Asian Influences

Southeast asia has come to south beach with The Spa at the Setai. This intimate retreat is located in the heart of Miami's newest oceanfront resort, the Setai, a luxury import from the renowned Singapore-based General Hotel Management, a company that operates boutique hotels in remote areas of Southeast Asia. The influence is evident. Lush gardens imbued with fragrant jasmine, picturesque views of the Atlantic, and three crystal-blue pools bring an air of Asian-inspired tranquility to the bustling South Beach scene, and the spa is a natural extension of this harmonious style.

Eastern philosophies were the rule in the creation of the spa menu, which offers a variety of Asian spa rituals that include treatment traditions imported from Bali, India, Malaysia, Tibet, and more. Among the massage options are the deep-pressure Relaxing Balinese Massage ($195, 90 minutes), the invigorating Traditional Thai Massage ($270, 90 minutes), and the Tibetan Hot Stone Massage ($225, 90 minutes), the spa's most popular treatment, which adopts the Himalayan practice of using heated river stones on various parts of the body to stimulate healing. Chinese pearl powder is incorporated in the Empress Jade Facial ($140, 60 minutes; $200, 90 minutes), and Ayurvedic techniques are utilized in the Setai Ayurvedic Facial ($140, 60 minutes; $200, 90 minutes). Meanwhile, the Sumatra Coffee Body Polish ($150, 60 minutes) uses Sumatran coffee, sea kelp, tamarind, and yogurt to detoxify and soften, and the Langkawi Bamboo Body Polish ($150, 60 minutes) transports guests to the Malaysian rainforest using tiny pearls of bamboo, ginseng, papaya, and pineapple. The bath rituals performed in a flower petal soak are also imported straight from Asia and use healing, scented herbs developed by experts in Chinese herbal medicine. Even the spa's design, which incorporates black granite, teak, and silk, has a decidedly Asian flair. "The experience of the Setai and its Asian traditions and treatments sets us apart from any spa in the United States," says spa director Jennifer Kirby.

The hotel's three pools and the Atlantic Ocean are visible from all four treatment suites.
The hotel's three pools and the Atlantic Ocean are visible from all four treatment suites.

The expansive menu means that ongoing training is a priority for Kirby and her staff, which includes 20 full-time and 10 part-time employees. "Our aim is to hire adaptable, caring therapists who want to grow by constantly learning new and unique treatments," she says. "We schedule quarterly vendor training so that our therapists and other staff members are well-versed in our products and services."


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Educating the clientele is also important, particularly when offering some of the more obscure treatments, such as the Oriental Tui Na Massage ($270, 90 minutes), a Chinese-inspired therapeutic massage. "It is definitely a harder sell, but by educating the guests, we find that they are pleased with their healing experience," says Kirby.

The 10,000-square-foot spa is composed of four treatment suites, all of which offer a stunning view of the resort's expansive pools and the ocean beyond. "It is the only spa in Miami where you see the beach outside the window of all the treatment rooms," says Kirby. But the view and the extensively trained staff are just the beginning of the spa's distinction from the city's competitive marketplace. Kirby says the treatment experience is entirely matchless, as well. Upon arrival, guests are given one-on-one consultations after being escorted directly to one of the treatment suites, which are all equipped for couples treatments and feature private steam rooms and showers for pre- and post-treatment relaxation. During this time, the therapist offers tea, reading material, and a customized music selection. Then, guests are invited to change into a robe, and a foot bathing ritual is performed before all treatments.

The Spa at the setai
The Spa at the setai

So far, the spa's Asian-inspired strategies are working. Since it opened in December 2004, the spa has experienced steady growth, and the fall opening of the resort and its adjacent 40-story Setai Residences has boosted business, as well. According to Kirby, the spa handles nearly 60 customers on a typical day. Retail operations have also consistently improved. Featuring the holistic Jurlique line and the Ayurveda-inspired Sundari line, retail makes up approximately 20 percent of sales. In spite of its decadent resort offerings, the spa has been able to attract a steady local clientele, with 40 percent of business coming from area residents. "All of our clients, whether local or tourist, are looking for an authentic Asian experience at the spa," says Kirby. "They are well traveled and know what it is to find comfort in the Asian traditions we provide."

Like the word setai, The Spa at the Setai has created a distinct place for itself in South Beach. As the brochure explains, "There is no word for it in English, because nothing quite like it has ever before existed."