The Way to Wellness

Located on the spa’s upper level, this suite was built with the intention of allowing couples to extend their spa experience to an overnight stay.

It is my concern that, in today’s spa world, this term has been misappropriated and has strayed from its true meaning. “Wellness” has become a buzzword of sorts, and it may be attached to businesses and treatments that offer anything but. The spa industry owes it to today’s spa-goers to keep the definition clear and to help them in their quest for true wellness. Here’s a look at some creative new wellness programs that are popping up throughout the country.

Time for one

“I think wellness is a term that’s misused and overused,” says Brian Cantor, co-owner of Paul LaBrecque Salon & Spa in New York. “One person’s wellness is not another’s. In the spa world, wellness should be about alternative therapists utilizing mind and body concepts. Unfortunately, it’s a term that needs to be refocused.” Cantor’s partner, Paul LaBrecque, adds, “There’s an increase in wellness treatments because people are so rushed and working ridiculous hours. Part of wellness is giving oneself time to relax. You need a remedy that will make you feel better.”

In an effort to satisfy their clientele’s need for this type of service, LaBrecque recently added a number of wellness-oriented treatments: a colonic, which includes a session with a nutritionist ($160, 45 minutes); Reiki/Hypnotherapy, a treatment that combines energy work and visualization techniques ($120, 60 minutes); and Euphoria, a unique aromatherapy service consisting of an intense scalp massage and reflexology that two therapists perform in unison ($250, 90 minutes). This treatment also includes a shampoo and blow-dry.

“People are thinking more about their bodies and their minds—especially in an urban environment,” notes Cantor. Indeed, the rise in popularity of gentler forms of exercise, such as Pilates and yoga, only are fueling spa-goers’ quest for wellness. According to the latest study by the International SPA Association (ISPA), the offerings expected to make the biggest gains in future years include yoga, with an expected 18% of spas adding it to their menus; posture and realignment, with a 15% increase; and spiritual or mind and body programs, with a 14% rise.

Take a voyage

One of the most innovative spa programs around is the Voyage to Wellness, a customized program lasting between two to seven days, offered at The Spa at Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort in Dana Point, California. Spa director Maureen Vipperman partnered with Edward Taub, MD, a pediatrician and integrative health veteran, and the author of Balance Your Body, Balance Your Life: Dr. Taub’s 28-Day Permanent Weight Loss Plan (Kensington Publishing Corporation, 1999), and “Captain Bob,” a team-building expert and the owner of the schooner upon which spa clients “voyage.” The third component is the couple Will Smith, MD, and Elizabeth Pearce, MD, both psychologists. “Voyage to Wellness is based on my book, Seven Steps to Self-Healing (Dorling Kindersley Limited, 1996),” explains Taub. “I find the ocean is such a healing environment—one literally almost dances on the waves, and it calms the mind down so much that the typical person is much more open to hearing the type of wisdom I’m trying to impart.”

When it comes to wellness, says Vipperman, “The goal is not to have to see a doctor; it’s not medication to make you feel better. It’s about being well enough in the first place and about cherishing the journey that takes you to complete wellness, which takes a lifetime. It’s about the small experiences you choose to have to be well. You’re not well by accident—you’re well by purpose. We put an emphasis on wellness with each and every spa experience, from basic to complex, depending upon what our clients choose.” Packages can include sailing on the water or an entire weekend spent working with a psychologist—whatever clients feel they need after the initial assessment, which includes questions about lifestyle and diet, as well as how one would categorize their state of health and happiness.

Creating the location

Wellness comes in many forms. The surroundings and environment, as well as spa services, play a key role. On the island of St. Barts, the Hotel Guanahani & Spa, which recently renovated its facilities and partnered with the French beauty company Clarins, recently added a 600-square-foot Wellness Suite. Located on the spa’s upper level, this suite was built with the intention of allowing couples to extend their spa experience to an overnight stay, and to have the spa and pool to themselves after hours. The suite has a 180-degree view of the ocean, as well as indoor and outdoor living spaces. Wellness here is all about the ocean and utter relaxation.

Meanwhile, at Bachelor Gulch Spa at The Ritz-Carlton in Avon, Colorado, spa-goers may sign up for the Women’s Wellness & Wilderness Retreat with well-known wellness expert Heather Lee, president of Wellness & Wisdom. “I wanted to provide a spa destination experience for our clients and members that incorporated all aspects of spa and wellness, while addressing balance and introspection,” explains Gillian Agre, spa director. “Heather and I worked together for several months planning the event to make it educational, fun, introspective, active and pampering. The goal is for the attendees to find balance in their busy lives and find time for themselves.”

Agre did her homework before adding the program, which she hopes to offer annually. There was no question when it came to the importance of wellness for her clients. “It is evident in our revenue numbers for our wellness department within the spa,” she says. “In 2005, our wellness revenue was 60% higher than budgeted. This year, we substantially increased that department’s budgeted revenue to account for its growth, and we already are close to 10% ahead of that budgeted number to date. Our clients seem to be more interested in taking care of themselves and learning from our fitness and nutrition experts on how to do this.”

Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa in Paradise Valley, Arizona, also recently added a women’s wellness component, partnering with a spa expert to offer Satori—a destination spa program designed for women who seek tranquility and rejuvenation. Satori is Japanese for “enlightenment.” The four-night program features lectures on topics ranging from nutrition and personal training sessions to astrology and inner harmony.

And yet another new women’s wellness program just launched at Castle Hill Resort and Spa in Ludlow, Vermont—a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World. The resort’s Women’s Wellness Getaways include meditation and healing with music, as well as nutritional lectures and a plethora of physical activities. The packages last for two or three days.

Integrating the concept

So how do you tie the wellness concept into your spa environment? “The opportunity is there for a spa owner to create wellness in many layers, starting with the ambiance and environment to offering wellness- and ritual-based therapies to retailing at-home regimens,” says Ma Cherry, founder of Ayuroma. “To successfully operate the wellness concept, it’s crucial to stay away from quick fixes and fad pitfalls. The key is a well-researched and well-thought-out blend of information, services and products. The spa needs to bridge a client’s wellness needs with its offerings, enticing and pleasing the client’s senses.”

Tracy Lee, director of spa development and operations at Augerge Resorts in Mill Valley, California, adds, “The best way for a spa to integrate wellness is to know your market. Really understand what your clientele wants. Unless you operate a destination spa, most facilities cannot offer a full range of fitness classes, mind and body lectures, nutrition counseling and spa treatments. Understanding what your clients need and want, and then matching that with what works with your business model, will allow you to incorporate wellness into your program and still have a sustainable operation.”

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