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Therme creating ‘natural-healing urban oasis’ in South Korea, eyes further locations in Asia and US

In the latest issue of Spa Business, top execs from Therme Group share exclusive insights into its global expansion plans, strategy, target markets, business model and more
Therme is expanding globally to make wellness accessible, with new locations in the US, Canada, the UK and South Korea
In partnership with Wund Holding, Therme operates four European facilities and plans to build at least six more globally, including a US$200 million project in Incheon, South Korea
Therme is exploring opportunities in major US cities, leveraging the decline in commercial real estate to establish wellness centers in metropolitan areas
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We’re exploring numerous opportunities within South Korea and in other regions – the strong history of bathing culture across Asia makes many markets appealing
Credit: Therme Group

Global wellbeing organisation Therme Group is on a mission to make wellness accessible to all and is expanding globally, bringing its social spas to the US, Canada, the UK and now South Korea.

Its existing locations are a new kind of spa – part thermal bathing, part indoor water park, part botanical garden – that’s described as a “state-of-the-art wellbeing oasis”.

In partnership with Germany’s Wund Holding, Therme currently operates four facilities in Europe in Germany and Romania, and intends to build at least six more globally.

In the latest issue of Spa Business, head of development at Therme Korea, Kim Insook, shares exclusive insights about the upcoming Korean project, which will mark Therme’s debut in Asia.

Therme South Korea, based in the South Korean city of Incheon, is expected to cost more than US$200 million (€184.8 million, £156.4 million) to create and “marks the beginning of Therme’s extensive plans” for the region, said Insook.

“We’re exploring numerous opportunities both within South Korea and in other regions. The strong history of bathing culture across Asia makes many markets appealing."

The project will be strategically located near Incheon’s Golden Harbor – known as the gateway to the country’s capital city of Seoul – boasting excellent connectivity.

The site is adjacent to an international ferry terminal, only 15 minutes from Incheon International Airport, and just an hour from Seoul city centre via public transport.

Insook said: “South Korea has a rich and varied history in the wellbeing space. It’s renowned for its health-giving food and bathing traditions dating back to the 15th century, which have evolved from medicinal origins to contemporary bath houses known as jjimjilbangs. We intend to reflect this local culture in our design, programming and restaurants

“It’s incredibly exciting to be introducing a natural-healing urban oasis to Korea, the likes of which has never been seen here before.

“On a personal note, I have a special interest in orchid gardens and am thrilled to showcase the best of Asian flowers to the world. We shouldn’t underestimate the wellbeing impact of immersing ourselves in nature.”

Why South Korea?

“Our research partnership with the Global Wellness Institute shows the wellness economy in South Korea is worth US$113 billion (€104.4 billion, £88.4 billion), making it the ninth-largest wellness market in the world," said Insook.

In an interview with Spa Business, Insook was joined by three colleagues: Robert Hanea, founder, chair and CEO of Therme Group; Patricia Popescu, head of architecture at Therme ARC; and Robert Hammond, president and chief strategy officer of Therme Group US.

Hammond shed light on the group's expansion plans in the US, saying Therme is eyeing up locations in east and west coast cities. The group is actively searching for locations in Washington DC and considering Atlanta, Los Angeles and Dallas.

“Commercial real estate has been hit by the decline of office workers, so there may be opportunities in San Francisco and New York now as well,” he said.

“Our product will work great in any metropolitan area. The greatest demand will be in the middle of cities and that’s also what differentiates us. There’s a desire for developers to bring people back downtown, so there’s a lot of spin-off if we can bring 1-2 million people to a site.

“From a civic point of view, this is also what cities need more of – there’s a wellbeing desert for accessible, central options.”

To check out more insights about Therme’s strategic business model, target markets, in-house architectural branch and more – head to the latest issue of Spa Business.

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