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Travel and tourism are becoming faster than reality itself

Interview with Olivia Newton-John, Co-Owner, and Gregg Cave, Director and General Manager of Gaia Retreat and Spa

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European Business: Ms Newton-John, Mr Cave, if we look back in history Gaia is the name of a Greek goddess personifying earth. How much of this mythological/magical background can be found at your resort today?

Olivia Newton-John | Gregg Cave: Gaia… meaning spirit of mother earth… indeed has the true essence of mythological/magic found here at the very core of our beautiful piece of paradise. It simply comes in the spiritual lay of the land. Gaia Retreat & Spa is nestled amongst green valleys and undulating hills of the breath taking Aboriginal Bundjalung Country hinterland of Byron Bay, the region often referred to as the healing heartland of Australia.

Together we stumbled on this rundown old property back in 2003, which then was called the Sanctuary (Health Farm). While visiting the property we felt an overwhelming sense of spirit in the land. So much so, it intrigued and captivated us, we went back for a second visit the following day. That night we both dreamt that we bought the property; Olivia dreamt we called it Gaia Resort and I dreamt we called it Bella Vista Retreat, guess who won!! Hehe!!!

European Business: “Earth” is a kind of leitmotiv of the resort. Why did you choose earth out of the four natural elements and not water for example?

Olivia Newton-John | Gregg Cave: Like we said, it is the sacred beauty of this land and the spirit of Mother Earth that truly shines in full glory here. Gaia is perfectly poised on the highest point of the shire, an ancient Aboriginal land with majestic vistas over rolling hills and emerald valleys. It just had to be about Earth as the natural element. Gregg was living on the property, designing and creating our ideas into fruition, when he called me one day and said we have to most definitely call it Gaia. We both knew there was this unique sensory feeling here that is incredible. You feel the spirit magic when you walk the land, it resonates deep, still to this day.

European Business: Mr Cave, it is one thing to set up a remarkable Retreat & Spa, but another to keep it running as a business. What are the greatest challenges you face in this regard as General Manager?

Gregg Cave: As we become more popular, I feel greater pressure to keep lifting the bar higher, I guess. I would have to say, living up to some guests’ pre-perceived expectations can be tough. In today’s world of global connectiveness via the Internet and fast pace Social Media people have greater access to information, however some act so quick that they don’t really take time to research or experience. There are guests we host at times, who imagined we are one of the large resort hotels because Olivia is a co-owner, hence they think we should have more than one restaurant, larger gym or conference facilities, et cetera… but we are a small boutique retreat with only 24 rooms, suites and villas. As we have grown, word of mouth has become our greatest ally. Experience the difference and our core motto: it’s about heart… it’s about nurturing… it’s about you… All we ask of our team is to come to work with heart and deliver their best as we believe personalised service redefines elegant luxury.

European Business: Ms Newton-John, you know the music and film business extremely well. How did that experience help you to be successful in the hospitality sector too?

Olivia Newton-John: I have a blessed life because of my music and have the pleasure to be surrounded by so many wonderful caring and supportive people. I wanted to give back with grace and gratitude to create a haven for all to enjoy, that is all about health and wellbeing, a place of heart. The ethos of Gaia Retreat & Spa is very much aligned with ONJCWC Hospital in Melbourne (Olivia Newton-John Cancer & Wellness Centre), which I am strongly involved with.

Gaia has attracted some of the very best therapists and healers in Australia who always strive to create a magical and authentic Australian boutique Retreat & Spa experience. It is without question one of my all-time favourite places to spend my down time. I always leave feeling incredibly energised. It was pure fate that led me being involved in the hospitality industry and what an amazing 14 years it has been.

European Business: One final question: The concepts of travelling and tourism are changing rapidly, everything seems to speed up. Are we in danger to turn travel from an experience into mere convenience?

Olivia Newton-John | Gregg Cave: We could not agree with you more. Travel and tourism are becoming faster than reality itself. That is why our aim at Gaia Retreat is to keep it real, personalise and tranquil with good old-fashioned service from the heart. Slow down, surrender, turn off your phone, put your feet up and take some healing time for you – time out without guilt!