Soul Ceremony: Chablé Resort & Spa GM, Rocco Bova Talks Luxury Wellness

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A fixture of the Latin American resort and spa scene, Chablé Yucatán is a mere 25-minute drive from Mérida, capital and largest city of the Yucatán peninsula. It’s not so much a drive as it is a pilgrimage of sorts. Set in 740 acres of the Mayan jungle, Chablé masterfully weaves nature, indigenous therapy, and colonial architecture into a ceremony of the soul.

Winner of Condé Nast Traveler’s 2018 Readers Choice Award for Best Hotel in Eastern Mexico, and Tatler Magazine’s 7 Best Spas in the World, the Chablé complex boasts 36 stand-alone and 4 expansive villas on a restored 19th-century Hacienda. Designed by the likes of Mauricio Gallegos, Lavelle + Peniche, and Jorge Bolio, each villa has its own private pool and terrace, floor-to-ceiling panoramic views, multiple ensuite bathrooms, and a freestanding natural stone bathtub.

Casita poolside hammock. Photo: Chablé Resort & Spa

The spiritual heart of Chablé, however, is a Cenote. Known for their sacredness in Mayan culture, cenotes are fresh-water wells that also serve as focal points of personal healing and restoration. That’s where the brand’s personalized spa journeys come in. The Chablé Spa offers everything from Mayan welcoming plunge pool and eucalyptus aromatherapies to herb-infused salt scrubs, flotation rituals, jacuzzis, and a beauty salon.

Traditional Mayan Cenote. Photo: Chablé Resort & Spa

But if limestone walls and warms woods can’t center you, try washing down locally sourced chocolate with pure, 100% agave Tequila at Ixi’im, Chablé’s flagship restaurant. Our pic: Deer Tartare with “Recado rojo” vinaigrette, sour orange, chili habanero, and pumpkin seed. Or go for the scallop with local citrus, smoked avocado, and dehydrated chia. But make sure you finish with the homemade yogurt jelly, basil, ginger, and coconut ice cream. Either way, what Chef Jorge Vallejo has given the world of gastronomy, is about as good as food for the soul as you can get.

Ixi’im. Chablé Yucatán’s Flagship Restaurant. Photo: Chablé Resort & Spa

In an exclusive, Rocco Bova, a twenty-year hospitality management veteran and GM of Chablé Resort & Spa, talks about wellness. The Italian native has managed elite properties everywhere from the Amanera Resort in the Dominican Republic to Oman’s famed Al Bustan. Bova’s mastery of hotel branding is an enormous part of Chablé’s success. And after months of lockdown, Bova gives us his take on the value of curated experiences.

DRW Communications (DRW): How did your collaboration with Chablé come about?

Rocco Bova (RB): It was purely by coincidence. I was in the Dominican Republic when my contract ended. So, when I began looking for a fresh opportunity, I had heard about a new wellness resort in Mexico looking for a new GM. I had neither been to Mexico nor did I speak Spanish.

Even though it was not a known brand, I had a wonderful feeling about it. The resort was also not in a prime location. Then, when I saw in person how spectacular the resort was, I fell totally in love with the place. The rest is history.

Rocco Bova, Chablé Resort & Spa GM. Photo: Chablé Resort & Spa

DRW: What, for you, are the key drivers of Chablé’s success?

RB: Three things. First, it’s the uniqueness of the redefining wellness concept. Second, the owners are exceptionally determined. They have a long-term vision and are totally customer and staff oriented. Last, the team. We employ over 250 staff—most of whom are from nearby villages. Their attitude and service have gained us the respect and reputation we now have.

DRW: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected luxury hospitality in the region?

RB: Like most of the planet, Mexico did not escape the pandemic. We are one month behind everyone else, so I guess we need to wait 3-4 weeks more before seeing borders and travel opening again. We are lucky to have over 50% of national guests. So, I am very confident we will be back on our feet soon.

Master shower with a jungle view. Photo: Chablé Resort & Spa

DRW: How does Chablé approach the concept of wellness?

RB: We base our wellness program on ancestral remedies, therapies, and rituals of the Mayan people. The Maya civilization was one of the most advanced and among the first civilizations to study the cosmos, astrology, herbal remedies, and have the highest respect for nature as its first source of life.

These are the guiding principles of our program; we have a spiritual leader with significant knowledge and expertise in Mayan culture who helps us translate and transmit these principles to our guests. And if it sounds profound… it is. Once you get into it, it’s actually very basic and comes naturally to everyone involved.

Traditional Mayan wellness ritual. Photo: Chablé Resort & Spa

DRW: You mentioned “redefining wellness” earlier. What does that mean for Chablé?

RB: We are not reinventing the SPA experience; we have just expanded it to include more of the spiritual part. While we have wonderful, more traditional SPA areas with cabins overlooking a natural sinkhole, beautifully appointed, a wet area, a gym with the best equipment, we also provide lots of open-air activities to embrace nature and to allow nature to embrace us. For example, we do all our meditation and yoga classes on a wooden platform next to the cenote (sinkhole). We perform all our spiritual ceremonies and rituals in the jungle so guests can allow nature to permeate within them.

DRW: Chablé does a lot with natural materials and traditional Mayan architecture. Is that also part of how the brand looks at wellness?

RB: Totally. As I previously explained, we believe that Mayan culture holds some of the best secrets in their traditions and rituals. Hence, use in all our SPA programs, menus, and therapies.

Villa bedroom. Photo: Chablé Resort & Spa

Chablé designs its villas around jungle vegetation in nature. Why? The owners and architects had this vision to build around nature. In fact, they left all older trees while moving as many of the younger ones as possible, which allowed them to build the structures without disturbing nature. It mesmerizes guests when they enter their room because of what they see first… is nature. It’s as if they are wrapped by the jungle while staying in a luxury villa.

DRW: How does Chablé connect with its guests, and where have you been most successful?

RB: Our growth has been very organic. I guess that the word-of-mouth reputation is still the best. Also, by being selected and now belonging to the best networks in the business, including Fine Hotels & Resorts, Leading Hotels of the World, Travelers Made and Virtuoso, we been able to build a strong reputation with the industry, especially among travel agents and tour operators.

Villa sitting area. Photo: Chablé Resort & Spa

So, welcome to the home of Mayan mysticism, the hotbed of ultra-luxe Mexican hospitality. From unrivaled jungle views to personalized spa treatments and the world’s most exclusive Tequila collection: inhale, exhale, and explore wellness on a whole new level.

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