Harvest Kaplankaya, a twice-yearly festival in a community of hotels and villas on the Aegean coast, is a bold proposition. Modeled as a cross between Burning Man and the World Economic Forum, the event interweaves talks and discussions with healing sessions, music, dancing and lively candlelit dinners for over 200 guests. Since its launch in 2018, guest speakers have included ethnobotanist Wade Davis, Hungarian-Canadian physician and trauma specialist Gabor Maté, and socialite-turned-vegan-activist Camilla Fayed. Tickets, with accommodation, start from €3,918 and guests come from all over the world. This October’s event was its sixth and, like previous incarnations, sold out.
According to the co-founders of Harvest, Burak Öymen and Roman Carel, the mission of the festival is to attract a new crowd of travelers, for whom shared experience, great ideas, conscious living and personal growth are fundamental. Call them progressive or proactive nomads (or promads), a new level of traveler for whom intellectual growth and community should be as much a part of the experience as a Michelin-starred chef and an award-winning spa.
“We’re moving from an experience economy to a transformation economy,” says Chris Sanderson, co-founder of strategic foresight consultancy The Future Laboratory. “This is not a holiday where you fall to pieces and relax, eat and drink. It’s not an isolated experience, it’s being part of a temporary community.”
Perhaps the first to set up shop so close to these values was Habitas, which has locations (or is opening imminently) in Mexico, Costa Rica, Bhutan, Namibia, Morocco, Ibiza and, surprisingly, Saudi Arabia. Their website opens with the words “Welcome Home,” the traditional Burning Man greeting. The vacation focuses on group events, ranging from wild (sometimes) sober beach parties to November’s six-day women’s retreat in Mexico, which will explore feminine archetypes (starting at $2,905) and involve sound healing, meditation and ” incarnational activations.”
Habitas aims to create escapes that foster community. Guests are “defined by mindset and shared values,” says CEO Oliver Ripley. If an unsatisfactory foam texture in your cappuccino is a pain point, “Habitas is not for you. We don’t put chocolates on your pillow. We attract you through the people you’re going to meet and the experiences you’re going to have.” But, says Habitas it’s inclusive. “The problem I have with hospitality, like an Aman or Six Senses, is that you’re surrounded by people who can pay thousands a night,” he argues. “I don’t want to be in some kind of bubble defined by socioeconomic norms.” The rooms Habitas start in the low hundreds.
But even high-end groups are moving toward the shared experience. “When you bring together a tribe that wasn’t a tribe before, magic happens,” says Anna Bjurstam, whose official title at Six Senses is “wellness pioneer.” Their task, with 28 spas worldwide and 35 more on the way, is innovation. As such, she says, “We’re intentionally moving towards [creating events that build] community”. Next month, along with Six Senses Ibiza culture director Talana Bestall, Bjurstam will launch the group’s first festival, Alma: three days and nights of “thought leaders” in the fields of wellness and fitness, parties, dinners and of course spirituality. Says Bestall: “Today, a hotel stay, however lovely, is not enough. People want experiences. It’s the future with millennials and Z.” The event costs from €1,725.
One of the main factors in the growth of these experiences was the increased sense of loneliness. “Loneliness in the affluent community is high,” says Bjurstam. “When we look at the population we serve, 27 percent have no close friends with whom they can be vulnerable and 22 percent have none.” “Loneliness is the most constant and long-standing pandemic of our generation,” agrees Oliver Ripley of Habitas. “The cure is to create community and connection.”
where to go
Ibiza, November 3-6, sixsenses.com, from €1,725 per person (€2,805 double)
Tulum and Bacalar, Mexico, November 13-19, ourhabitas.com, from $2,905 per person
Muğla, Turkey, 10-14 May 2023, harvestkaplankaya.com, from €3,918 per person
“The big brands know that in the future people will come to them for the community,” says Ben Pundole, hospitality consultant to brands such as Six Senses and founder of travel platform A Hotel Life. “But will they have the necessary sensitivity and emotion to make it feel authentic?”
At Slow, shared ideas define the evolution of the hospitality group: its developments primarily serve designers, farmers, writers, artists, artisans or like-minded architects, and guests’ stays at the hotels are integrated into this carefully selected community. Its first opening was a regenerative agricultural project, La Granja, in Ibiza, “dedicated to the discourse on agriculture and food”. Upcoming releases will include “a creative farm and village to live and host” on the Portuguese coast of Arrábida, and a “creative campus” with guest rooms, artist studios, exhibition and performance space on the banks of the River Spree in Berlin. The Flussbad will house “ideas that aim to build a kinder and more collaborative world”.
More and more people are looking for places like these, says Sabine Heller, CCO of Sollis Health, an American medical start-up, who has made a career running businesses that sit at the intersection of community and luxury commerce. Recently, she hosted an event at Etéreo, a hotel on the Yucatán Peninsula, with 25 women between 30 and 60 years old. Discussions included the reversal of Roe v Wade, a talk on stress and gut health, and a sound bath. There was also yoga, snorkeling and a shamanic blessing. “There were moments of anger, vulnerability, and connection mixed with much-needed respite and restoration in a stunning location,” says Heller. Reflecting on his success, he says: “After the pandemic, people went back to looking for answers and not canapés.”
All of this may sound overly serious, but, says Pundole, the transformative new approach to travel “doesn’t have to be holier-than-thou. Doing good and having fun are not mutually exclusive.” Habitas is best known for its fantastic parties. Even there are morning gatherings to dance in the arena.In a polarized world of uncertainty, gathering is, it seems, the ultimate luxury.