Exotic Import

SPA LOVERS SEEKING AN AUTHENTIC THAI experience can now forego the day-long cross-Pacific flight to Thailand. Instead, they can visit Thai Privilege Spa in New York City. An expansion of the Bangkok-based spa conglomerate, Thai Privilege Health Care Co., the spa is an exotic haven of Thai traditions and is the first U.S. outpost in a collection of spas found in Bangkok, Phuket, and Shanghai.

 The treatment beds, which are imported from Thailand, are larger than traditional American beds for increased client comfort and therapist movement.
The treatment beds, which are imported from Thailand, are larger than traditional American beds for increased client comfort and therapist movement.

"Thais value serenity, so getting massages and spa treatments comes naturally to us," says Surangrat Chirathivat, CEO of Thai Privilege Health Care Co. "We hope to inspire the same ideas of contentedness and peace here in the United States and create a well-balanced, relaxing, and intimate experience for the mind and body."

Candleholders
Candleholders

The Thai traditions are immediately apparent as soon as the elevators open to the exotic 6,800-square-foot second-floor spa. The elegant interior is inspired by classic Thai architecture and customs and features delicate gold-papered walls, royal ceramic vases, Thai silk cushions, carved antique furnishings, flowing fabrics, and teak-wood chofas, which are temple-roof finial ornaments commonly found in Thai architecture. Upon arrival, guests are greeted by hosts wearing authentic Thai silk coats and offered fragrant ginger tea, water, and a warm camphor hand towel. A soothing foot bath is then performed, acting as a peaceful prelude to all treatments.

Teacups are among the many handmade retail items imported from Thailand.
Teacups are among the many handmade retail items imported from Thailand.

Treatments occur in one of eight treatment rooms, including six single rooms and two 300-square-foot VIP suites that are equipped with full shower amenities and can accommodate two or three massage beds. The spa also features an airy Thai sala pavilion, where authentic Thai massages are performed, and three plush leather lounge chairs in an area reserved for foot massages and reflexology. All of the treatment beds, robes, linens, and spa uniforms are imported directly from Thailand, providing yet another authentic link to the country's spa traditions. In fact, the treatment beds are exceptionally large compared to traditional North American spa beds. They provide increased comfort for clients and easy movements and physical balance for therapists.

The 300-square-foot VIP suite is an ideal site for couples  or group treatment sessions and can fit up to three beds.
The 300-square-foot VIP suite is an ideal site for couples or group treatment sessions and can fit up to three beds.

All of the treatments use Sarahn products, a signature line made exclusively in Thailand that uses natural herbs combined and enriched with vitamins and other indigenous ingredients such as aloe vera, honey, lemongrass, tamarind, turmeric, and fah-ra-lai-jone, an anti-aging herb found only in Thailand. "Sarahn products are specially formulated and produced by our very own team of spa experts and scientists to honor the traditions and rituals of our people and culture in Thailand, as well as the fruits, spices, and herbs that grow in our country," says Chirathivat.

 Sarahn products are used in the treatment rooms and  are available for retail.
Sarahn products are used in the treatment rooms and are available for retail.

Chirathivat says that the spa offers "the most indigenous Thai body treatments anyone can find on the East Coast." Among the more popular treatments are the Healing Art of Privilege Thai Massage ($120, 60 minutes; $160, 90 minutes), a traditional Thai massage that stimulates blood circulation and relaxes tension, and Siam Aroma Therapy ($120, 60 minutes; $160, 90 minutes), a body treatment that combines techniques of aromatherapy and Thai massage to relieve physical tension and balance emotion. A selection of skincare treatments, reflexology therapies, and spa packages, are also available. All of the spa's treatments are designed to inspire clients with feelings of serenity and peace. "With the implementation of the holy knowledge of healing arts and Oriental wisdom, our therapists will never rush clients," says Chirathivat. "When they come to the spa, clients know they will leave here feeling peaceful and aware of themselves."

 Sarahn products are used in the treatment rooms and are available for retail.
Sarahn products are used in the treatment rooms and are available for retail.

Outside of the treatment room, Thai Privilege's retail element is particularly distinctive. Along with offering the entire Sarahn product line, all of the Thai furnishings, home and spa accessories, and crafts found throughout the spa are available for sale through the One Town One Product (OTOP) program. Through this program, the Thai government selects the best crafts from each town and promotes the products for international export. "This program initiation is really beneficial in helping our spa retain an authenticity in our presentation, because we want to stay true to being the spa that genuinely honors Thai culture," says Chirathivat. "The program has helped many towns retain their residents' skills and crafts and to pass on to a new generation a knowledge that has been passed down by our ancestors."

Each treatment at Thai Privilege begins with a traditional Thai foot bath.
Each treatment at Thai Privilege begins with a traditional Thai foot bath.

The exotic appeal of Thai Privilege makes it compelling to spa-goers looking for an incomparable Asian experience. The team of 13 therapists and six front-desk staff can treat up to 100 guests per day, which is close to the spa's capacity. But Chirathivat and her team are not resting on their laurels when it comes to marketing. The spa partners with hotels and restaurants to promote spa services to its customers. In addition, the spa combines local U.S. holidays and special occasions with Thai holidays, encouraging spa-goers to join in the festivities with a selection of special offers and packages. "We also believe word-of-mouth is the best selling tool, so we pay extra attention to the way we present ourselves, the execution of our treatments, and the presentation of the spa so that the client will feel great at the end of his or her Thai spa experience," says Chirathivat.

The spa's front desk hosts wear authentic Thai silk coats and greet guests with water, ginger tea, and a warm towel.
The spa's front desk hosts wear authentic Thai silk coats and greet guests with water, ginger tea, and a warm towel.

As for the future, Thai Privilege's American endeavor has inspired further dreams of international success, with plans in the works for wholly owned locations in several countries, as well as joint-venture spa programs and franchising opportunities. With the Thai philosophy of respect and hospitality at the heart of the business, Chirathivat believes success is virtually guaranteed. "These are two main universal virtues anyone understands because they are the language of love and respect," she says. "Thai spa tradition is about healing through these two virtues, so it's easy for guests to accept because they see it, feel it, and automatically respond to it."



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