Swiss citizens take advantage of the situation to travel abroad more often.” She’s quick to add, however, that “in Switzerland one still gets excellent value for their money.”
To help counter the effect of economic realities, the resort taps into its reputation. “We are a member of the Swiss Deluxe Hotel association, and part of the international Relais & Châteaux organization,” says Bünder. “Through these associations we are marketed worldwide via guides, websites, newsletters, etc. We also often take part in showcases or road shows in Switzerland and worldwide, organized by the aforementioned organisations or by Switzerland or Lucerne tourism.” The spa also participates in beauty exhibitions, and publicizes its activities online via its own marketing and public relations department.
In the end, though, this business thrives the same way as do spas all over the world. As Bünder proudly maintains, “The best marketing is still the word-of-mouth recommendations from our guests!”