Q & A with Brenda Ramen, vice president of General Hotel Management (GHM)

Brenda RamenHow many years have you been involved in the spa/hospitality industry?

22 years ago, I decided to follow my heart and left my well-paid executive position with a clothing company to study naturopathy. It has been a great journey with many challenges and rewards along the way.

What was the path that led you into the spa industry?

An interest in natural therapies developed after I experienced ten Rolfing sessions to address a sinus issue. My doctor had advised me that I needed to have surgery to correct impacted sinuses. A friend suggested I try Rolfing as an alternative, and it proved to be effective. The sinus issue was completely resolved without any conventional medical treatment. From then onwards, I developed a fascination with natural therapies to the point where I studied several modalities, eventually becoming a practitioner specializing in Hawaiian temple bodywork and Ayurvedic treatments.

What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of working in the spa industry and managing GHM spas worldwide?

My work is in harmony with my lifestyle. I am very fortunate to be involved in a field that is all about the things I love like traveling. However, at times, frequent changes in time zone and climate present a challenge to maintain my own balance of health.

What can spa-goers expect from GHM spas in the future?

There is a natural progression towards more therapeutic treatments being available in spas. This will develop over time.

Where do you think the industry is heading?

There is a natural progression towards alternative medicine—for example, traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, and Naturopathy. Spa therapists are generally not qualified to offer these treatments. In the future, we will find more qualified practitioners working in spas as demand from consumers develops for these services.

What is the strangest client request you’ve fielded?

A client requested an herbal remedy to treat lice on his pet bird. In order to prepare a formula with the right dilution, I asked, “How much does the bird weigh?” I had in mind a canary or maybe a parrot, so I was quite shocked when he told me it weighed about 200 pounds. I started wondering if he was joking, then the client explained that the bird was an emu.

What is the most bizarre treatment you’ve experienced?

When traveling in Northern Thailand with a friend, we rented a motorbike to have a look around the countryside. The roads were quite good and there was not much traffic so we traveled far into a remote area North of Mae Hong Son, which is near the border of Myanmar. We came across small villages along the road that did not even have a restaurant, so when I spotted a sign in a field that said ‘Spa,’ we just had to check it out. We turned off the road onto a dirt track until we came to the ‘Spa.’ The facility was an open-air platform in a rice field, with two chairs facing mirrored vanities. An enclosed room contained two bathtubs. The treatment started with our entire body and face being coated in black mineral mud. Then we sat on the platform contemplating the rice field while the mud dried. A team of four therapists scrubbed off the dried mud before we were treated to a soak in a very hot bath with geothermal water. I felt great afterwards; however, I am not sure if it was a result of the treatment or because we laughed so much.

What’s your go-to spa treatment?

Our GHM Wave Massage (price varies). It is based on lomi lomi movements and is aimed at getting you ‘out of your head’ to relax, revive, and re-establish the mind-body connection.

Tell us two things about yourself we don’t know.

I love blue water sailing and in general anything to do with the ocean. This is the reason why I became interested in Hawaiian temple bodywork. When I heard the Kahunas were master navigators, I knew it was for me.

If you could work in any other profession in the world, what would it be?

That’s a tough question. I never think about doing anything else because I love the job I have now and can’t think of anything I would rather do.

How would you sum up your personal philosophy?

Do what you love and love what you do.

What’s the best advice you’ve received?

Don’t sweat the small stuff—it’s all small stuff.