I spent two weeks at the Fountainhead Retreat. Set on a certified organic farm, the retreat and surrounding townships of Maleny and Montville are idyllic. Whilst the retreat programs are flexible, Fountainhead primarily promotes a ‘Fit for Life’ program - for fitness and weightloss goals - and a ‘Beat the Blues’ program - information that offers an alternative perspective on how to best approach life’s challenges. The patronage therefore included a diverse group of guests with goals including weightloss, fitness, dealing with substance abuse, eating disorders, PTSD, depression and anxiety. The information presented in seminar, group and life coaching formats is interesting. I believe there is something in it for everyone. Management might do well to implement a pre-attendance assessment process to ascertain whether the duration and type of stay is suitable for some people. It was evident that there were many guests with chronic and severe mental health issues that were there for one to two week stays – clearly inadequate to affect long-term change in most. Based on my initial contact with the Francis, it is now clear that I had been sold a program that did not address my goals and certainly could not have within the given timeframe. On the flip side, during my stay three guests left one week earlier then their four week arrangement. When booking, I would advise that you gather as much information as possible and not rely at all on what the sales team feel is in your best interests in regard to time and program inclusions. They will almost always put the financial interest of the retreat ahead of guest wellbeing. I understand they are on commission – perhaps not a responsible incentive given the nature of the retreat. One young guest from the ‘Palladium Private’ program reported gross negligence by a nurse whilst he was detoxing from amphetamines and opiates. The accommodation situation is unusual. Having come from a hotel background I can confidently estimate that the ‘standard’ accommodation (much like a damp 70’s ski lodge) is at a 2.5 star standard and the ‘deluxe’ cabins 3.5 star. The sales team will tell you they are at a 4 star standard and the prices reflect this. Whilst the deluxe cabins are unique and comfortable, the building and paintwork is very shoddy and design features such as rugs, curtains etc non-existent. There was not one hairdryer available on site for guest use and the portable heaters were aged and ineffective. It can be comfortable but is overpriced for what it is. Guests from the ‘Palladium Private Program’ stay offsite in what is supposed to be luxury rentals. One guest reported staying in a huge 6 bedroom house alone without heating whilst another said that she did not have a flush toilet. The facilities are 3.5 star. The pools are clean and well kept. The gym equipment is decrepit and of questionable hygiene. The conference facilities are inadequate in terms location (noise), seating, heating and design. The food is delicious and the chef’s are talented, friendly and informative. Food School is a great experience that I would recommend wholeheartedly. If you have food allergies or on a restricted diet then you will find yourself either negotiating your food at every meal, eating thirty minutes after everyone else or not eating at all. You will certainly be set apart in a negative way. Food leper. The staff are friendly and relaxed. Sometimes so relaxed that they will not worry about giving scheduled lectures or remembering to follow up on requests. It is evident that the staff have not been exposed to hospitality training. The service is akin to what one would expect to find at your local P&T meeting or scout hall: friendly but decidedly amateurish for a retreat that promises four star service and organisation. I had the opportunity to see the retreat Manager looking strangely out of place in a suit, treading gingerly on farm soil in her stiletto’s and chippering in hushed tones about a VIP guest. I know of some very reputable Hospitality Management Workshops in Melbourne that would be more than happy to welcome her. At one morning discussion, the MD advised guests that if their individual program appears inconsistent that this is all ‘part of your journey’. Fountainhead is certainly a weird, embarrassingly disorganised and overpriced retreat in a charming and picturesque location. In regard to their professional responsibility and duty of care toward guests battling a range of serious life issues– enter at your own risk. Life coaches DO NOT hold any formally recognised qualification including a basic counselling certificate. Perhaps it would be more beneficial to rent a lovely flat in a rural setting and invest in a series of consultations with a personal trainer, qualified psychologist and nutritionist. Fountainhead is currently involved in multiple legal disputes involving refunds. Exercise caution.
2/22/2013 3:33:43 AM