A Hotel General Manager who Understands Spa
by Susie Ellis
Had a lovely lunch with Rudy Tauscher, GM of the Mandarin Oriental, NY and Denise Vitiello who is their spa director extraordinaire. What a privilege to sit at one of the best tables in all of New York City overlooking Central Park on a beautiful fall day talking about my favorite topic – what else? The spa industry.
Rudy is an unusual GM in that he really “gets” spa, and sees it as not only an integral part of the Mandarin Oriental brand but as an important part of the guest experience, thus giving it great visibility and priority. Denise is a very lucky spa director to have a GM with that much passion and understanding about spas. And I think Mandarin Oriental New York is lucky to have Denise as their spa director. She is genuinely passionate, smart, and extremely dedicated. How she does such a great job while juggling a very full life with a husband, two small babies at home, and a 2-hour commute to work each way is simply beyond my comprehension.
I asked Rudy, as I ask many GMs, when the last time was he enjoyed a spa treatment in the spa of his hotel? Many GM’s either can’t remember or have to admit that they’ve never experienced a spa treatment in their spa. (I always think that’s a bit like never having a meal in the restaurant of your hotel, which seems kind of crazy.) But I was thrilled to hear that Rudy has regular spa treatments and even had one booked for later in the week! Last week he was at the Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong and had a spa treatment there. He said, and this was the voice of experience, not promotion, that it really makes a difference for him when he travels in terms of getting over jet lag.
But there was another part of our conversation that will linger in my memory (oh, maybe in addition to the amount of security officers swarming around the MO and the fact that Rudy’s meeting shortly after ours was with President Obama, who just happened to be arriving for a fundraiser at the hotel). What really made an impression on me was Rudy’s expressed concern for the emotional well-being of spa therapists in general.
Rudy is very aware that people go into a spa treatment carrying a lot of stress and negative energy with them. A good therapist works very hard to release that negative energy for the client, which is why most of the time a guest will walk out of a spa treatment lighter, happier, relaxed, and totally de-stressed. What has to be managed, however, is where all of the stress and negativity goes to make sure it is not transferred to the therapist. Easier said than done. In particular, here in New York, where the high pace and high-pressure way of life is par for the course, therapists truly have a challenge.
It really is an important issue for our entire industry. Our therapists are in many ways caregivers; they give a lot of themselves. They are somewhat like nurses or family members who take care of elderly loved ones. Serious thought needs to be given to taking care of the caregivers and to helping caregivers take care of themselves.
I hear this concern from therapists, aestheticians, and spa directors quite often. How refreshing to hear it initiated from one of the top GMs in the world.
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For the past few days I have been touring spas in the Dominican Republic. The first time I heard a spa representative refer to massage and facial rooms as “cabins,” it didn’t make an impression. But by the time I toured my fifth spa with “cabins,” I found it quite unusual. Nowhere in the world (other than in cruise ship spas) have I heard standard treatment rooms called “cabins.” Later, when I asked several people about the reasons behind the terminology, no one knew! So I’ll have to do some research to see what that is all about…unless someone can just shoot me an email or leave a comment and let us all know!
“The Caribbean, the Largest Spa in the World.”
I’m in the Dominican Republic, attending the second-ever Caribbean Spa and Wellness Association conference. Above is the new slogan the Association selected, which I think is terrific! Given the bright blue water that surrounds every island and the natural relaxation that results from just being in the Caribbean, the slogan seems fitting. I spoke yesterday on the state of the spa industry in the Caribbean and have been in sessions all day today. A few days ago, I did a tour of spas here. I have learned some surprising things, which I will share later. Right now, I’m just taking a break during sessions.
ABC’s Nightline is doing a segment on Baby Spas. It will air either tonight or Friday night.
I went to ABC Studios yesterday afternoon to be interviewed for the segment. I was asked about why we think this has become a trend, the range of services typically offered to babies and/or babies and mommies, how Spa Finder responded to the trend (we added a category called Mommy and Baby on the website), and how many spas of this type are in the U.S. More than likely, Nightline will only use a snippet of my answers, but I do hope that the information I gave them will help them turn out an interesting segment. I believe they filmed at the new Skin Spa Baby in Encino, California, and I know they also spoke with the owners of Maternal Fitness Spa Bebe in New York. If they got footage of babies, I’m sure it will be terrific!
I won’t be up at 11:30 p.m. tonight (New York time) to watch, but I’ll be setting my Tivo. Here’s hoping that the segment is positive. (And that my hair is not a total mess.)