This week we had the privilege of sitting down with Shona Philps, the General Manager of Eden Health Retreat, a renowned haven for wellness and rejuvenation nestled amidst the picturesque Currumbin Valley. With a career journey that transformed from managing luxury boutique properties to advocating for personal well-being, Shona shares her inspiring path to Eden and her commitment to offering transformative experiences for guests. From unique wellness programs to the significance of the natural setting, a focus on organic whole foods, and the magic of Club Mud Therapy, our conversation delves into what sets Eden Health Retreat apart. Additionally, we explore the leadership philosophy that shapes this oasis and exciting future developments that promise to keep Eden at the forefront of the health and wellness industry.
CAN YOU SHARE YOUR PERSONAL JOURNEY AND EXPERIENCES WITHIN THE WELLNESS AND HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY THAT LED YOU TO YOUR ROLE AS GENERAL MANAGER OF EDEN HEALTH RETREAT?
The initial 15 years of my managerial career were a far cry from the idyllic existence one might associate with life at Eden. During that time, I found myself overseeing luxury boutique properties with fine-dining restaurants and fabulous wine lists.
Working long hours under tremendous pressure, I didn’t take care of my body or my health. Weighing in at 110 kilograms, I was burnt out and slowly self-destructing with food.
I came across a book called 'Atomic Habits,' and it lit a fire under me. I was ready to change my life. I started making tiny 1% changes, like eating better and moving more. It took three years, but I shed a whopping 55 kilograms, and there was no turning back.
Bringing my own experience to the GM role at Eden makes me a passionate advocate for the small ways we can support and offer changes in our guests' lives. And I'm not alone in this mission – I'm part of a fantastic team of 90 experts who all love what Eden represents: a place where people pause, reflect, and gather some tools for life after Eden.
COULD YOU DESCRIBE SOME OF THE UNIQUE PROGRAMS AND ACTIVITIES THAT GUESTS CAN EXPECT DURING THEIR STAY AT EDEN HEALTH RETREAT?
We believe in being truly present in the moment at Eden, and we don't pre-plan too much. So, I’ll share just a few of the many offerings we have for our guests.
Our program is designed with three main elements at its core: Health, Wellbeing, and Mindfulness. Across each of those streams, we have over 30 qualified experts providing classes and sessions.
Our Health stream covers everyone from gym aficionados to those who have never been in a gym before, with classes such as Functional Movement, HIIT, Frisbee Golf, and daily guided bush walks (among others). Nutrition plays a huge role in the health element as well, with cooking demos and nutritional sessions featuring daily.
Wellbeing is the stream that allows introspection and the ability to see what serves us as individuals. Sessions such as Watercolour Painting, Align to Purpose (writing a letter to self), Forest Bathing, or Ice Baths define areas we might find a little discomfort in. At Eden, we believe a little discomfort allows room for growth.
Our final stream, Mindfulness, is the space to reset and prepare for life after Eden. Mindful classes include Yin Yoga, Sound Bowl Healing, Manifestation, and Pottery.
We also encourage our guests to do only what they feel like! If lying by one of our pools and saunas is more their style, that's okay too!
HOW DOES YOUR LEADERSHIP PHILOSOPHY AND PERSONAL BACKGROUND CONTRIBUTE TO THE UNIQUE ATMOSPHERE AND OFFERINGS AT EDEN HEALTH RETREAT?
I believe in the value of curiosity as a leadership approach, as it fosters a deeper understanding of perspective. Each member of our leadership team is an expert in their field, and my role revolves around nurturing their growth through empathetic and mindful guidance.
It's possible that my team might describe me as having high expectations for our leaders, but they also understand that my aim is to empower them not only to achieve our collective goals but also to realize their individual potential.
With the support of our exceptional leadership team, my ‘why’ is to weave each team member's talents through the Eden experience, consistently positioning us at the forefront of the luxury wellness industry.
THE LOCATION OF THE RETREAT, SURROUNDED BY RAINFOREST AND VALLEY VIEWS, SOUNDS INCREDIBLE. HOW DOES THE NATURAL SETTING ENHANCE THE OVERALL GUEST EXPERIENCE?
The Currumbin Valley, with its lush green rolling hills and ancient rainforests, sets the tone for the Eden Experience. A place to pause, reflect, and see what is serving us in life, the valley is a very special place, and that can be felt as soon as you drive through the gates of Eden.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE DINING EXPERIENCE AT EDEN HEALTH RETREAT? HOW DOES THE EMPHASIS ON ORGANIC WHOLE FOODS CONTRIBUTE TO THE WELLNESS JOURNEY?
Focusing on clean, minimally intervened whole foods, sourced from local, organic producers, our Food and Nutrition team serves delicious meals that explode with colour, flavour, and texture. Here at Eden, we want our guests to be able to take away new skills, and their dining experiences should not be any different.
Dishes are sustaining, with ingredients that might be new to some of our guests. We encourage everyone to trust our qualified Chef Nutritionists and try each of the elements, as new discoveries can not only lead to better health but to new faves too!
COULD YOU PROVIDE INSIGHTS INTO THE DAILY OPERATIONS OF EDEN HEALTH RETREAT, FROM GUEST ARRIVAL TO DEPARTURE, AND HOW YOUR TEAM ENSURES A SEAMLESS EXPERIENCE?
I may sound like a proud mother hen, but we really do have a fantastic team here at Eden. Each person shares an authentic desire to connect with our guests from pre-arrival and the Wellness Consultation to post-stay programs and recipe books. Building rapport with our guests in this way allows a safe place for everyone to relax and really invest in their own well-being. Even if that just looks like enjoying as many spa treatments as possible!
THE RETREAT OFFERS A WIDE RANGE OF WELLNESS THERAPIES AND TREATMENTS. HOW DO YOU SELECT AND TRAIN YOUR STAFF TO ENSURE THEY PROVIDE TOP-QUALITY SERVICE AND CARE TO GUESTS?
Our Spa Menu is an absolute delight of options these days. With energetic treatments, muscle balancing, fluid body massage, kinesiology, and many, many more, we know it’s important to revive our guests with only the best treatments and beauty products.
Results are important when looking at the products we use on our bodies, so we are very excited to share (for the first time) that Eden Health Retreat will be partnering with Biologique Recherche to give our guests not only completely personalized treatments but experiences with proven results. The training team at Biologique Recherche ensures our team is educated and well-practiced with extensive training sessions.
Our in-house training team regularly supports our Spa and Therapies team to ensure everyone is well-versed and enthused about the treatments they share with our guests.
CLUB MUD THERAPY SOUNDS INTRIGUING. COULD YOU EXPLAIN WHAT IT INVOLVES AND HOW IT CONTRIBUTES TO THE OVERALL WELLNESS EXPERIENCE?
Club Mud is a great reminder that ‘play’ is very much a part of our adult lives! Covering yourself with the nutrient-rich clay or helping a new friend reach the tricky spots is a surefire way to start laughing. Dry out in the glorious sunshine and shower off with a hot shower and a view of the duck pond. One thing that gets ignored, no matter how many times we say it, the clay is brown. Don’t use the green mud from the duck pond!
AS GENERAL MANAGER, WHAT ARE YOUR PERSONAL FAVORITE ASPECTS OF EDEN HEALTH RETREAT?
The connections we make with each other will always be my favourite part of Eden. I have been fortunate to have some of the most profound stories shared with me by Eden Guests, and they have absolutely made me a kinder, more empathetic human.
Second, but only just, is the digital detox. We’ve forgotten how it feels to be present in the moment, to not need to have our phones in our hands an average of 140 times a day. There’s no signal out here, and the stillness that brings into our guests' journeys is profound. Allowing the space to make our own decisions, uninfluenced by Instagram, and welcoming other humans into our journey is absolutely life-changing if you allow it to be.
I could go on and on. I am so passionate about Eden Health Retreat and the opportunity it gives everyone who comes through her gates.
WHAT FUTURE DEVELOPMENTS OR PLANS DO YOU HAVE IN MIND FOR EDEN HEALTH RETREAT TO CONTINUE PROVIDING EXCEPTIONAL EXPERIENCES FOR YOUR GUESTS?
There are many, many exciting plans afoot for Eden in the coming year. We have just finished a $10 million dollar renovation, including a new wellness hub, Premier Double Cabins, and new treatment huts overlooking the valley
Our owner, philanthropist Robert Christie, was a guest of Eden 8 times before he bought it in 2002 and remains as dedicated to developing the core values as ever.
Working alongside Robert has been exhilarating, and I can give you a cheeky hint by saying, there are plans to craft multiple programs with some specific retreats and goals in the not-too-distant future.
We remain committed to being at the forefront of the Health and Wellness industry. Watch this space!