Elements of Relaxation
In Chinese, the word chuan means “flowing water,” and as the source of life, water represents rebirth and rebalancing. For these reasons and more, Langham Hotel Group chose this name to brand its spas, the latest of which has flowed seamlessly into the Chicago spa scene. Chuan Spa at The Langham, Chicago is the latest addition to the brand’s relaxation portfolio, and the name is even more apropos, considering the luxe hotel’s location. “Chuan Spa is perfectly positioned right on the Chicago River overlooking Lake Michigan, which in itself is very peaceful and serves as a direct tie-in to the spa,” says spa director William Wesley Myers.
As with the other outposts, the Chicago spa is based around the tenets of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), most notably the five elements (wu xing) of earth, fire, metal, water, and wood. “We are very true to our brand by incorporating the five elements throughout the Chuan Spa journey each guest embarks upon and remain authentic in incorporating these elements into our signature Chuan Spa treatments,” says Myers.
Upon arrival, guests pass through the Moon Gate, which is a component of all Chuan spas. From that point, “the elements are incorporated into every step and interaction guests experience from the time they enter the spa until they leave, be it the seasonal elemental scent burning in the spa to the seasonal tea we offer to the element-centered questionnaire guests complete before treatment,” says Myers.
The five senses are integral to each guest’s experience. The arrival questionnaire serves as a tool for the spa team to determine a client’s specific needs at that time, from the oils incorporated in the treatment to the colored LED lights in the treatment room to the techniques used. Pre- and post-service, guests can also relax in the sensory loungers in the Contemplation Room, which features light, sound, aromatherapy, and vibration therapy. After their services, guests can utilize the locker rooms, which include separate relaxation areas with sleek heated recliners. The locker room is also the site of the Chuan Bathing Ritual, which all guests are encouraged to partake in before or after treatments. It involves a series of rooms designed to reinvigorate the body with hot and cold stimuli to tap into deeper dimensions of relaxation, health, and wellbeing and includes stops in the Herbal Sauna, the Salt Stone Sauna, the Aromatherapy Shower, and the Oriental Steam Room. “We truly use the five elements as the foundation in which we create a custom TCM-inspired spa experience for the guest,” says Myers.
The spa features seven treatment suites, aptly named Earth, Fire, Metal, Spirit, Touch, Water, and Wood. Three of the rooms serve as private couples’ suites, as each have a private shower and restroom. The Spirit room is the spa’s VIP suite, featuring a healing pool complete with options of aromatherapy and sound, color, and wave vibration therapy. Other highlights include a steam room, a shower with star lights above, and a private restroom. The spa is also home to a 76-foot pool and a fitness studio.
According to Myers, the menu stays true to Langham’s spa philosophy with a strong focus on signature services that involve aspects of acupressure, unique breathing rituals, and different sensory techniques. “Our goal is to use these different aspects of TCM to create a blend of services rich in the five elements, without the full commitment to being a solely TCM spa,” he says.
Still, the TCM-focused philosophy is appealing to clients, particularly hotel patrons, as 70 percent are guests of the hotel. This number is a result of an intensive hotel marketing program that involves internal communication between departments, hotel tours, internal promotions, and word-of-mouth recommendations from previous hotel guests. The spa has also found success with its private membership program, which includes discounts on spa services and spa retail items, complimentary introductory health assessments and personal training sessions, group fitness classes, and more. Be it hotel guests, members, or walk-ins, clients needs are met by a staff of 35 who have extensive experience in the spa and luxury sector. “Each team member has ideas and makes contributions, which we all mesh together to create a true luxury experience for our guest,” says Myers.
Moving forward, that experience is likely to become an even bigger priority. The property will be home to a Chuan Academy, an internal corporate training center for Chuan Spas in North America. “Upon opening, we will offer training and development programs for our internal colleagues of the spa division of The Langham Company,” says Myers. And this mission of education will expand beyond the spa team, with plans for training the public on the benefits of TCM.
Other upcoming strategies include hosting celebratory spa events and wellness weekends and retreats that incorporate TCM services performed by an accredited doctor. Myers also intends to guide his team members into growing leadership roles as the spa continues to thrive. “My biggest challenge of managing a large spa is finding a balance from being very hands on and involved to more of a visionary and creative voice in coordinating future projects and facilitating future success,” he says. “I have had to reevaluate and redirect my role at the spa and learn to entrust and allow the leaders in place to carry out the vision we have created for the spa. So my goal is to find that unique balance of being a visionary of planning and preparing for the future but also still being able to engage with my staff and guests on a daily basis.”