Meetings & Conventions Gathering Steam August
New and rejuvenated spas are hot items at hotels. Once a
luxury, these facilities are now de regueur for groups
By Carla Benini
A vigorous ride on the stationary bike, a jog on the treadmill,
a grunt-and-grimace session on the Nautilus machine and a nice,
long steam. Although not long ago these were considered the minimum
requirements of any trip to the spa, today in the era of seaweed
wraps and thalassotherapy the notion of going to a spa for a simple
workout seems almost quaint. The exercise-focused spas of the early
'90s no longer can compete with modern facilities that offer
life-enhancing, stress-reducing and skin-improving techniques. As a
result, properties that have had spas for years are renovating or
expanding their facilities at an unprecedented rate.
Why are venerable golf resorts and meetings-minded properties
spending millions on spa projects? Because they recognize the spa
no longer is just an afternoon activity for a spouse whose husband
is out on the course."That's not the case anymore," says Cheryl
Hartzo, spa director at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort & Spa in
Farmington, Pa. "The women are playing golf, and the men are going
to the spa."
Many spa facilities also are being built specifically with
groups in mind. "Resort hotels started revamping their spas to
attract the meetings business," says Eva Jensch, principal at Spa
Concepts International, a Sonoma, Calif.-based spa consultant and
management firm for hotels and resorts. Moreover, to position their
spas as integral to the resort experience, many properties are
building separate lounges and reception desks for them. The
facility at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa in Acme, Mich., for
example, was built so a group can take over an entire floor of the
The following is a sampling of some the newest, the newly
expanded and the recently renovated spas around the country. If
your attendees are ready to have lunch wearing terry-cloth robes,
Nemacolin Woodlands Resort & Spa
274 guest rooms
28 treatment rooms
23,000 square feet of meeting space
Spa sales coordinator: Kim Macelt
About 61 miles southeast of Pittsburgh in the bucolic Laurel
Highlands sits Nemacolin, a sprawling resort with 36 holes of golf,
an equestrian center, hiking and biking opportunities, a
270,000-square-foot polo field, even a private airstrip. Its recent
$6.5 million spa expansion brought its facilities from 20,000
square feet to 32,000 square feet. New York City-based Clodagh
Design International, which created the look at the Elizabeth Arden
Red Door salon chain, designed the space according to feng shui
principles, to maximize positive energy.
Signature treatments: The European-style Water
Path uses troughs that are lined with a pebbly surface and filled
with cold and hot water, all designed to stimulate circulation.
Spa-goers do stretching exercises with a therapist and then hit the
Vichy shower (alternating hot and cold water sprays). Another
signature treatment is the Woodlands Vitamin Facial, a vitamin
repair and hydroxy acid exfoliation that improves the skin's
elasticity and texture.
Group programs: Aerobic walks, guided hikes and
bike rides, volleyball, fitness olympics and boot camp are
available. Nutritionists and wellness experts teach classes on
sports nutrition, eating for the executive, cooking, boxercise,
makeup application and baby-boomer skin care. Several programs can
be designed for groups that return to the spa, to track attendees'
health or wellness progress.
Hot Springs, Va.
525 guest rooms
40 treatment rooms
70,000 square feet of meeting space
Spa director: Christie Ford
THERAPY FOR THE BOTTOM
Spas are keeping
resort-goers relaxed and resort owners rich (or so they believe),
according to a February 1999 study by Health Fitness Dynamics Inc.,
a spa consulting and management firm in Pompano Beach, Fla. The
company polled resort managers from 30 resort-based spas that were
an average of 10 years old.
The following are percentages of those who
answered “yes” to the statement: Does the spa enhance or
Room rate: 57 percent
Perceived value for room rate: 70 percent
Occupancy: 73 percent
Length of stay: 43 percent
Marketing advantage: 97 percent
Revenue per occupied room: 83 percent
Number of people per occupied room: 27 percent
Tucked in the Allegheny Mountains, the resort has a
long-standing history as a center of wellness and healing. Founded
in 1776, the Homestead was built especially for those who migrated
to the area's natural mineral springs. Recently $5 million was
spent to completely renovate the spa, which had not received a
spruce-up in more than 50 years. The interior upgrade, done up in
Southern and Victorian styles, used renderings from the resort's
original spa as inspiration. An indoor pool is surrounded with
marble tilings, and wicker chaise lounges surround the spa's wet
Signature treatments: The Allegheny Raspberry
Relaxer begins with an all-over raspberry body scrub, which is then
washed off in a multiheaded shower. Next, raspberry oil is applied
and the guest is wrapped in blankets and left to relax. Another
treatment is one of the oldest at the spa: The Cure starts with a
mineral water soak, which is followed by a salt exfoliation of the
skin. Guests are then washed off in the multiheaded shower and
sprayed with a scotch hose, a high-pressure water stream that is
aimed by the technician at the body's various muscles.
Group programs: Private yoga sessions, stretch
and healthful-hint breaks are available, as are quick massages in
the meeting rooms.
The Diplomat Resort and Country Club
1,000 guest rooms at the resort (opens fall 2000); 60 guest rooms
in the country club (opens fall 1999)
15 treatment rooms
209,000 square feet of meeting space at the resort; 8,000 square
feet of meeting space at the country club
Spa director: Gloria Lawrence
In its heyday, the Diplomat hosted the likes of Jackie Gleason
and Frank Sinatra, but that resort was imploded to clear the way
for a new and sprawling structure. Set to debut in December, the
30,000-square-foot spa will be decorated with rich-colored fabrics
and warm wood tones. Guests will be treated to personalized
service, and will be evaluated for any health problems before
undergoing treatments. (For example, someone with high blood
pressure shouldn't be wrapped in cellophane for a seaweed body
wrap.) Classes will focus on body enhancement, stretching and
meditative techniques, shying away from high-intensity exercise
such as spinning and kickboxing.
Signature treatments: The Rejuva treatment will
diminish what time has done to a face by sloughing off dead skin.
Another specialty will be fruit-acid-based Alpha treatments, which
promote cell renewal and generation.
Group programs: Designed for conventioneers who
may not have an afternoon to sample spa offerings, the Diplomat Spa
Blast combines a 30-minute facial with a 30-minute massage or body
treatment, allowing visitors to experience two services in one
Grand Traverse Resort and Spa
660 guest rooms
17 treatment rooms
49,000 square feet of meeting space
Spa director: Kate Hurley
Four racquetball courts were converted in May into an
11,000-square-foot spa. The new amenity is part of a
100,000-square-foot sports and health complex that includes four
hot tubs, two pools, nine indoor and outdoor tennis courts, two
studios and a weight-training room. The spa's interior shies away
from typical marble and glass accoutrements and instead is
decorated with rock walls, a fireplace, mahogany woods and warm
tones. Designed for the meetings market, the two-level spa enables
groups to take over the entire bottom floor for simultaneous
services, pre-meeting gatherings or even a cocktail party, without
affecting guests using services upstairs.
Signature treatments: The 45th Parallel is an
intensive 2-1/2-hour treatment (yes, that's 150 minutes) that
begins with a sinus-cleansing technique. Next is a full-body
exfoliation followed by a rinse in a specially designed overhead
shower system that gives a water-based Shiatsu-like treatment.
That's followed by an oleation massage, which coats the body in
oils to purge toxins. The guest is then put in a steam chamber, and
the treatment is completed with a shirodhara, a technique
that flows oils from the center of the forehead and across the
crown. Its purpose is to induce the delta brain wave, considered
the deepest relaxation level achieved while still awake. Since
walking at this point would be unfathomable, the guest is wheeled
in an Adirondack chair to a relaxation area.
Group programs: Called life-enhancement
activities, groups can do anything from a five-kilometer run to
enjoying a sweat lodge (a Native American ceremony that places
groups in a heated room more intense than a sauna to purify heart
and mind). Guided nature hikes, herbal garden tours and wintertime
snowshoeing on the 1,400-acre property are also available.
Therapists will even infuse a meeting room with an aromatherapy
pick-me-up while the group is at lunch.
WORDS TO SPA BY
can be intimidating. Here's a list of common terms, courtesy of the
Louisville, Ky.-based International Spa Association.
Ayurvedic (massage): Ancient system of
traditional folk medicine from India, using a large variety of
techniques, incorporating nutrition, herbal medicine, aromatherapy,
massage, meditation, etc., to restore perfect balance.
Body wrap: Strips of cloth soaked in herbal
teas and cocooned around the body to relax muscles, soothe soreness
and soften skin.
Brush and tone: The body is brushed in
invigorating, circular motions to remove dead skin and stimulate
Deep (tissue) muscle massage: This technique
separates muscle groups and loosens fascia (a thin layer of
connective tissue covering and supporting or connecting the muscles
or inner organs of the body) to realign the body and increase the
freedom of movement. This massage is a sometimes-painful kneading
of the muscles.
Deep-cleansing facial: Use of sophisticated
machines to open pores, extract blackheads by hand, purify skin,
close pores and revitalize skin.
Reflexology: Ancient Chinese technique using
pressure point massage (usually on the feet, but also hands and
ears) to restore the flow of energy throughout the body.
Reiki: Meaning "universal life-force energy," a
scientific method of activating and balancing the life-force energy
present in all living things. Techniques are applied to the entire
body, channeling energy to organs and glands, and aligning the
chakras (energy centers).
The Venetian Resort
Hotel: (702) 733-5000; SpaClub: (702) 414-3600
3,036 guest rooms
37 treatment rooms
250,000 square feet of meeting space
Spa director: Charlotte Bowdle
Known for its destination spa resorts in Tucson, Ariz., and
Lenox, Mass., Canyon Ranch is branching out to a region rarely
associated with wellness and spiritual healing: Las Vegas. The
63,000-square-foot, two-level Canyon Ranch SpaClub opened in June
at the Venetian, which could be described as a tastefully opulent
rendition of an Italian palazzo, complete with frescoed ceilings
and gondola rides throughout the property's maze of canals.
Guests can choose from 120 different spa services including more
than a dozen types of massage or dip into the spa's therapeutic
Watsu pools. The 63,000-square-foot facility even has a 40-foot
Signature treatments: Rasul Ceremony originated
in the Middle East and involves the self-application of medicinal
mud. Once muddied up, spa-goers enter a steam chamber so skin pores
open; then they shower off and are coated with a blend of oils.
Group programs: Group biking and hiking,
team-building using the rock-climbing wall, fitness classes,
lectures on nutrition and life-balance strategies.
The Resort at Summerlin
541 guest rooms in both the Grand Spa Hotel and Grand Palms
36 treatment rooms
21,000 square feet of meeting space
Spa director: Mindy A. Terry
Part of what is known as the largest master-planned community in
the United States, Summerlin seems light-years from the gambling
mecca eight miles away. Summerlin is near the National Red Rock
Conservation Area, which offers plenty of hiking and rock-climbing
opportunities. The 40,000-square-foot Aquae Sulis Spa focuses on
water as its theme. (Its name is Latin for "waters of the sun" and
is taken from the ancient Roman town of Bath, England, considered
the home of the world's first spa.) Guests are encouraged to
experience a variety of hydrotherapies free of charge before
indulging in one of the 90 face and body treatments, as a means of
preparing the body before a facial or scrub. Spa-goers can try the
thalasso whirlpool, steam and sauna rooms, hot and cold plunge
pools or the 12-chamber hydrotherapy pool.
Signature treatments: Ingredients have been
imported from India to treat guests to Siddha Vaidya, an ancient
form of therapy once reserved for Indian royalty that uses herbs
and oils to relax and calm the body. The Ela Kirzhi treatment, for
instance, uses pouches of herbs warmed in oils that are gently
swept across the body. Heat helps the skin to absorb these
nutrients, which are used to remove toxins. Another unusual feature
of the spa is the cavitosonic chamber, a negative ionization room
that uses sound to relax or energize the body.
Group programs: Spa staff can lead off-site
activities like a sunrise tai-chi and yoga hike in the Red Rock
Canyon or teach classes on health and wellness cuisine and
aromatherapy. Or, they can visit the meeting room to knead weary
attendees' muscles during a break.
Monterey Plaza Hotel
289 guest rooms
4 spa suites
Treatment rooms: 9
16,000 square feet of meeting space
Spa director: Robin Evans
A project that began with the building of two Jacuzzis on the
hotel's plaza has grown into the construction of a
10,000-square-foot spa. With spectacular views of Monterey Bay, the
spa looks more like a wing of some luxury home than part of a
hotel. Eschewing the ubiquitous pastel tones, treatment rooms are
decorated with mahogany cabinetry and chandeliers.
Signature treatments: On the shores of an
extensive kelp forest, the spa highlights its indigenous plant in
several treatments. One is the Detox Kelp Body Mask, where guests
are covered in kelp, wrapped in blankets and sheets and left for 25
minutes while the plant extracts bodily toxins.
Group programs: Spa staffers can develop a
mind-body program for groups that may include hiking in Carmel
Valley or kayaking through the kelp forest. Classes in yoga,
meditation and stress reduction are also available.
Le Merigot Santa Monica Beach Hotel
Santa Monica, Calif.
175 guest rooms
4 treatment rooms
12,000 square feet of meeting space
Spa director: Kimberley Simms
The beachfront property was set to debut last month with a
5,000-square-foot spa. Built on a terrace with ocean views, the spa
allows guests to enjoy therapies indoors, or to have treatments
done in one of three poolside cabanas.
Signature treatments: Passive energy forces are
used in reiki, where a therapist gently rests his or her hands on
various parts of the body to relieve stress and chronic and acute
health problems. Another specialty is a hot-stone massage, where
heated stones are stroked on oiled skin and then rested or pressed
in certain locations of the body to relieve stress and energize the
Group programs: Exercise classes such as yoga,
Pilates and cardio kickboxing are available, as are group hikes and
visits by massage therapists to the meeting rooms.
Ojai Valley Inn & Spa
206 guest rooms, including one spa penthouse, with four adjoining
28 treatment rooms
12,000 square feet of meeting space
Spa director: Paige Megna
Two hours north of Los Angeles, situated amid the orange groves
and greenery of the Topa Topa Mountains, is the 75-year-old Ojai
Valley Inn. The 220-acre resort focused primarily on golf and
tennis until a 31,000-square-foot spa was added in late 1997. The
Spanish Colonial-style structure has 15 fireplaces, decorative tile
and hand-stenciled walls throughout. A 16,000-square-foot fitness
center, herb garden, hiking trails and art studio are also on
Signature treatments: Taken from the Chumash
Native American tribe, the Kuyam treatment is basically a communal
mud bath. Groups of eight men or women apply to themselves a
mixture of clays and herbs while inside the Kuyam, a sauna-like
room that gently bakes the clay on the skin and then softens it
with an infusion of steam. The group is led through relaxation and
meditation exercises with the help of a spa specialist. Then the
clay is removed and participants are wrapped in linen.
Group programs: Attendees can participate in
hikes, bird-watching walks, and yoga and meditation classes.
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