On the coasts of Koh Samui, guests at the Kamalaya wellness sanctuary are tuning out the noise, dialing into their own thoughts and preparing to unleash their best possible selves into the world.
John and Karina Stewart opened the Thailand-based wellness sanctuary in 2005. The couple poured decades of experiences in Asian spiritual and healing traditions into the vision for Kamalaya, guided by a mission to serve others with the same tools for self awareness. The name – Kamalaya – translates as Lotus Realm, and symbolizes the unfolding of the human spirit.
Undivided attention to the journey of every guest is assured – 40% of which return year-after-year. There are 76 rooms – most of which are individually occupied – and more than 300 people on staff. A full one-third of the staff is dedicated to the wellness programs – which typically last seven or 14 days. Popular picks right now are programs called “Basic Detox,” “Relax & Renew,” and “Emotional Harmony.”
Need to accommodate global guests
As the guest population at Kamalaya grew more global, operations needed attention. The Stewarts brought in Matthew Brennan in 2018 with a mind toward best accommodating its growing global guest population. Brennan came with deep expertise in spa and wellness center financial management, and deep reverence for the unique properties inherent to Thailand that encourage wellness. One area marked for improvement was digitizing payment processes.
Shortly after Brennan joined, Kamalaya implemented payment technology from a local provider. But that solution came with high fees. It became clear quickly that there must be better solutions available. With the majority of guests booking directly with Kamalaya and coming from Europe, the U.S. and Australia, Kamalaya needed a secure payment provider that made it easier and more cost effective for guests to pay in their own currencies, using the payment methods they preferred. But it also wanted to receive those payments in Thai Baht. What’s more, as Thailand-based businesses know, accepting cards issued by banks outside of the country, especially those headquartered in the U.S., can be a challenge. In fact, Kamalaya picked the previous processor largely based on the fact that they could process all major cards.
Kamalaya picks Flywire
All of these things were top of mind when Kamalaya replaced its payment processor with Flywire in 2019. Flywire generates and sends guest invoices in Thai Baht. Guests click on a link in the invoice to see how much the experience costs in their own currency, as well as access local, familiar payment options to pay for it. Guests typically by credit card or bank transfer, with Flywire handling 2,000 invoices per year.
Flywire makes it easy for guests to pay using a credit card regardless of the location of the issuing bank – making it as easy to pay by a domestic Mastercard or Visa issued by a U.S. financial institution as it is to pay with a credit card issued by a Thai financial institution. And on the back-end, Flywire’s intuitive user interface makes it easy to track and reconcile payments.
Increased security, decreased payment processing costs
Flywire reduced payment costs “substantially,” for the wellness sanctuary, Brennan said, something especially important in the hospitality space, where cost savings initiatives can impact the guest experience.
“When you find savings in places you may not normally find savings, and that are actually quantifiable and sizable, you do not have to look elsewhere to achieve your target,” Brennan said.
Another benefit is that Flywire comes with its own guest support infrastructure, including around-the-clock, multilingual customer support, for everything from refunds to questions around why the FX rate on a guest’s bill doesn’t match what they may find on the Internet.
Strong partner for the future
Brennan also appreciates the strong relationship and support from Flywire’s account representatives. As one example, Flywire was easily able to spin up payment functionality for Kamalaya’s new online offerings, Kamalaya Connect, designed primarily to encourage guests to continue wellness journeys after their stay.
Kamalaya’s growth plans are guided by its founders’ vision: to help people to realize their life’s potential, help them to slow down and reconnect with themselves. “Anything that we can do to help guests achieve those elements we’re open to exploring,” Brennan said.
“We have a global clientele,” Brennan said. “When you’re reaching out to people all over the world, it’s important to have one solution for them to use that has that credibility to make them feel the most comfortable, especially because payment amounts are sizable.”