A Taste of the Orient

With a storied history that began in Hong Kong in the 1960s, thanks to its flagship property, The Mandarin Oriental hotels have become synonymous with Asian-inspired luxury. Today, the brand has grown to include 45 properties, representing close to 11,000 rooms in 25 countries. Among the most notable elements of many of these outposts are The Spas at Mandarin Oriental, elegant havens for powerful healing. Here, Andrea Lomas-Gong, head of group spa operations at Mandarin Oriental, explains why well-heeled travelers around the globe have become fans of this iconic brand and its spas.


What is your company’s mission statement?

A: The Spas at Mandarin Oriental are born out of a sincere understanding and passion for wellness, which we define as a way of life that focuses on physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing. The group is committed to delivering all aspects of wellness with integrity and honesty, providing inspiration for lifestyle change in an environment that delights all the senses. As havens for contemplation and discovery, our spas are guided by our Oriental heritage and influenced by the local culture.


What sort of training do you offer spa management to help them achieve your company’s mission for its spas?

A: At Mandarin Oriental, we offer a variety of training programs to our spa management teams. When spa directors, operation managers, and treatment managers join the department, they are each given an extensive induction and training, which covers areas such as spa philosophy and branding, marketing, operations, services, and finance. To help further their development, our managers have access to a selection of programs offered by our learning-and-development colleagues, which range from group training techniques and managing performance development to interviewing and presenting for success.


What sort of training do you offer, brand-wide, to your therapists,  estheticians, and other spa staff?

A: All of our colleagues receive extensive  training, which ranges from 10 to 12 weeks for therapists, eight weeks for spa concierges, and four weeks for fitness/wellness and spa attendants. The programs highlight key areas such as spa philosophy and concept, product knowledge (products, services, fitness, and wellness), and the guest arrival and departure experience. We also recently launched a global intern and management trainee program, which aims to provide a structured training program for students and graduates in order to build a strong pool of managers and supervisors for our spas. We are looking for individuals with experience and interest in the spa industry. Individuals who show potential for success and have the skills to become future leaders in our spas will be identified.


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

A: Mandarin Oriental’s holistic approach to spas, coupled with our genuine grasp of wellness, has ensured that the group is at the forefront of the industry. We consistently assess the needs of our guests globally, as well as discuss with our teams their findings from daily guest interactions. Our spa colleagues also regularly attend key industry events in order to learn about the latest spa trends and developments and, in turn, define ways in which we can develop our brand even further.


What do think your clients want in a spa experience, and how, as a company, do you meet those needs?

A: A majority of our guests are looking for rest, restoration, and relaxation. We first provide our guests with a detailed consultation upon arrival at the spa. Our guests then follow a very unique journey, which assists them in moving to complete relaxation prior to and during their treatment experience.


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

A: We have group spa treatments that we maintain globally. These include Time Rituals, Mandarin Signature Spa Therapies, Oriental Harmony, Oriental Essence, Oriental Foot Therapy, and the recently launched Calm Mind. Mandarin Oriental’s philosophy is to create a collection of unique destinations, which have their own distinct individuality and sense of place. Each spa has a selection of Suite Experiences and Spa Journeys, which are indigenous to the location.


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

A: By offering a variety of services, treatments, and detailed consultations, we can ascertain individual needs and tailor these treatments accordingly. We also have visiting therapists from other spas with the group to ensure colleagues experience a variety of cultures. Additionally, most guests who are visiting the country for the first time like to experience our Spa Journeys. For instance, at The Spa at Mandarin Oriental,  Taipei, we offer guests the Formosa Journey ($320, 2 hours 30 minutes). Formosa means “Beautiful Island” and is the original name for Taiwan. The experience begins with a welcoming foot ritual, then skin is polished using the ancient recipe of sea pearl blended with salt. Next, the body is layered in white mud to hydrate and remineralize the skin, which is followed by a warm oil massage that incorporates butterfly massage techniques, as well as a scalp massage and face scraping, which is a famous Taiwanese therapy. The session ends with a refreshing drink of high-mountain Oolong tea.  


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

A: We work with Aromatherapy Associates and ESPA as our spa-specific brands. We also have our own Mandarin Oriental Signature product line, which incorporates five body oils, five bath and shower oils, and a generic body scrub, body wash, and body lotion based on Traditional Chinese Medicinal concepts. All of the products contain natural ingredients, are paraben free, and have been blended by a master blender to Mandarin Oriental’s specifications. We use a variety of results-driven beauty lines in a selection of our spas, including Gaylia Kristensen, Guerlain, Linda Meredith, and Natura Bissé.


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

A: All of our spas are distinct and have a unique sense of place. For example, The Oriental Spa in Bangkok offers an exclusive and luxurious atmosphere featuring decor that is influenced by classic Siamese aesthetics. The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas is known for its 1930s Shanghai art deco theme, while The Oriental Spa at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong has an array of extensive heat and water facilities.

According to Lomas-Gong, one of the brand’s latest and most exciting openings is the 29,000-square-foot The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum (Turkey), which debuted in July. A highlight is the VIP Spa Suite with a private hammam, an aromatic steam shower, treatment tables, an extensive vitality pool, and private indoor and outdoor relaxation areas. Other features include a Couple’s Spa Suite, five Single Spa Suites with indoor and outdoor relaxation areas, three Beauty Suites, and two outdoor treatment pagodas. The Spa also features dedicated male and female heat and water facilities that include steam rooms, experience showers, dry saunas, vitality pools, and ice fountains. Additionally, says Lomas-Gong, “the Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum has also cultivated its own spa garden amid the property’s olive groves, and many of the signature treatments incorporate the use of natural hand-ground ingredients, providing guests with a truly unique Mediterranean earth-to-body experience.” Here is a look at a few locally inspired treatments at The Spa at Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum:

The Olive Branch ($580, 2 hours 50 minutes) involves a body scrub made with a blend of olive tree leaves handpicked from the spa garden, sea salt, buckwheat, honey, and olive oil followed by a wrap with rose-infused yogurt and olive oil, a nourishing hair treatment using rosemary- and cilantro-infused oil, and a full-body massage using the sacred oils of frankincense, ginger, and mandarin.

The Aegean Mix Journey ($515, 3 hours) features a welcoming foot ritual and a warm herbal cushion placed on the back during the treatment that is filled with juniper, orange, rose, rosemary, and sea salt. Next is a full-body massage and a hydrating, rose-infused facial.

The Mediterranean Journey ($415, 1 hour 50 minutes) starts with a finely ground olive oil and olive seed scrub followed by the application of a local pine flower-honey mask, a head massage with cold-pressed almond oil, and a foam massage with aromatherapy essential oils. A hammam gift set and local tea and fruits conclude the experience.—J.K.C.