At last. The much anticipated Guerlain Spa at the Waldorf=Astoria (yes, the Waldorf does use that = sign in their name) has finally opened! And while I had already toured the spa a few days ago, last night’s opening party gave me a chance to see it again with hubby Peter. Lucky for us, Mike Canizales, CEO of Spa Chakra, Inc., which is the company responsible for the Guerlain Spas in the Astoria collection, was there and offered to show us around. I love getting to hear some of the inside scoop regarding how a spa came together.
My overall impression? I was impressed. And not because the spa is splashy with over-the-top-never-to-be-forgotten design. (I saw that at the Dolder Grand in Zurich a few weeks ago…subject of a future blog.) The Guerlain Spa is impressive because of its tasteful simplicity and sophistication. It is a beautifully appointed space with some stunning – yet understated features.
There are custom-made chandeliers throughout with the standout being the rectangular one in the foyer which hangs almost to the floor and looks like strings of cascading crystals. There are large crystal framed mirrors in the treatment suites (each unique) and a lovely display of those beautiful antique gold Guerlain perfume bottles which just exude “royalty.” (photo on the left)
But it is the nuances – a few thoughtful and subtle points of differentiation – which I feel will end up setting this spa apart. I questioned Mike about how he decided to make these minor shifts in the traditional spa experience to appeal to the New York crowd. His answer? Lots of listening. Apparently his company does a lot of research. In this case they wanted to find out how to take the luxury spa experience to the next level. Here are some things I noticed:
Spotlessly clean…in fact, gleaming, amidst white, crystal, white, silver, more crystal and more white
No locker room experience to dread… every guest is given their very own spa suite (with a safe) where they change, have their treatment and, in most cases, shower and steam
No shared saunas and Jacuzzis… privacy and sophistication is what this experience is about
Treatments are at least two hours… this is a place where you linger
Intake form information is gathered while you are receiving a relaxing foot massage in the dreamy relaxation room…but there is no extra charge for a “foot ritual” which I have begun to find annoying
Guerlain products are used exclusively which communicates the high standard…and fragrance is given importance and incorporated into each experience
The fitness program is unique…the Slow Burn method where just 20 minutes of exercise twice a week is recommended…and there is no sweating
Gratuities are included and they mean it… staff will not accept extra gratuities no matter how hard you try to get them to take it
No clutter… no spa products sitting out in the treatments rooms…nothing on the reception desk…everything serene…sleek
When you think about it from the Guerlain and Spa Chakra point of view, it is quite a challenge to create a spa in New York City in a landmark location where you know your brand’s entire reputation is on the line! You have to see what the other luxury spas are doing and then try to differentiate and trump them all (to some degree) without overdoing it. You want to be able to attract a complex clientele – sophisticated international visitors, heads of state, business titans, the occasional celebrity as well as the tourist who comes to the Waldorf for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. And, for your bottom line, you will most likely want to have some loyal local clientele who will call this spa their home.
Time will tell how things work out. The real test is ahead of them. Will the quality of their spa services live up to expectations? Having gotten quite a bit right so far, my bet is that the answer will be yes.
P.S. Rereading this blog the day after I wrote it (I usually let my blogs sit a day and then check back for spelling errors, rewording, etc. before hitting the “publish post” button), I thought I should share a comment Peter made to me post-event. He mentioned that he thought the spa will appeal to women more than men. Fair enough. I see his point. Other than the gym, in which I am sure any man would feel comfortable, the decor might be slightly more appealing to women. However, given that their clientele will likely be mostly women, that may not be such a bad thing. And I got to thinking…if you try to appeal equally to men and women, you often don’t “wow” either. In this case, the women will be “wowed”. And that’s fine with me!
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