Aaron Le Boutillier is not a hotelier by trade but rather a security professional, traveling regionally delivering training for some of the world’s largest multi nationals. When he isn’t on the road, he can be found at Tree Roots Retreat- mindfulness in action retreat, where the experiences on offer are built around mindfulness, movement and meditation.
Tree Roots Retreat has reached remarkable success through its social-driven strategies and unique selling points making it ranked No 1 retreat in Rayong with booking.com. Hotelintel.co recently caught up with Aaron to learn more about this unique retreat.
How did the concept of Tree Roots come about? What inspired you to build a resort?
My passion for design and creating a space of tranquility has been with me since my teenage years when I was working in an Architect’s office. Since living in Asia and having access to the most incredible variety of plants, artwork, furniture and architectural items, the idea was further cemented.
I had bought a small plot of land in Rayong to satisfy my other dream of having a small traditional Thai teak house near the beach. With this small house, I had the chance to build my dream location using all the furnishings I had collected after a million visits to Jatujak and my first attempt of design was completed. The reaction and feedback from friends and family was so overwhelming that the seed was planted to do something on a commercial scale. From this, the initial idea started of building a retreat.
Once I has secured around 3 rai of land I started to notice that several other plots had gnarly lumps of up turned tree roots that had been dug up and burnt and were left on the land for disposal. Their shapes with twisted wooden roots was appealing to me and I started buying them off the builders who were developing the land. I sand blasted them and cleaned them up and once I had a small collection I then clearly saw the basic design scheme for the project, hence the name, Tree Roots Retreat.
Who is your target market? What market are your clientele mainly from at the moment? Is it just for those who are into Self-Defense? Fitness fanatics?
The concept of mixing tranquility, design, books with martial arts and fitness was a gamble from the start and we were always aware that we would need to closely monitor the demographic of clients and adjust accordingly. As a result, we have found ourselves attracting people who are not into self-defense or fitness at all. We are primarily a retreat that offers experiences in Mindfulness, Movement and meditation (m³) and the activities on offer are soft and reserved and pitched at a level where the emphasis in on rediscovering your younger self than anything hard and physical. Our demographic is normally people over 40 looking to improve not only some physical fitness but to reawaken their connections to nature and themselves. Self-defense plays a very small part in all of this. We are not a mixed martial arts camp with people hitting punch bags, we are a retreat offering a more traditional approach to mindfulness through the art of movement.
How do you handle safety and medical issues given that your activities are quite physically intensive?
Most activities are far from intense. We do offer some hill runs, surfing and introductions to Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and boxing, but these are very relaxed classes and in all the years I have been involved in teaching, have never had a medical issue. That said, we have invested in oxygen tanks, medical kits throughout the retreat and all staff teaching have current medic first aid certification. Regardless of the activities we offer, all of the mentioned would be standard. First Aid and equipment should be a top priority for everyone in the hospitality industry.
Aside from the activities that you offer, does Tree Roots have any other Unique Selling Points?
Yes, we constantly address our USP’s and our business model is based on that. One of our main attractions is our private library which boasts 50,000 plus books, many of them being antique collectibles. We have one room dedicated to the library where people can simply sit and relax and enjoy our sliding ladder to view books over 300 years old. Each room is also full of books and this interplay between tranquil gardens, books and exercise (if required) is our USP. Around 60% of our guests do no exercise at all, they opt for the library and lounge around the swimming pool option.
How do you see the future of 'Themed Resorts' like yours?
People are constantly looking for new experiences whilst traveling and a new generation of traveler is maybe looking for a retreat somewhere between an Air B and B experience and boutique hotel experience whilst doing activities that are new and creative. We believe we are filling that gap and although we are not particularly themed we do offer an experience in hospitality which is being well received by our guests.