Asian Inspiration

Crowned Europe’s first grand hotel in 1865, The Langham, London set the stage for the properties to come. The Langham brand has since left an indelible mark on the hospitality industry with its elegant hotels, attention to detail, and unparalled service. Its Chuan Spas have also captivated spa-goers with their focus on holistic treatments inspired by the principles of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Here, Barry White, former corporate group director of spa for the Langham Hospitality Group, shares how the brand prioritizes its spa-going guests. 

What is your company’s mission statement?

We will be recognized as the leading and visionary spa and wellness group in the world by offering unique and authentic experiences and building guest loyalty.

What sort of training do you offer spa management?

We conduct regular business and operational monthly reviews with the individual spa management teams in addition to a comprehensive annual onsite review called Spa Planning Analysis Strategy (S.P.A.S.). The latter provides the framework to identify training needs and the necessary training tailored to each property.

What sort of education and training do you offer brand-wide to your spa team?

We pride ourselves on our commitment to quality, training, and the development of our colleagues. To support this commitment, Chuan Spa developed its own Chuan Academy training institution. Chuan Academy is dedicated to enabling success for current and potential spa professionals, and we are keen to share what Chuan does well and groom qualified spa therapists to work at our spas around the world. The academy was designed to fully integrate into the existing Chuan Spa in Hong Kong. We were able to redesign more than 30 percent of the existing spa to create a fully versatile area that can be used as traditional treatment rooms, and when required, be converted through movable walls into a fully functioning practical and theoretical training center. This provides a sustainable approach to developing a training center while significantly improving the utilization of the spa as a whole. The Chuan Academy is accredited by the International Therapy Examination Council (ITEC), which is considered to be the leading international examination board providing qualifications in Beauty & Spa Therapy, Hairdressing, Complementary Therapies, and Sports & Fitness Training. Our pre-opening training for all of our spa therapists lasts up to eight weeks. Upon opening any new spas, training is conducted weekly with an annual refresher training that lasts a week and is conducted by our group therapy manager. As a group, we deploy high levels of internal and external independent auditing processes and mystery shop processes to assist in identifying training needs. Through these processes, we also continually develop a culture of ensuring the highest quality in delivering our spa experiences to our guests.

What do you do to keep your spas at the forefront of industry trends and development?

All spa directors are encouraged to attend regional and global conferences and events to enhance their own knowledge and understanding of trends, both globally and regionally. We also pride ourselves on having a robust “best practices” sharing platform so that sister properties can quickly benefit from, utilize, and adapt successful initiatives, services, and products that have been deployed throughout the group.

What sort of elements do you maintain brand-wide, and how do your spas honor their
varied locales?

We pride ourselves on having brand pillars that are consistent at all our locations while also embracing a sense of place. Subtle elements are introduced into the overall interior design, such as moongates at the entrance, water features to reflect Chuan’s meaning of “flowing water,” millwork design, and consistent room names. But we feel that each design should also reflect that hotel’s overall design and location. This means our spas are not cookie cutter. We have 20 signature services and private-label products that are used throughout the group, but we also encourage all operations to offer local services and products that are equally aligned to that specific location’s guest profile and destination.

How do you appeal to spa-goers from various cultures?

We cater to both hotel guests, as well as local customers living in the cities in which we operate. Hotel guests are often looking to relax, pamper themselves, or get over jet-lag and fatigue from business travel. As for the non-hotel customers, they are usually seeking treatment for total wellness and to rejuvenate from daily stress. We are very focused on developing our treatments by applying TCM principles, so we are not just reducing muscle tension on the body but also aiming to re-energize the body as a whole. It is not a temporary but a long-term wellness and health solution. It is important to explain to and assure guests, especially those who are not familiar with TCM, about the long-term effects of treatments created using TCM principles. When people think of TCM, they may only think of acupuncture and herbal medicine, but this is not the case. We are applying centuries-old, trusted TCM principles to modern spa techniques so customers today can reap the benefits, enjoy the experience, and attain long-term healing.

Do you work with specific spa product, equipment, and retail brands across your portfolio?

We work closely with internationally recognized product and equipment partners to support our commitment to quality and integrity. These include Thalgo, a marine-based line from France, and Kerstin Florian, which is made with natural ingredients, in addition to our own Chuan private-label products based on the five elements of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water.

Do you offer certain treatments and experiences across the brand?

Chuan Spa has exclusively developed more than 20 signature treatments with the guidance of our in-house TCM doctor, Gladys Leung, a registered practitioner, to ensure authenticity and conceptual integrity. To complement these services, a comprehensive Chuan-branded retail and professional spa products range was created, which includes the five elements massage oils and essentials oils. The Chuan Spa design is defined by a sense of place and TCM. It is also a reflection of the local culture, as well as the hotel brand where the spa is located. The ambience, from the reception through to the contemplation lounge, changing rooms, and exercise areas, is light in tone at first before becoming progressively warmer as one delves further into the inner spa and the treatment areas.

What is your company’s most distinctive spa and why?

Chuan Spa at The Langham, Chicago is arguably the best North American urban hotel spa. The design reflects a more contemporary luxury Chuan design, in facilities, equipment, and services, which has brought a new level of innovation, luxury, and experience to the market. Our therapy service has been recognized by the likes of Forbes, awarding the property with a Five Star rating two years in a row, the only spa in Chicago to have this distinction.

What is the most exciting spa in development?

We have quite a few coming up in the Middle East that I’m particularly excited about, but I can't yet reveal the details. However, they promise to be game-changers in their markets. 

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