Reconnecting with Yourself

Marc_CornazThe Thai Wellness sector has a universal reputation for excellence, but within it there is sufficient space for visionary entrepreneurs to cut out a niche market for themselves.

It seems appropriate that Marc-Antoine Cornaz uses an analogy drawn from nature to illustrate his point about business. “Sometimes companies are like oak trees that are built with boards and nails,” he says over lunch by the pool at Kamalaya Koh Samui. “It looks like an oak tree but it isn’t really, it isn’t a stable one.”

There are no oak trees at the wellness sanctuary and holistic spa resort where Cornaz is managing director, rather the foliage surrounding us is typically tropical, but his message is clear nevertheless. “Certain things just take time to grow,” he adds as a reinforcement.

Fortunately Kamalaya was given time. Although Cornaz admits the resort had a “very, very difficult” inception – it was not until its fifth year that the business model proved itself – this was not something totally unexpected. “This is not a business that you can just put on the shelf at Tesco’s and it sells,” he says. “It is building nearly exclusively by word of mouth, so that takes time but it’s very solid as it builds.” Just like an oak tree, you might add.

Eight years later and business is as strong as that veritable oak. Occupancy is a year-round 80%, with around 30% repeat customers. On average guests stay for eight nights and take 2.5 treatments or classes each day. Around 40% of revenue stems from wellness, something Cornaz claims is unusual within the industry.

But Kamalaya is no normal spa resort. “We are really a destination wellness resort where guests come to do programmes,” says Cornaz. These range from traditional Asian massage therapy to meditation, yoga and even drawing classes that deliver a result over a week or longer. The approach is decidedly holistic, equating a healthy body with a healthy mind. “That is very different from a spa package where you sprinkle a little bit of everything in a salad.”

It is an approach Cornaz claims appeals to a select but high spending clientele that feels “disconnected” from modern day society. “It’s somebody who realises I’m running into a crisis here,” he says adding that this might coincide with a recent trauma such as a divorce or a loss of someone close. What Kamalya provides is a supportive environment that allows guests to embark upon a journey that stems from within; one that can take senior executives on a spiritual road to Damascus. “They can see themselves having a balanced life and being successful, which for many is a complete contradiction,” says Cornaz.

Kamalaya benefits from its niche position within a much larger Thai wellness industry. However, Cornaz believes that there is much potential for growth within the sector especially with the emerging markets from Russia, China and India. However, he also warns resort owners to be wary of losing traditional guests while seeking to tap in on the mass market.

One thing for sure, is that Cornaz has no concerns about any copy-cat venture trying to muscle in on Kamalya’s territory. “It takes time, you can’t just copy paste that so easily,” he says. “On the other hand these principles are known since ever. It just needs the perseverance to go through with it.”

For more information, visit:

Words by Mark Bibby Jackson

Published in Horizon Thailand