What Happened To Miraval at Natirar in New Jersey?

••• Miraval plans to bring treatments like its Shamana Karma massage as it expands to new locations. Miraval Group

In August of 2013, it was announced that a major new destination spa, Miraval at Natirar, would open on a 90-acre historic estate in New Jersey in 2015, less than an hour from New York City.  The idea was to bring the Miraval Resort & Spa experience in Tucson famous to the East Coast.  It all sounded like a done deal.  But Miraval at Natirar never appeared, and never will.

So what happened?  As they say in Hollywood,"they went in a different direction."  A year later, in June of 2014, Steve Case of Revolution Places entered into an agreement to jointly own Miraval with KSL Capital Partners, a private equity firm specializing in travel and leisure investments with strong growth potential.

 

In December of 2016, Miraval Group purchased Travaasa Austin, announcing plans to redevelop it as a Miraval while retaining its Texas flavor.  Then it turned around a month later and sold Travaasa Austin as part of a $215 million sale of its Miraval Resort & Spa in Tucson and the Miraval, Life in Balance brand to Hyatt Hotels Corporation.  

Hyatt also announced it will invest an additional $160 million over the next few years to redevelop both Miraval and Travaasa Austin and to acquire and redevelop the Cranwell Spa & Golf Resort in Lenox, Massachusetts, which takes care of the location in the Northeast. 

“We know that wellness is an area that is becoming increasingly important to our guests and we share Miraval’s belief that wellness is more than fitness and nutrition – it’s a lifestyle," said Mark Hoplamazian, president and chief executive officer of Hyatt Hotels Corporation. Adding Miraval to the Hyatt family creates a great opportunity to advance the Miraval brand expansion while building a greater depth of expertise in wellness and mindfulness.”

Hyatt has been developing holistic health and wellness strategies in recent years.  Since 2014, Hyatt chefs around the globe have been championing "Food. Thoughtfully Sourced, Carefully Served", a program featuring menus evolved with an eye on sustainable health. This includes options such as grass-fed meats, sustainable seafood and organic fruits and vegetables.

The plan for Miraval at Natirar was to offer an intimate luxury hotel experience, including twelve suites in the historic 1912 mansion and a new 56-room wing that evokes the mansion's Tudor-style architecture. The king of Morocco owned the property for 20 years but he ignored it until selling it to Somerset County in 2003. The house needed major work, so Miraval at Natural was going to take it down to the studs for a total renovation.  It would have its own 12-acre working farm (which currently supplies Ninety Acres, a highly successful farm-to-table restaurant in the property's historic carriage house on site.)  And it would feature the innovative services and programming for which Miraval at Tucson is known, such as Spirit Flight and the Equine Experience.

KSL offered Miraval a way to quickly expand the brand without the expense of building, starting and marketing new properties.  It kicked off its new strategy expansion program with the opening of the Miraval Life in Balance Spa at the five-star Monarch Beach Resort, a KSL Resort in Dana Point, California.  Miraval's signature spa services, such as NÂGA and Shamana-Karma treatments; Ayurvedic, energy and body renewal rituals.  The hope is that a visit to Monarch Beach will inspire guests to visit Tucson for the complete Miraval experience., experiences and classes into up-and-running five-star resort spas.

 The expansion will also include full-service Miraval resorts in key destination markets. 

There is still a risk: that by taking the Miraval name into new markets without fully delivering the experience, the confuse consumers and diminish the brand.  Deborah Szekely, founder of Rancho La Puerta and Golden Door, regretted selling Golden Door to a company that slapped the name on a bunch of unrelated resorts.   Destination spas are very special places and tend to be labors of love, not the best place to get quick return.  Golden Door is now back in private hands (though not Deborah's).  It's owned by a long-time guest (and billionaire) who loves it for what it is and wants to only improve the experience.