If anything, the pandemic has had people rethink the amount of time they dedicate to themselves, and more people are spending more time logged off and away from the bustling city life.
QC Terme, the spa and wellness center operator, which has built a reputation in Italy for its approachable and affordable concept, has made its bet Stateside by opening its first unit on Governors Island in New York City earlier this year.
It marks the first far-flung international location the company has decamped to, having operated units in Italy and a single location abroad in Chamonix-Mont Blanc, a luxury ski destination on the borders of Switzerland, Italy and France.
With a view of Manhattan’s skyline and the Brooklyn bridge, and its heated outdoor pools immersed in a verdant garden — one featuring underwater music — the location aims to offer a retreat for business people and city dwellers alike. To be sure, no such formula can be found elsewhere in the city, where most outdoor wellness venues are secluded on rooftops with much less space.
It takes a five-minute ferry ride from the Financial District to get onsite and although some New Yorkers could feel intimidated by the journey, it’s all about convincing them the place is worth the ride, according to Simona Sbarbaro, the company’s chief marketing officer.
The location was carefully selected and the team at QC Terme knows the island holds a special place in the heart of many New Yorkers. Originally a fishing camp for local Native American tribes before being taken over by the Dutch, then the British, the island came back to U.S. hands for military use after the American Revolution, and was ultimately sold to the city and State of New York and designated for public use in 2003. QC Terme struck a deal with the municipality so that the island’s opening hours reflect the center’s business times and ferries to and from the destination are guaranteed.
“There is no blueprint for this in the city, so it’s kind of amazing and challenging at the same time, because we have this kind of uniqueness, but we also have to market the experience very carefully,” Sbarbaro says.
QC NY also offers spa treatments, whirlpools, Vichy showers, saunas and steam rooms, infrared beds, relaxation rooms and an olfactory experience. It will soon add the Flora Café, a botanic garden and a cocktail bar.
Known for its easy approach since brothers Andrea and Saverio Quadrio Curzio established it in 1982, QC Terme retains a certain luxury component without being intimidating and the New York outpost plays by the same rulebook.
“It feels like home,” Sbarbaro says. “It’s hard to describe QC Terme: Is it luxury? Is it new luxury?” she questioned. “Our primary goal is to provide a high-quality experience and make people feel at home…it’s as if that place is on a time zone of its own, it responds to New Yorkers’ need to disconnect,” she says. “I bet people will start appreciating it even more come fall, when the weather cools down and plunging in warmed up pools will be an absolute treat.”
The Governors Island project has been a couple of years in the making, its completion slowed down by the pandemic years when QC Terme’s revenues plummeted from 91.5 million euros in 2019 to 39 million euros in 2020. Renovation works were geared toward preserving the status quo, like the restoration of the original flooring.
The location has already proved good for celebrity spotting, attracting personalities and socialites, according to communication advisor Matilde Carli, especially after outdoor pools were opened in late May. Anna Cleveland, Nikolai Von Bismark, Alexandra Richards and Rebecca Dayan, were among those who made appearances.
“It’s become a must-see spot in the city in such a short amount of time,” Sbarbaro says. “I see QC NY as a gift to the city, there are very few spots in town to reset and devote time to oneself…as soon as one jumps out of the five-minute ferry ride and crosses the gates, they can feel on holiday.”
Backed by private equity fund White Bridge Investments since 2017, QC Terme counts 12 spa centers in mountain resort destinations like Bormio, Pré Saint Didier, and on the Dolomites and Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, France, as well as in Milan, Turin, Rome and in hot springs destination San Pellegrino Terme.
It plans to unveil a spa center on Italy’s Garda Lake by the end of the year, flanked by a hospitality component developed in tandem with the Palazzo Arzaga hotel, and in 2023 to debut an additional unit in Salsomaggiore Terme, a small hamlet in Italy’s Emilia Romagna region known as a hot springs destination.
As for its international expansion, Sbarbaro says additional centers in the U.S. and France are in the offing, the latter in advanced stages of negotiations. She sees the potential of QC Terme’s formula across geographies.
“We kind of re-wrote the rules of what hot springs stood for in Italy, moving away from the idea that it’s just a medical treatment. It’s for those who are feeling OK and want to feel better,” she says. “It applies everywhere.”