Incredible Wellness Destinations: Robert Hammond Of Therme US On The Secrets To Creating The Perfect Wellness Destination

Incredible Wellness Destinations: Robert Hammond Of Therme US On The Secrets To Creating The Perfect Wellness Destination

Start keeping a collection of stories and pictures of places that excite you — whether that’s ripping a page out of a magazine, putting a bookmark of a website when you come across something interesting, or even a screenshot of an image that will inspire you when you start planning a trip.

The pandemic has shaped the way we travel and live, with a growing trend leaning towards health, wellness, and a holistic lifestyle. More than ever, individuals are seeking not just getaways, but immersive wellness retreats that help rejuvenate the body, mind, and soul. Destinations that provide a serene environment, unique wellness offerings, and an unparalleled experience are in great demand. In this interview series, we are talking to property owners and hospitality companies who are at the helm of these wellness havens. As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Robert Hammond.

A leader of Therme’s North American expansion is Robert Hammond, President and Chief Strategy Officer of Therme US — one of the country’s pioneers in the concept of urban wellbeing as the Co-Founder and Executive Director of the High Line, Robbie led the transformation of an abandoned elevated railway line in Manhattan into an iconic urban park. He now continues his mission of bringing holistic urban wellness to cities across the US with Therme.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

Igrew up in Texas, in what I would call quite an unusual household, raised by two creatives as my parents. My mother was very artistic and taught me to appreciate the beauty in things that other people missed. For example, she would take me to the back of paper and stationary stores where we would collect all of the paper scraps that had been discarded on the floor. And we’d take those pieces of what some would call trash, and create our own books and pages from seemingly nothing.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

When I graduated from college at Princeton University, I wanted to go straight into the business world — my first job was at Ernest and Young — but from there I quickly pivoted into the world of internet startups, during what was called the Dot Com Era of the 1990s.

Then in 1999 when I was 29 years old, I co-founded the High Line in New York City with Joshua David. The High Line, for those who don’t know, was an abandoned, elevated train track on the West Side of Manhattan which we transformed into a beautiful, natural, unexpected oasis. You can walk through gardens, view art, experience a performance, savor delicious food, or connect with friends and neighbors — all while enjoying a unique perspective of New York City.

For a long time, the High Line project reminded me of my mother, because she was always the one to pursue these sort of unusual, artistic projects. And then as I got further into the project it became clear that the High Line was also a reflection of my father’s passions for preservation, parks, and architecture. And I realized that I had built a career around those passions that we now shared — passions that have a direct connection and would eventually lead me to my current role at Therme.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

There are thousands of people, especially involved in the High Line, that helped us accomplish the project and enabled our success. One of them was a man named John Alschuler who I hired early on in the project to perform an economic feasibility study to show that the High Line made economic sense for the Mayor’s administration at the time to support.

Eventually, I convinced John to join us on the board of the High Line, and he signed on as Board Chair during the opening of the very first section of the project. From there, he became a mentor of mine, so when he sold his advisory business and started a brand new career at the age of 74 centered around thermal bathing as wellbeing infrastructure, that was how I first heard about Therme and decided to join him.

I think it’s really special that I’ve only had two main career paths in my life, and John Alschuler has influenced both of them.

It has been said that sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or takeaway did you learn from that?

When I graduated from college in 1993, it was the middle of a recession, I was looking for a role in consulting and investment banking, and I couldn’t get a job anywhere that I was applying. So I started to collect my rejection letters — this is before they were rejection emails — piles and piles of rejection letters from hundreds of applications. I actually still have the stacks sitting in front of me right here at my desk.

I wasn’t keeping them to prove that one day, despite all this rejection, I would be successful — but they became more of a reminder that these places were not where I belonged. I was consistently making it through to final rounds of interviews but then not getting the job, because I think these companies and these people could tell that yes, I could do that job, but it wasn’t somewhere that I would really thrive. It was an interesting experience that taught me to remember that sometimes, other people can see your path more clearly than even you can.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

One general life lesson which I received from our first High Line board chair member and developer, Phil Aarons, that has always stuck with me is that, “there is always an infinite amount of credit to go around.” As I mentioned earlier, this was especially true on the High Line project. As one of the Co-Founders, I received a lot of the credit and praise when the project was a success, but there are truly thousands of people that deserve the recognition — everyone from Mayor Bloomberg and his administration to the folks that helped us handing out flyers on 22nd Street all deserve credit for the role they played.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I was at the High Line for 23 years, since its inception, and even by the time I was ready to move on to something new, I could never find a job that felt quite as interesting or exciting, or combined so many different threads of my passions from art to architecture to nature. But when I finally learned about Therme from my mentor John Alschuler, it clicked for me.

I received the Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome in 2009 — honoring innovative and cross-disciplinary work in the arts and humanities — which is where I became obsessed with the idea of the Roman Baths. They intrigued me because they were more than just a place for hygiene — they were social spaces with libraries and art and where you went to gossip. Everyone, from the richest citizen to the poorest visited the baths. It made me wonder why these spaces no longer existed in cities. Clearly they were possible to build and people visited, but this form of social infrastructure was never created in the United States. Therme had more or less come up with the modern-day equivalent at their facilities across Europe in that they’re accessible, they’re healthy, and they incorporate art, food, and a place for gathering — just as the Romans did.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview about wellness destinations. Let’s dive deeper into these together. Based on your research or personal experience, why do you think travel can lead to better wellness? Can you share a story?

Travel takes you out of your routine. For me, I like to go to pools when I travel, because it’s not something that I am able to do or have the time for in my day-to-day life. When I’m home, I’m running around from the office to take care of the family, and so I don’t often have the time to build into my routine to enjoy this thing that I love. In that sense, travel makes you fall in love with new (or old) experiences that you can then bring back into your daily life.

What are a few things which distinguish your property from thousands of wellness properties around the world?

SCALE: Therme facilities stand out from other wellness properties for a few reasons, the first being the sheer scale of the operation. Our facilities around the world range from 300,000 to 700,000 sq. ft., each with different zones for visitors to explore from active family fun with waterslides and pools, to relaxing treatments and wellbeing therapies in Therme’s saunas and baths.

ACCESSIBILITY: The scale of our facilities is what makes them accessible to more people. The concept behind Therme is to democratize wellbeing by making the concept of wellness and self-care accessible to a broader range of people than typical. Our facilities are so large, we are able to accommodate more people than a traditional spa (1.5 million people visited Therme Bucharest in 2023), which allows us to offer accessible entry price points that provide exceptional value for your money compared to other attractions, entertainment, and wellbeing options. Further, we are working with local authorities in the cities where our facilities will be to create structures for people in financially challenged situations to access Therme at a subsidized rate, so that truly everyone can benefit from the Therme experience.

QUALITY: When you walk into most waterparks you immediately smell the chlorine and mildew — not at Therme. Our facilities use state-of-the-art technology to provide the highest quality experience. The water is constantly filtered which keeps it as clear as pure spring water, without the smell of chlorine, and free of bacteria and viruses. We have medical grade air filters as well, and the retractable roof and glass structure lets in natural light which is not part of a typical water park or spa experience and makes such a difference to a guest’s experience.

EXPERTISE: Therme has a twenty-year history of operating some of the top bathing facilities in Europe. We’re able to create such a unique bathing environment thanks to the in-house expertise we have across verticals like architecture, engineering, and horticulture. All of these elements are brought to life by the teams that operate facilities, like our team in Bucharest, who deliver such a premium experience to our guests.

NATURE-BASED: The Therme experience is based on research showing that access to water and nature, physical activity, thermal bathing, and aquatic therapies have a positive preventative and therapeutic impact on all kinds of physical and mental conditions. In so many urban environments, access to nature is limited. Therme facilities are completely rooted in nature and the Earth’s organic healing properties, designed to serve as natural oases featuring crystal-clear naturally purified water that further elevates aquatic treatments, as well as stunning indoor and outdoor botanical gardens where we’ve planted 1,000s of trees and more than 800,000 plants to help ground our guests in nature. Our goal is to build people’s access to and positive relationship with water and nature and through our guest experience, we demonstrate to our guests how these natural spaces are crucial to their health and wellbeing.

UNEXPECTED: Therme removes the preciousness and privilege that surrounds most modern wellbeing brands. We have mineral pools and saunas and aerobic classes, plus a swim-up bar. We take experiences like immersive art, botanics, and wellbeing therapies and put them all under one roof. By bringing a variety of experiences into one space, the guest defines what wellbeing means to them during each visit.

What type of experience do you want your visitors to have when they visit?

Unlike visits to other large-scale resort properties or theme parks, a visit to Therme changes your body chemistry. When you go home after a day at the theme park, you’re tired, your body chemistry has been manipulated with sugar and adrenaline, you often feel worse than when you arrived. Whereas at Therme, the facility’s healing properties balance your chemistry, and you are sure to leave feeling better than when you came in.

What makes your property a beautiful escape for a body and mind recharge?

Our facilities are designed to inspire awe. As I mentioned above, at Therme, we’re committed to improving your access to and positive relationship with water and nature. Through our guest experience, Therme facilities and treatments demonstrate to guests how natural spaces are crucial to their health and wellbeing.

Though facilities are indoors and operate all-year round, Therme’s environment is based entirely in water and nature, creating natural oases with crystal-clear naturally purified water, stunning indoor and outdoor botanical gardens with plenty of sun, sky, and natural light, 1,000s of trees and hundreds of thousands of plants to create a truly holistic and immersive wellness experience.

Can you share any transformative stories or testimonials from guests that visited your property?

We love hearing about why people come to visit us at Therme. We often hear that, in their daily lives, our guests find themselves “very stressed, and that’s why we choose to come here to enjoy a day…and when we leave, we’re very relaxed.” Another guest was feeling over-stressed and fatigued and shared that, “thermal water, saunas and fragrant infusions create the most beautiful relaxation oasis I’ve ever stepped into. I stayed there for ten hours. I enjoyed every Aufguss. I even cried at two of them. They were so impressive! I left my phone in the dressing room…there was silence in my head. While in the body, slowly, slowly, the balance was established. I feel revived!”

And once you experience Therme for the first time, you’re hooked for life. One of our guests shared that he “…will never come back alone — I will bring all of my friends, because it’s a wonderful place.”

Why do you think the experience you offer is so needed nowadays?

We recently experienced a global health crisis where health and wellness were put under a microscope like never before. And this really shines a light on the fact that while people are willing to spend on high-end wellness services and products, our healthcare system spends very little money on basic illness prevention compared to treatment. Therme’s goal is to reimagine wellbeing. That by designing an accessible, holistic experience, we can debunk the idea that wellbeing is a luxury reserved only for the few who can afford it. Further, going to Therme is fun. Wellbeing doesn’t have to be a stringent protocol, you can have fun and be well at the same time. I think that approach is very much needed as the world can be quite heavy, and moments of levity are crucial to wellbeing.

Do you think travel enhances our mindfulness, optimism, or sense of gratitude? How? Can you please explain with an example or story?

I think that travel is a direct route to mindfulness as it shifts your perspective by taking you out of your routine. For me, my best travel experiences are those that reconnect me with myself, the people that I’m traveling with or encounter along the way, and often with nature, all of which requires an element of mindfulness that I don’t have the time or mental capacity to dedicate to during my daily life.

What are your “5 Habits You Should Develop In Order Make Travel Into An Opportunity For Wellness & Personal Growth?”

1 . Don’t forget that social connection with other people is one of the most important parts of wellness, travel, and personal growth, so think about ways that you can incorporate the social element into your trip. Take a trip that brings you even closer with your partners, families, friends, and kids, or take the time to reconnect with friends you don’t get to see by traveling somewhere you’ve always been talking about together — one of the biggest indicators of good health is good families and friends. Also, when you’re on the trip take more pictures of the people you’re with than the places. When you get back home, the photos of people will make you smile more than a photo of the Eiffel Tower.

2 . Start keeping a collection of stories and pictures of places that excite you — whether that’s ripping a page out of a magazine, putting a bookmark of a website when you come across something interesting, or even a screenshot of an image that will inspire you when you start planning a trip.

3 . Follow your curiosities — let your whims and fantasies lead the way as you travel. If you’re interested in saunas, go try them out in Finland; if you’re interested in thermal baths, look at Iceland. Ask yourself, what have you always been curious about? And indulge yourself by following these urges and going right to the source.

4 . You don’t have to travel to a traditional spa or true wellness ‘destination’ to have an authentic wellness experience. Just spending an hour connecting with nature — the ocean, the forest, the jungle, even your backyard — can be more powerful and restorative than spending an hour in a massage if all you really see is the grounds of the hotel, resort, or spa.

5 . Go out of your comfort zone — but this means something different to everyone: it might be a country where very few people speak your language, or it might be a culture that is completely different from your own, or it might even be somewhere remote or somewhere urban if that’s not what you’re used to. You can feel uncomfortable and it can still be good for your personal growth.

Based on your experience, where do you see the future of wellness travel heading in the next 5–10 years?

Looking at the future of wellness travel, I think people will have a lot more wellness options closer to their home which is beneficial for a number of reasons — helping visitors from an economic standpoint, while also helping the environment, by cutting down on the need for lengthy travel. Take a look at New York for example, where there were very few hotels Upstate before the pandemic, and now there are more options than I can count.

This also means that you don’t have to wait for that one time of year when you can take a week-long trip to another city or country, but rather, you have the ability to do these things close to home, over weekdays or weekends, making wellness options feel much more accessible. You no longer have to think of wellness travel as just once or twice a year, but something that can happen regularly.

We’re also seeing a shift to introduce more of the younger generation into the wellness world. Right now, almost all wellness offerings are geared toward adults and most spas and wellness resorts cater only to guests 18 years and older, but one of the rising trends identified this year by the Global Wellness Institute is the end of this idea of age-gating, and allowing more access to modern wellness treatments for younger people. We’re hearing more and more about teens concerned about their own mental health and wellbeing, so it begs the question, what existing wellness treatments or travel opportunities can we open access to that can help address that?

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them :-)

1 . Tina Brown. I actually did sit next to Tina at a dinner a few months ago and was in complete awe of her. She built Vanity Fair and The New Yorker into brands that endured long after her departure (this is a rare accomplishment) all while simultaneously starting and raising a young family (an even bigger accomplishment). She saw opportunities to leverage these brands outside of print, into events and programming, which was ahead of the time. Her vision was also profitable, as The New Yorker was once one of the stuffiest publications and now it’s one of Conde Nast’s most profitable publications.

2 . Graydon Carter. Another Vanity Fair alum. I often pass him on the street, but never say “hi” as he intimidates me. He went from the cushy world of publishing (at the time publishing had deep pockets) and pivoted to digital with Air Mail. I admire how he went from an established role at a major publication to founding a scrappy startup that delivers great content every week. He wasn’t afraid to reinvent himself and be a beginner again.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

For more on my professional moments and a look at career milestones from the High Line to Therme, visit my LinkedIn at For more of my personal journey of trying to recreate the Roman Baths in the US, follow me on Instagram at @TheHighLineGuy. And to keep up with Therme’s holistic wellness approach and upcoming expansion into the United States, follow along at and sign up for updates at

Thank you for these fantastic insights! We wish you continued success and good health.

About the Interviewer: Wanda Malhotra is a wellness entrepreneur, lifestyle journalist, and the CEO of Crunchy Mama Box, a mission-driven platform promoting conscious living. CMB empowers individuals with educational resources and vetted products to help them make informed choices. Passionate about social causes like environmental preservation and animal welfare, Wanda writes about clean beauty, wellness, nutrition, social impact and sustainability, simplifying wellness with curated resources. Join Wanda and the Crunchy Mama Box community in embracing a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle at

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