It might sound like a retreat for the elite, but a senior executive at the company behind plans to build a £100 million wellbeing resort has insisted the facility in the centre of Glasgow will offer “something for everyone”.

Unveiled in November as the latest in a number of European resorts based on the “grand thermal bathing traditions”, operator Therme Group said the development at the intersection of the Kelvin and Clyde rivers will include a next-generation indoor water park, thermal pools and spa, and a health and wellbeing centre covering approximately 320,000sq ft. Fresh produce will be grown on site on a vertical farm from Edinburgh-based Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS).

The project is something of a homecoming for Anne-Marie Garner, vice-president of corporate strategy at Austrian-headquartered Therme. Originally from the Scottish Borders, Ms Garner trained for two years with Pinsent Masons before moving to London in 2000 to pursue her legal career.

Now based outside Cambridge, she began working with Therme about three years ago as a general counsel before moving into a strategic role with the group, which currently has four operational sites in Germany and a fifth in Romania. The Glasgow spa is part of a global expansion push by Therme, which has projects in Europe, the UK, North America and Asia in various stages of development.

She says she was drawn to Therme by its inclusive approach to improving the lives of local people, and downplays the notion that the Glasgow spa will be only for those with a certain level of financial means and social standing.

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“We have heard that from people who have not been to the Therme, but as soon as you have been to one, we find that people alter their view on that,” she said. “Until you have been, it is really hard to describe just how accessible it is, quite how much it takes you off the grid and it gives you that opportunity to recharge.”

The group has been operating spas for about 20 years under founder and chief executive Robert Hanea, and since 2014 has turned its focus towards adjusting its offering to addressing the challenges of health and wellbeing in the modern urbanised world.

“We looked at a lot of sites in Scotland, and there are a lot of good places you could go,” Ms Garner said. “We need a high density of population, that’s really important because this isn’t a place for the elite few to come through, this is a place that serves the community it’s in.

“We want to make sure we are in a place where there is a need for wellbeing and a need for community wellbeing, and talking to different areas of the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland we knew Glasgow was one of those places.”

Therme has leased the 20-acre site next to the Riverside Museum from Peel L&P, the regeneration arm of Clydeport owner Peel Group. It is currently carrying out consultations on its proposals and expects to submit a planning application in about a year’s time, with an approximately 20-month construction programme to begin towards the end of 2023.

READ MORE: Glasgow site named for 'landmark' £100m wellbeing spa

Ms Garner said those consultations include discussions with the Scottish Government and the University of Glasgow on setting up a “global centre of excellence” for wellbeing that will operate alongside the resort.

“That is quite a unique proposition,” she said. “Although we have R&D centres around the world, this global centre of excellence, or home for wellbeing if you like, is something that is unique to Therme Scotland.”

She added: “We do have R&D capability all over the group, but we want to bring that together and really focus it around Scotland and around Glasgow.”

Glasgow will be the group’s second wellbeing destination in the UK after Therme Manchester, which is due to open in Peel L&P’s TraffordCity in 2023. The spa group has said it will work with local stakeholders in Scotland to create schemes for people with health challenges from all backgrounds to access Therme Glasgow at reduced rates.

The initial announcement was made during the COP26 conference in Glasgow, where Therme also confirmed it had signed a deal with Scottish vertical farming specialist IGS to develop sustainable food systems at its destinations around the world. This will allow the resort operator to offer locally-grown produce to its millions of guests.

READ MORE: Scottish vertical farming firm signs world-wide resort agreement

Ms Garner said IGS is a “natural fit” for Therme as its vertical farming techniques integrate instinctively into the group’s sustainable approach to wellbeing. Guests will be able to see where their food is grown and even pick it themselves, adding an educational element.

The Glasgow facility will strive to offer “something for everyone” by targeting different age groups in a bid to connect with those who might not be naturally drawn to the archaic practices of spa treatments.

“It is not new to the UK,” Ms Garner said. “It’s something which is a died art in the UK and we’re bringing it back. Certainly within this generation it’s not recognisable, but I think once people have seen it and they come, they will understand that it is there for everybody.”

Q&A

What countries have you most enjoyed travelling to, for business or leisure, and why?

I love working in Japan. I first travelled there about 20 years ago and the infusion of culture, food and understanding of nature coupled with the efficiency and perfectionism gives an overall sense of both calm and adventure at the same time. But of course, I most enjoy coming back to Scotland for both business and leisure, no matter how many years since I’ve lived there there’s always a sense of coming home.

When you were a child, what was your ideal job? Why did it appeal?

My father and I decided I should be a lawyer when I was 12 and I never looked back. He was the original scientist behind the Dolly the Sheep project and died shortly after in 1987. Being a lawyer I wanted to be able to study hard and work with people to use my knowledge to help solve their problems.

What was your biggest break in business?

The biggest change for me was working with the London Business School and the amazing Vyla Rollins about five years ago where I reached a better understanding of the importance of curiosity and focus on people, and also on the things that are important to you as an individual both in work and at home. I then went in search of an organisation that brought these core values together, and Therme ticks all of these boxes for me.

What was your worst moment in business?

Every time I am reminded of the temptation of people is a bad moment for me. When they are unkind, steal each others’ work or pursue or destroy things based on vanity. Life is too short. Be brave but be kind.

Who do you most admire and why?

It’s hard to choose with so many great people in the world to look up to but I think I would pick my mother. She is a great story of strength and happiness through adversity – always believing in the future, in those around her and in helping others. When she retired as a community dentist she turned her farm into a rewilding project and that was about 25 years ago.

What book are you reading and what music are you listening to?

My 12-year-old son is practising his bagpipes for Burns Night on Saturday so there’s a lot of playing and singing to Flower of Scotland in our house at the moment.

We’re reading the Ashes of London by Andrew Taylor as a family. There really is no age where you should stop reading together and we love a dramatization of a historical event.

For me, I’m reading Palaces for the People by Eric Klinenberg – another really good example of the strength of curiosity and community. My favourite book has to be the Book of Joy – you can take it with you anywhere and even just the front cover makes you smile!