Apr 24, 2024

Episode 129

Alejandro Bataller


A diagnosis of colon cancer led Alejandro Bataller’s father Alfredo Bataller to launch the SHA Wellness Clinic in Alicante, Spain 15 years ago. Today, the family-run business has established itself as of one of the leading wellness resorts in the world.

A recently opened outpost in Costa Mujeres, Mexico designed by local firms Sordo Madaleno and Alejandro Escudero continues the company’s goal to transform people’s health and wellbeing through innovative, cutting-edge practices wrapped in a hospitality-focused luxury experience. (A forthcoming property set on a 25-acre island on the coastline between Dubai and Abu Dhabi is also on the boards.)

Additionally, the company’s real estate development arm, AB Living Group, is working with Marriott to develop branded residences and resort projects in Mexico under the SHA Wellness brand. “For us, this is much more than a business, it’s a mission,” says Alejandro.


Stacy Shoemaker Rauen: Hi, I am here with Alejandro Bataller of SHA Wellness. Thanks so much for joining me today, Alejandro. How are you?

Alejandro Bataller: I’m fine. Very happy to be here.

SSR: Great. Okay, so we always start at the beginning of this podcast. So where did you grow up?

AB: I grew up in Argentina. I was born in Argentina, close to Mendoza wine region, and then my parents moved to Spain, to the area of Valencia. So I spent the rest of my childhood in Valencia and finally I moved to Madrid where I am in the moment.

SSR: Amazing. And what were you like as a kid?

AB: Well, I would say I was happy and curious. A bit naughty, as any kid, I would say.

SSR: Yes. And were there any early influences of hospitality or wellness? Did your parents, were they in the business? Tell us a little bit about, did you travel a lot?

AB: No, not really. My father has been an entrepreneur since a very early age, and he definitely always encouraged us to be curious, always to learn from different business, different industries. My father had a hotel many years ago in Chile, but he wasn’t involved that much in the operations was more as an investor, but he’s been always pretty much linked with real estate development, that has been his main background, but not so much health or hospitality. We started for a very different reason. Actually, that started around 22 years ago when my father recovered from a cancer. After receiving this worrying diagnosis, he met the doctor who was specialized on nutrition and integrated medicine, and when you have such a worrying diagnosis, you’re more open to learn about new things. So he went to meet this doctor and he changed completely his lifestyle, his nutrition. As you can imagine, having born in Argentina, our nutrition was very different to what we are following and promoting nowadays, and he was able to recover his health after this lifestyle change. He just turned last month 75 and he still is enjoying great health.

SSR: That’s great.

AB: I was actually the second member of the family to go visit this doctor. I’ve been suffering very strong migraines for around a decade. I was in university at that time. I visited the main neurologist here in Spain and I haven’t received any solution. When I went to visit him, he told me it was related with my nutrition and that was affecting my liver. It changed my diet and two, three weeks I started to feel an amazing improvement. I lost a few kilos that I needed to lose and it was very eye-opening for us. We became super passionate about health and wellbeing, that’s what move us to start on this business. While we didn’t have any past experience on health or hospitality, my father was definitely the brave one because he was the one of course who financial… Who had the vision first and also who had the resources. But my brother Alfredo and myself and also my mom, we were supporting him from day zero.

SSR: Yeah, I love that. Can I ask you, what were some of the main things in the diet you had changed? Do you remember? For your liver.

AB: Yes, of course. I remember. The things that I changed. It sounded like crazy at that time and everyone was asking, but what is the scientific evidence on that? And I believe that nowadays they sound a bit more obvious. But I reduced dramatically the red meat consumption, dairy consumption, processed food, of course, sugar consumption. I reduce coffee consumption. Stimulants in general. Of course I reduce alcohol consumption. And then I introduced some things that were not in my diet until then. For example, miso soup, especially in the morning, it helps to keep your body alkaline and to detox or I start to drink some medicinal teas. I can name you a few that are, it can be like Sencha, Bancha tea, Daikon, which is Japanese ingredient that helps you to clean your body, or umeboshi. That part may sound a bit more strange, but they are like let’s say natural antibiotics somehow.

SSR: That’s great. I love it. All right. I was just curious. And so you were actually in fashion, right? Before you joined your father.

AB: That’s true. I was working at LVMH which, not that I was particularly interested or passionate about fashion. When I finished it, I started first business administration and then I studied as well a marketing degree. And when I finished I was for one year in London at the Royal Bank of Scotland. And then I came back to Madrid and I started working on LVMH marketing, which yes, it has the glamour of the luxury fashion industry, but it’s not the world that I was particularly interested about it. And one day I would perfectly remember I was going out of work and my father called me and told me, you know, all this thing that is happening to us, I think it’s a sign somehow, I think we should create a project that can encourage and help other people to achieve their best version, to transform their health and wellbeing.

And of course now everyone talks about wellness, but this conversation was 20 years ago when not many people were talking about health and wellbeing and prevention. So on the first moment, I told my dad that we have no experience on health or hospitality. And then he wanted to do it in a beautiful coastal village of Spain named Albir because we have a country house there where we’ve been spending holidays for many years. It is true that it’s a privileged place for its microclimate and the nature and of course the sea view, but it’s not so well known on an international scene and definitely not known for being a luxury or wellness destination. So it was really kind of a crazy idea. Sometimes when you have no knowledge about an industry, you are more brave. If you do have the knowledge, you wouldn’t do it. No, this was definitely the case.

SHA Mexico by Sordo Madaleno and designer Alejandro Escudero

The Oceanfront Royal suite at SHA Mexico with interiors by Alejandro Escudero; photo courtesy of SHA Wellness

SSR:  So how did you all dive into it? I mean, obviously you’d been researching things for your father’s health, for your health, but how did you then take this idea and make it a reality?

AB: Well, first, as I said, we were all super passionate about it. So we started reading, researching, on who were the reference on the different fields, and then we started to look for those experts for each one of the areas that we wanted to incorporate. So the vision from the beginning, it was that opportunity, natural medicine and scientific medicine never made an effort to work together. They’re always disapproving or criticizing each other. One says you’re not focused on the root of the problem and you are only focused on the symptoms and you’re only focusing on intervention and drugs, when the other is saying there is no evidence on what you’re doing…

So we really had an interest on combining them both because we thought they were completely compatible because they’re working on different levels. And we started looking for experts for each one of the areas of the method we wanted to build from preventive, anti-aging, genetics, non-invasive aesthetics, on one side, on the more scientific side, but then Chinese medicine, energetic medicine, natural therapies, rotloxology, osteopathy, and many other therapies on the other side.

And I will always remember the first meeting we had, it was probably one year before opening with the different experts we hired. First they seated organically on different sides of the table, the scientific and the more natural experts. And they started having an argument and I was looking at my father like, oh my God, when is this going to stop? This is not going well at all. And this is just the first encounter. My father was asking me from the other side on the table to don’t say anything and just to be patient, and like 45 minutes later there was a silence on their argument and my father say, you know what? This is a reason why we wanted to create SHA, to be able to find common ground and create a method where our guests can benefit from, with an integrative and global vision of health and wellbeing.

And I would say that has been, on one side, the most challenging part of the business, but also is what make us more unique and the most beneficial for our guests because it’s really a one-stop shop that you as a guest come to shop for one week, for two weeks. And it’s not only that you don’t get contradictory messages, it’s that you find a perfect coordination or you don’t get the same question being asked twice. And that’s super rare to find nowadays. So to be able to see all these experts on different fields with different backgrounds and you see there is a perfect guest journey. It’s tremendously unique and beneficial for our guests.

SSR: And what was the idea behind the name?

AB: We were looking for a short name that it can be easily pronounced on every language. By the way, you Americans are the one that mention it as “S-H-A”. I can see you pretty much into initials. It would be “sha”

And then we wanted a name that has a meaning as well, “sha” in… Not written in the same way, but the pronunciation, “sha” in Japanese means brightness, which is something that we have in our two existing locations and in the one to come. In Hindu, it means when you exhale the old air from the interior when you’re practicing yoga, in order to inspire the pure air when you make, like this, it’s called sha as well.

SSR: Love it. Okay, so you guys go on this huge journey, find everyone. Talk a little bit about the space that you wanted to create too in this beautiful setting. How did the building also represent the overall idea of wellness and improvement?

AB: We didn’t know many wellness properties around the world. I would say my family and I, we started visiting some of the wellness reference once we were already open. But what we have here is, we wanted to create a new concept of wellness. I would say that wellness, at that time, it was something different of what you can find nowadays. It was more about thermal waters, hot springs, pampering, relaxation, facials. Was mainly focused to people who were perhaps on a more calmer stage of their life. And then you were finding many people who have been going to wellness center for years and they haven’t been able to achieve optimal health. People who are overweight and they, oh, they lose few kilos, but they don’t change their lifestyle.

So what we had clear from the beginning is, we wanted to be an inflection point on people’s life. We really wanted to transform people’s health and wellbeing, we wanted to be innovative, cutting edge, not so focused on pampering or relaxation. And we wanted to focus, of course we do welcome everyone, but we wanted to focus on people who were not, I would say a target audience of the wellness industry at that time. They are nowadays, which are people who had and have a very active life, top CEOs men, and women executives, leaders from different industries, athletes, people who are looking to improve their performance, to learn more about themselves, to improve the relation with our bodies, to prevent.

This is on who we wanted to focus as a brand. As we were focusing on people who were not ill, people who were well but wanted to be better and remain well. Also, we didn’t want to feel as a wellness clinic, so we wanted to merge luxury hospitality with this wellness clinic where, yes, you feel in terms of experts and methods, the rigor of a wellness clinic, but outside that you feel in a luxury resort.

We are targeting people who has very limited time and we didn’t want them to choose between going to a leisure luxury holiday or going to have retreat. Our goal was to offer them both on the same time. So we decided the property, the original property in Spain, another one in Mexico, and the one [inaudible 00:17:08] Emirates. We design it on having this in mind, that you feel on a vacation for the size of the street, of the room, for the beautiful terraces, the pool, the beautiful amenities. But when you enter on the wellness clinic space, you feel that you are on a cutting edge health institution.

A public space in SHA Mexico; photo courtesy of SHA Wellness

SSR: So it’s a very holistic approach, which I feel like you all were very ahead of your time.

AB: That’s true.

SSR: And I love, it’s very serene, it’s calming, I mean it’s one with the landscape, the architecture, and then inside it’s very white and very simple, yet feels layered and residential at the same time. Was that something you were trying to achieve?

AB: Yes. I would say that nowadays there are hundreds of wellness properties around the world. The wellness tourist industry has been growing around 16, 17 percent inter-annual, which is much faster than the traditional of the luxury travel industry. But there are probably 10, 12 brands that are leading the industry globally. I would say probably four in Europe, three in America, and three, four in Asia, which those three markets are the three leading markets nowadays in terms of wellness tourism. Each wellness has their tribe, depending on what you’re looking for. I will say what make it unique, or what we wanted from the very beginning to make SHA unique, is to be the most comprehensive. Some of the properties, they’re very strong on one thing. That can be fasting, that can be detox, that can be anti-aging, that can be holistic or natural medicine. What we wanted at SHA is, whatever you’re looking for, you find your path to optimal health and wellbeing.

So probably we are the one with the most extensive offer, which operationally is challenging. We wanted to be always on the cutting edge, leading the industry. So from the beginning we’ve created a scientific committee, we have an innovation director, and we take very seriously to be constantly innovative. We do invest a significant percentage of our income of our researchers on an annual basis on, what are we going to do new now? We never stopped evolving because we understand this is a way to lead an industry and always the very best to our guests.

And then I have to say that probably not many wellness brands have gone in this direction, but we will probably one of the very first one to this medical wellness approach with luxury hospitality. Until that time, I would say that existing wellness properties didn’t feel that they wanted to come to have a luxury hospitality standards because they didn’t feel that was the call on their visit of their current audience. But we thought, why not? If these people are used to whatever, Four Seasons or Peninsula or overall standards, why not to offer something similar when they come to a health retreat? And I would say now you find more properties that have gone in this direction, but probably SHA was one of the very first ones on this direction.

SSR:  And how has your guest changed since you started almost two decades ago?

AB: Well, when we started we had 70 percent women, 30 percent men. Now it’s super balanced. We are around 55 percent women, 45 percent men. The stays have got longer. When we started, it is true that we were penetrating the market and people were not yet fully understanding what was our value proposition. So our average stay when we started it was around four or five days. Now we are around 10 days average length of stay.

Then audience has get younger and younger. Right now, average age of SHA is around 47 years old. Probably SHA is one of the ones around that has been able to attract a younger audience. So to have average age of 47, it means that you have many guests in their thirties that are coming to a wellness clinic.

And then we’ve been attracting a lot of solo travelers. More than 50 percent of our guests at the moment are solo travelers. It wasn’t that much from the beginning. And the percentage of leaders, top executive CEOs, I will say at the beginning was less than 50 percent, now it may be over 75 percent of our clientele are people who are leading an industry, people who have a very active life.

SSR: Yeah, that’s interesting about the solo travelers.

AB: Yes. At the end of the day, this is an investment in yourself. It’s a type of holiday that you feel extremely comfortable being by yourself. And of course if you’re coming with someone that is aligned with your health goals, with your vision, it can be great, but it is definitely a time for yourself, that you can make it count even more when you’re there solo because you take advantage to review your goals, to meditate, to meet other people who has similar interests, similar values.

SSR: Yeah, I guess that makes sense. This is really your journey, right? And so what does wellness mean to you today?

AB: I would say wellness is not understanding health only as the absence of illness, understanding health as optimal wellbeing, prevention, ideal weight, physical and mental agility, a good appearance. It’s enjoying our best version, which allow us to enjoy life. And it’s not a trend, it’s a growing need in today’s world. Basically, in the last century, we have doubled our life expectancy in the world, but unfortunately the last third part of our life, we are suffering a very poor health related with our lifestyle.

While science has evolved so much in today’s world and help us of course to live longer, but on the other side, our nutrition mainly and other elements of our lifestyle from stress, lack of sleep, pollution, are affecting seriously our health. If you think that nowadays over 65% of our diet is processed foods, that we have multiplied by this time the consumption of refined sugar, that we have doubled the consumption of red meat… So all that is having an impact. And I would say that you have nowadays a generation of people who doesn’t want to wait until having a bad ‘you’ to make changes on their lifestyle. Majority of them, they have already seen that around them, on relatives, on friends, and they say, okay, I want to achieve my best version nowadays. I want to perform better and I want to be and feel vital, but also I want to prevent. So that’s, for me, wellbeing nowadays.

A spiral staircase at SHA Mexico; photo courtesy of SHA Wellness

SSR: And now you guys are expanding to Mexico and then also to Abu Dhabi, correct?

AB: That’s correct. SHA is a tremendously difficult challenging concept to replicate. We have received so many proposals during these years to open SHAs in different places around the world. And our goal, and it is a challenging one, is to have one property per continent. So we just opened our second property. It is been few years working to make that happen. So we opening in Costa Mujeres and it’s unprecedented in many ways. First because of the environment we’ve chosen. We’re in the Mexican Caribbean in a beautiful Caribbean beach in front of the second-biggest coral reef in the world north of Cancun. So I would say it’s the first world’s clinic to open in such a paradisiac environment. And it’s an interesting merge.

Second for the architecture, it’s inspired on the human genome, the human DNA. So it’s been a very complex architecture to execute. It has a shape where it’s following these curves of the human DNA like laces. And in terms of interior design, it’s coming to more human scale, all with local and natural materials. And I would say it’s also a very unique concept on the American continent. The wellness properties in America are much more focused on the fitness component, on boot camp, on hiking, but there isn’t, until now, there wasn’t any property so focused on medical wellbeing, with this level of integration of scientific and natural therapies at this scale.

SSR: Yeah. And so how did you pick the location or did the location pick you?

AB: No, we did pick the location. We analyzed many locations. So basically we made a wish list on everything we wanted for the next SHA location. We wanted to be in America, we wanted to be on a geographically strategic position where we can serve both North and South American clientele. We wanted to have a privileged climatology that allows you to enjoy outdoor all year round. We wanted to be surrounded by nature and if possible, by the sea, by the ocean. We wanted to be not more than 30, 40 minutes from a city that can offer us good level of researches. And then we wanted to be, of course close to an international airport with good connectivity. So after going through all this, we chose this location. And I would say also it was important for us, the hospitality, the organic hospitality character that Mexicans have, which was also one key characteristic to choose this location.

SSR: Yeah. And who did you partner with on the architecture and interior design? Was it somebody that you used for the first location or was somebody different?

AB: We did actually an architectural contest with 12 different architects. Half of them were Mexicans, half were international. And the winner, it was a Mexican architect named Sordo Madaleno. It is a very well-known architect firm in Mexico. They’re very specialized on luxury hospitality. And then for the interior design we did the same. And the winner was also a Mexican architect named Alejandro Escudero. He made the Nizuc, which is another beautiful luxury resort close to Cancun.

SSR: Amazing. What was that like to be part of, to see all the work come in and get to review different ideas for this next evolution of SHA?

AB: Well, it’s a beautiful and challenging work. We are the whole family involved and a great team of professionals. And SHA Spain is a super-established property where everything works perfectly and we have a team of professionals and experts who have been there for many years. And of course the goal was to improve already what we’ve created in Spain, to take it to the next level, and that was challenging. And to do it in a country where it was our first construction, now we have many projects in Mexico, but that was our very first construction. It was definitely a continuously learning process. A learning curve.

SSR:And how did you want to, like you said, take it to the next level. Were there things that you wanted to expand on? Were there things you wanted to do differently here that you couldn’t do in Spain or you didn’t know you should do in Spain, and now since the wellness industry has evolved, and there’s so many new techniques and ideas out there, that you could do here in Mexico?

AB: Spain is a property that we’ve been expanding, improving, reinvesting, constantly. So today’s property in Spain has nothing to do to the property we had 15 years ago, 16 years ago. We’ve been lucky that the size of the land and the architecture, it allows us to grow on this direction and to improve from our facilities. So even if SHA Spain is 16 years old, if you come to visit us, which I hope it happens soon, you will find a super updated property.

But of course you have learnings. I would say in terms of operational journey, how to design the property, having a minor operational journey where the heart of the property in terms of the wellness clinic, the main restaurants are accessible for everyone. Then the fact of choosing a beach environment and nature environment, thinking of how to take to the next level, the merge between medical wellbeing, results-driven approach with leisure, luxury holidays. So that definitely has been in mind on something we started from the very beginning but that we wanted to take to the next level.

SSR: Got it, got it. And also next is Emirates, right? That’s the next property in the pipeline?

AB: That’s the next property. It’s a project as well. We’ve been working for a while, since 2018. It’s a very ambitious property because it is a 25-acre island that is on the coastline between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. It’s on a place named the Riviera of the Emirates Al-Jug. And the goal is to create the first healthy living city in the planet because you do have some in Maldives, some let’s say properties that are on an island and are focused on health and wellbeing. But here we do have a strong residential component and it’s going to be the first island totally designed and dedicated to health and wellbeing where you have a resort, a health resort component, a wellness clinic, you have the residential in villas and apartments, and then we’ve created different pavilions like hubs, focused on health and wellbeing, from a wellness kids school to a sports pavilion mind and body pavilion, health nutrition pavilion, to serve all the residents in there. So we are announcing it actually next month in April. And we’re going to start commercializing the residences and we are planning to open the first quarter of 2026.

An indoor pool at SHA Mexico; photo courtesy of SHA Wellness

SSR: Wonderful. And why did you decide to do residences? We see a lot of them happening. So was it just the next right extension of your brand? Was it part of making the development work better? What was the background of the residences?

AB: It’s been, I would say mainly seen the requests on our guests. We have 53 percent of repeat guests, around 38 percent of our guests, they come at least once a year. We do have guests that they come to SHA every three, four months. So these guests, many of these guests started to ask us when we didn’t have residences at all, is there a possibility that I can buy a room? Is there a possibility that I can buy a suite? And we say, no, we cannot sell you a suite or room. So we say, oh my God, we need a solution for this. So in SHA Spain, we were a bit limited, but we were able, back in 2018 when we were already open for more than a decade, we were able to create only 11 residences and we sold them in less than a month without doing any advertising, just by leaving the information on our rooms.

So when we did SHA Mexico, we said, okay, we need to do some more residences. So we did 37 residences and we sold them in a couple of months. Amazing. Super quick just by sending out a couple of communications to our database without any advertising. And now in Emirates we have a bigger residential component. We have 85 villas and 46 apartments.

So as you know, branded residence is booming in many areas around the world. It gives you some advantages from a level of amenities and a level of services that you cannot find on a condominium, to the possibility, the property management system that you know it’s going to be always perfect for you when you use it. The possibility on many places to incorporate it to the pull of allotment and to commercialize through the brand whenever you are not using it. But I would say in the case of SHA, it gives you something much more attractive than that, which is to know that you are going to have at your doorstep top experts on health and wellbeing, top facilities for your health and wellbeing. So I think it’s kind of the best health insurance that you can…

SSR: And they’re in pretty amazing locations too, so that doesn’t hurt. And does that allow the conversation to keep going? I think that’s one thing that people always talk about too with wellness is, how do you go to a property like yours or one of your competitor’s and keep that conversation going if you can’t go back every three or four months? So does the residences allow you to keep in contact to have, I don’t know, not help but, experts at your fingertips so to say?

AB: It’s something that we’ve been working, whether you own a SHA residence or not, I would say it’s one of the main challenges on the wellness industry and it’s something that we’ve been working for years now. So as I say now, we want to be an inflection point in people’s life. So what do you require for that? The first is, you need to transmit that health education. As anything in life, knowledge is what allows you to make the right decision. First is being aware that you are the first responsible of your health, not a doctor, not an expert, but yourself on the decisions that you take on a daily basis. Second is to do have the knowledge so you can make the better decisions for yourself. And doesn’t mean that you’re always going to go for the healthier option in the world. Sometimes you would like to indulge yourself, but when you want to take care of yourself, you will know how to do it.

So we’ve created the Healthy Living Academy at SHA that has different educational activities on a daily basis with the goal of transmitting you this knowledge. Third, we do give you a personalized health plan that you have also available in the app. We’ve developed a shop where you have your health plan, you have all your health metrics after the diagnosis, the preventative health lab sequence that you do every time you come to SHA so you can see your evolution. And now we are taking it to the next level, which is connecting it with health wearable devices where, if you wish, our experts can keep having access to your health data and can keep supporting you. And then do offer you already the possibility of have a consultation with our nutritional experts, with our anti-aging, with our doctors once you leave the property in order to follow up.

But even like this, we continue evolving on this direction because we know this is key to be able to support our best, not only when they are staying with us, but when they are back at home. Also by creating product that can help them, we have a great nutritional supplementation, SHA line. We have 15 different supplements that we can continue sending you home. We have medicinal teas. We’ve launched two cookbooks that are super focused on how to make easy for you to cook healthy at home. So we are, as you can see, constantly working on how we can support our guests to stay on track.

SSR:  And what does that look like for a guest’s journey when they come to you? So do they check in and they do a full physical evaluation, and then much of their stay or their treatments are based on that, or is there more free stuff before they get there?

AB: Yes. Well, once you book at SHA, you download the SHA app, we send you a questionnaire in order to learn more about your lifestyle, about your health goals, about any health data that you wish to share with us. So that we share with our medical team in order to start to prepare your stay. Once you arrive to SHA, the first 24 hours are very focused on diagnostic. So to start, you have the diagnosis circuit. It’s a super advanced preventative health lab where you are moving through one technology to another and in 30 to 40 minutes we are able to give you a superficial diagnosis on your current health from physical stress, mental stress, bone density, cardiopulmonary condition, heart condition, skin condition, heart condition, percentage of fat, percentage of muscle posture, a body scan, then a blood test that it can be implemented if needed with hormonal tests, with genetic tests.

Once we have this information, you have the medical consultation where you’re already seeing on a big screen all the data. So it helps you to focus on where you need to work on the areas of improvement. And then you can see also the evolution during your state because you will repeat many of the tests before ending your experience. So you will see the evolution and that’s why we are so results-oriented. So you have the medical consultation with an expert on internal medicine, an MD, and specialized anti-aging and preventative medicine. You get the nutritional consultation, you get a consultation with a hormone expert, you get a sexual wellbeing consultation, you get a skin diagnosis, dermostatic consultation, and you get a physical evaluation with a personal trainer expert on postural education and sports medicine. So once we have all this information, we personalize, we tailor-make, your diet and your health program and you are able anytime to come back to [inaudible 00:45:42] or to come back to the expert for a follow-up encounter.

And also our team is super proactive. To meet people around, they come to the restaurant, make sure that you are achieving the goals you expected for your stay. So every day it’s pretty active from the Healthy Living Academy activities to health consultations to beauty treatments, therapeutic treatments, super advanced technology from cell regeneration therapy to human [inaudible 00:46:25]. So you have an interesting mix, but imagine the average number of hours that a guest is spending on a one-to-one with a team member at SHA is around seven hours per day. So you are really there to achieve health goals. As I say, it’s a one-stop shop. So you are very focused on everything that you can do to improve your health and wellbeing.

SSR: Sounds amazing. And then you’ve also launched AB Development, right? AB Living, the development firm. And also we can get to AB Hospitality. So AB Living is the development firm founded by your dad. So how does this build on what you and your company want to do?

AB: So basically, as I said at the beginning of the interview, my father has been on the real estate development for over 35 years. And what we’ve done on the last years, following my dad’s vision and with my brother Alfredo, my mom and myself, is to merge our knowledge and vision on luxury hospitality with real estate development. So we do have three divisions in our group. One that is focused on health and wellbeing, one where we focus only on residential development, and one when we do merge luxury hospitality with branded residences.

Here we are developing different projects. We’ve partners with Merit, and we are developing, I would say most of the Merit luxury brands on Mexico. So at the moment we are opening, this July, a luxury collection property in Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, Yucatan Province. We are opening some bridges beginning of 2026 hotel and residence just beside SHA, it’s our sister property. And we are developing, we haven’t started construction yet, but we are developing Ritz Carlton, Tulum, Ritz Carlton, Riviera Nayarit, and we are developing JW Marriott and W Hotel in Costa Mujeres. All of this project have the hotel component and the branded residence component.

The pool at SHA Spain; photo courtesy of SHA Wellness

SSR: That’s great. And so why Marriott? And when you say you’re developing them, are you just an advisor for the wellness component?

AB: We act as an investor. We find the land, we make the investment, and as a developer. So from the [inaudible 00:49:35] design. In the case of the luxury collection property, the creation of the brand and the concept from scratch. And then of course always following the brand guidelines of Marriott, but always try as well to impact it with our values of AV Levy group in terms of excellence, in terms of designer, architectural, in terms of sustainability, in terms of being aware that our more general leisure brands, but introducing some healthy aspects as well on the concept. But we do not get involved, it has no relation with SHA brand. It’s a totally separated brand. We don’t get involved on the wellness management. We act as an investor and developer.

SSR: Love it. That’s great. And how did that partnership come about? 

AB: No, we did consider other groups. We find more synergies with Marriott group. We’ve been working together a year already for a few years and we are planning to continue doing anything.

SSR: Yeah, that’s great. And what has it been like working with your family and what have you learned from your father and from your brother?

AB: We are very lucky because I feel, first, we share a common passion. I would say that it’s not possible to be the number one something unless you’re very passionate about it. Otherwise you will always skimp on your efforts, not being able to compete with someone who has all their energy invested on it. So we do share that common passion. For us, this is much more than a business, it’s like a mission. We do have different roles in the company, so we do penetrate very well with each other. And I’ve learned many things of course from them. I would say that to look always for constant excellence and evolution, to be non-conformist. On the personal side, I would say more to be humble about the efforts, about the discretion, about teaching with example in terms of the care, for the talents, for the guests, for the environment, creating a strong corporate culture. I would say these are probably the main learnings.

SSR: And with all this information out in front of you, what are some of the daily wellness initiatives or things that you do for yourself?

AB: Well, the three basics are nutrition, rest, and exercise. So nutrition, I do follow pretty much what we preach. So I would say our body gets used to what we give to our body, to the bad stuff, but also to the good stuff. Because your alarms work very well and do improve the relation with your body. So I try to eat, me and my family, pretty healthy. On the same time, balanced. No, we’re not fanatic, we’re not strict, but we like to eat pretty healthy. This is what we enjoy. I try to exercise on a daily basis, even when I travel, when I’m jet lagged, it’s a habit and it keeps me energetic and it helps me a lot as well not only physically but mentally. And then of course to rest. When you are in this busy period, busy time of life, it’s not always the easiest one, especially when traveling. But I’m very aware of how important it is to rest. So these are the three basics that I would say anyone can do.

Separate to this well, nutritional supplementation, some hormones. When you are 40 plus, which is where I am at the moment, I think nutritional supplementation and hormonal balance can help you to prevent, avoid, many of the symptoms related with andropause in the case of men or menopause in the case of women or the lack of energy or the drop on your muscle mass. So I would say to do a periodic health checkup and to introduce some supplementation, it’s a great help. And then also therapy, IV therapy to take advantage of some of the technology we have at SHA as the cell regeneration therapy that I told you before. So when I travel to SHA, I always try to sneak some time to do some of the technology we have there. So I would say these are the main points. And then I do try to meditate if I can on a daily basis. It helps you to see the bigger picture in life. Sometimes we’re like the hamster working and working. So that’s also an habit that I try to have present in my life.

SSR: Got it. Is there one thing people may not know or would be surprised to know about you?

AB: Well, perhaps that I’m a friendly, spiritual person. I usually you don’t talk so much with people, especially on a professional scene. So yeah, that would be something.

SSR: And I know you mentioned some of the things you learned by working with your family, but what do you think has been, because we always like to end the podcast with the title of the podcast, what has been your greatest lesson learned along the way?

AB: Well, I would say that there is no great luxury in life than being healthy and vital. If you don’t have this, you won’t be able to enjoy any of the achievements or privilege that life can give you. So I would say that’s probably my biggest learning at this 20 years and what I try to share with others from my daily work.

SSR: Amazing. Thank you so much for taking this time to speak with us today. We’ve always been a big fan of SHA and so excited to see your expansion and can’t wait to actually come try it out someday.

AB: Thank you so much, Stacy, and looking forward to welcome you very soon at SHA Spain or SHA Mexico. Thank you.