The fact that todayå‘s sophisticated travelers consider an on-property spa as vital as room service and concierge assistance isnå‘t news. The same is true for cruise passengers who have come to expect on-board spas as a major activity while cruising.
What is news is the Mandara Spa way of satisfying this need. It’s an approach that began with looking and listening: Mandara Spa principals, in particular president and chief executive officer Thomas M. Gottlieb, studied spa practices around the world. And they noticed two things: an off-putting, white-coated clinical atmosphere that is a legacy of the European “sanitarium” tradition of 100 years ago, and a tendency to unknowingly intimidate, pressure or inconvenience guests. They noticed something else: What clients really want. They want an experience like no other, one that creates a sort of “time out of time” feel and leaves them with something new and exciting to share with friends when they return home. They want beauty and grace and sensual indulgence in the treatments they’re offered. At the same time, they want to understand what’s going to happen to them and they want to make informed choices.
The Mandara difference begins literally on the reservations line, or at the reception desk: We don’t expect guests to select from a bewildering menu of spa treatments in code or esoteric language that only a spa aficionado could possibly comprehend. Instead, we ask the guest to answer a few simple questions: how much time they wish to spend, and what category of service they desire: massage, facial and so on.
“When you make a reservation at a restaurant,” says Thomas Gottlieb, “you don’t tell them what you plan to eat. You book a table for four at 8 p.m. and all other decisions are made after you’re seated, once you’ve read the menu, and asked the server any remaining questions. So, when you make a spa reservation, how can you be expected to know whether you’re going to want a Hawaiian Lomi Lomi Massage or an Ayervedic Bindi Hot Oil Massage three days from now?”
When guests arrive for their appointments, they are escorted into their own private space. This might be a simple treatment room or a sumptuous private villa, depending on the property and the category of service chosen. (In some of our resorts, the escort actually brings the client from their room, or from hotel reception, to the spa - a gracious extra rooted in Asian tradition.)
In the suite, while the guest is still fully clothed, and perhaps sipping juice or herbal tea, attendants guide them through specific treatment options, assuring that they feel catered to and consulted at every turn. Spa professionals are trained to develop an almost intuitive understanding of the signals a customer sends out: to speak or not to speak, the comfort level with disrobing, any sign of tension, any slight preference.
Elsewhere, it’s the custom for guests receiving multiple treatments to be required to move between treatment rooms, for the convenience of the attendants and therapists. Gottlieb quickly noted how embarrassing and counter to the desired effect this is: Just at the moment when you should be relaxing in the afterglow of a massage or facial, resting in preparation for the next indulgence, you’re asked to fumble into a robe and make your groggy way somewhere else where you’ll have to disrobe in front of yet another stranger. At Mandara Spas, clients remain in their private suites or villas while masseurs, therapists and others come to them; as well, attendants are cross-trained to provide as many services as possible to further develop a relationship of trust and comfort.
The design of a Mandara Spa is guided by a well thought-out philosophy based on this guest-centered focus:All the spas, whether perched above a river valley in Indonesia or tucked into a wing of a major city hotel in Bangkok, communicate serenity, beauty and rejuvenation. Even in the sleek city spas, natural materials, such as Balinese teak and aged stone are used to warm the atmosphere; fresh flowers are everywhere when available; scented oils and Thai silk bathe the senses; high walls, screening vegetation and softly closed doors provide privacy and a sense of retreat.
All the spas encourage guests to enjoy the experience in pairs—lovers or friends receiving side-by-side pampering—to enhance the pleasure and challenge the stereotype that spas are only for women. Of course, those who prefer solitude are gladly accommodated as well.
All the spas strive to provide an inventive experience, a small adventure that the traveler will talk about ever after and hunger to indulge in again. “It’s not just a massage, it’s not just a facial, it’s a complete sensual experience, involving sight, smell, sound, touch,” said Gottlieb. The customer may rest in a fragrant bath of rose petals, feel their skin tingle as a velvety papaya cream is slathered over their body, sense their muscles melting as warm river stones are rolled gently across their skin. Each spa is unique and designed to fit into its setting, both architecturally and in the particular services offered.
Mandara spas offer more than 300 types of treatments. Massages, wraps, facials, scrubs, aromatherapy, reflexology and baths employ the purest and highest quality essential oils and ingredients. Many spas also offer beauty and nail salons, wedding packages and a boutique line of logo apparel and accessories.