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Raising the bar despite challenges
By Chris Ryall
Patience. It was a necessary trait required by the Québec-based Groupe Nordik management team as they developed the concept for their third spa location more than 10 years ago—the Thermëa Spa Village Whitby. Located just east of Toronto, it is the largest spa in Ontario. Despite challenges from COVID-19-related shutdowns, construction delays, regional/local government bureaucracy, and some resident opposition, Groupe Nordik and the team of wellness creators and designers forged ahead and launched their new concept: the Spa Village. “In creating this spa, we wanted to combine the best of our two other locations, Nordik Spa-Nature in Chelsea and Thermëa by Nordik in Winnipeg,” says Alexandre Cantin, Groupe Nordik’s Chief Operating Officer.
The first year for any spa can present a range of challenges, from training staff concerning procedures to ensuring equipment and operations run smoothly. Thermëa is no different and was faced with an operational issue in the Källa floatation pool last fall. Facing negative press and social media comments as a result, Groupe Nordik had to tackle the issue head on and restore the confidence of the public.
“Our Källa pool situation was a first for our company after
20 years of operation,” he says. “Several protocols have been implemented and further investments have been made to ensure our systems are perfectly controlled. Our efforts included implementing new safety standards for pools in North America, as well as installing a laboratory-grade incubator for rapid testing. We are one of the only facilities in North America with this capability.”
Groupe Nordik takes pride in the high standards it sets and is a leader in creating a fully immersive thermal spa experience. As many spa owners and managers can attest, there will be blips along the way. But challenges must be accepted and overcome to continue moving the business forward.
A multicultural spa environment
One of the most interesting aspects of a visit to the Whitby Spa Village location is how culturally diverse both the staff and spa visitors are. It is certainly reflective of the Toronto and Greater Toronto Area (GTA) population.
It’s something that does, however, present challenges from an operational standpoint with differing cultural norms. Staff have had to advise some spa-goers that they must wear bathing suits in the saunas, pools, and steam rooms, which is contrary to protocol in some spas located in countries like Germany or Switzerland where bathing suits are sometimes forbidden. Staff have also had to explain the thermal cycle and its benefits to some visitors given the fact that it is the first thermal spa in the GTA, and among only a few that currently exist in all of Ontario.
The complete spa experience
The spa industry has had to evolve from its humble beginnings where a hot tub, a dry sauna, and a quiet, cozy relaxation area would have been sufficient. Today, many spas have become social hubs. Groupe Nordik has taken this concept to new levels by adding restaurants, bars, biergarten, multiple relaxation areas, firepits, infinity pools, and more.
Thermëa Spa Village Whitby is in a suburban neighbourhood, but you would never know it once you enter the Village’s front entrance. Mature trees, a pond, small sandy beach, water tower, plants, and rocks throughout the complex make it feel as
though visitors are in a peaceful oasis far removed from the urban jungle.
With a capacity of 700 guests, visitors will have no problem finding ways to relax and rejuvenate within the Spa Village. Facilities include the following:
Källa, the largest floatation pool in North America
Multiple saunas, thermal pools, and steam baths at various temperatures
25 massage and treatment rooms offering body, facial, and foot care treatments as well as registered massage therapy
Multiple rest and relaxation areas with loungers, lounge beds, hammocks, firepits, and cozy seating
Choice of three restaurants ranging from casual and elevated dining experiences, including many ingredients and items from local suppliers and farms within seasonal menus
Wellness treatments and rituals
Largest event sauna in North America with a capacity of 90 guests
Two distinct zones: Silence and Social Zones
Extensive choice of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks
Adult-only visits (however this location has organized special family days where children are permitted)
Beach area with lounge chairs
Lockers and shower facilities, including robes
Multiple refillable drink and water stations
RFID bracelets provided to alleviate the need to carry cash or credit/debit cards
Visitors can also experience different rituals throughout their stay. Like its Chelsea and Winnipeg locations, Spa Village Whitby offers the Aufguss sauna ritual, which is very popular. Unique to Whitby is a Rhassoul clay treatment, inspired by Middle Eastern practices. It recently opened three new saunas, the Kâbin Sauna (the hottest sauna), the Hälo salt sauna, and the Aromä sauna with its aromatic scents.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Groupe Nordik has had to revise its plans to launch at least 10 new spas by 2027. The next location, Calgary, is expected to open up within the year.
“Thermëa’s strength is its constant desire to innovate, to take wellness to a new level by paying attention to detail and providing experiences that leave a lasting impression on visitors,” Cantin asserts.
With its latest Spa Village in Whitby, there is no doubt Groupe Nordik is well on its way to global success, supported by its continued innovation and patience.