A Penchant for Pampering

An institution in the city that never sleeps, The Waldorf=Astoria (New York City) has hosted its fair share of distinguished guests over the years. From Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was a frequent user of a once-secret railway platform under the hotel, to Madeline Albright, who resided there while serving as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, The Waldorf=Astoria has borne witness to an illustrious history. Today, this esteemed hotel continues to entice those with a taste for the finer things in life. Until recently, though, it lacked the one key amenity that often serves as a pinnacle of luxury and indulgence: a first-class spa. That all changed, however, with the September debut of Guerlain Spa. Adding to the hotel's arsenal of luxe and lavish offerings, the spa ups the ante in New York City's competitive spa scene.

Wet therapy suites are available for those who want to soak their troubles away.
Wet therapy suites are available for those who want to soak their troubles away.

Guerlain Spa is the second stateside installment of the growing brand. The first was introduced in March of last year in Bal Harbour, one of South Florida's ritziest enclaves. Drawing on Guerlain's history as one of the oldest perfume houses in the world and its reputation for luxury, the New York City spa is well poised to charm sophisticated spa-goers. According to spa director Kimani Roquemore, the spa's clientele runs the gamut. "Our clients vary, from the hotel guest who just took a trans-Atlantic flight to the savvy New Yorker," says Roquemore. "Our client is a discriminating citizen of the world." In search of an escape, most are looking to disengage for awhile from the world around them. Valet parking, in-room checkout, the generous appointments of en suite treatment rooms, and a gratuity-free environment help them accomplish that. "Years of research by Spa Chakra, Guerlain Spa's operator, has shown that customers cite the tipping portion of their services as the least enjoyable," says Roquemore. "The customer is forced to become an accountant, and the experience becomes more transactional than enjoyable." At Guerlain Spa, clients are informed of the no-tipping policy when they call to book an appointment and then again upon arrival. "Our therapists' compensation is competitive, so all gratuities are politely declined," says Roquemore.

An official New York landmark, The Waldorf=Astoria is home to the spa.
An official New York landmark, The Waldorf=Astoria is home to the spa.

The spa also differentiates itself by bringing its signature customization to the denizens of Manhattan. As a result, the menu is virtually guaranteed to offer something for everyone. The spa relies on Guerlain products, which reflect the company's devotion to luxury and innovation. According to Roquemore, The Waldorf Impériale ($510, 2 hours), a sensory-renewal ritual featuring a facial and massage using Guerlain's age-defying Orchidée Impériale skincare line, is the spa's most popular treatment. It was designed to embrace the identity of the hotel and its guests. "The client is oftentimes someone who is rather time-deprived, and within the confines of this two-hour treatment, he or she can experience both facial and full-body results," says Roquemore. Spa-goers are also especially fond of some of the spa's longer treatments. "Our 90-minute treatments are the most compelling," says Roquemore. "The efficacy and the client/therapist relationship built during these sessions ensure many happy returns." The fact that customization plays such a key role has an added benefit in that no treatment on the menu goes unnoticed. "Although some services require educating the consumer, our staff is well-versed in finding the perfect treatment for each client," says Roquemore.

Guests are treated to a soothing foot ritual before most services.
Guests are treated to a soothing foot ritual before most services.

To ensure superior results, the spa team also strives to make homecare a priority for its clientele. With that in mind, the spa offers two retail locations. Aside from an area within the spa itself, there is The Guerlain Spa Boutique, which is located near the main lobby of the hotel. Guests can find a selection of skincare, makeup, and fragrance from Guerlain Paris there. In addition, they can indulge in complimentary mini-facials, skin analyses, and makeup applications. The boutique also serves as a spa booking lounge in which guests can schedule appointments and purchase gift certificates. "Thanks to our two points of sale—the retail playground on the 19th floor and our boutique in the lobby—retail amounts to approximately 20 percent of our revenue," says Roquemore.

The couples' treatment room features the neutral color scheme found throughout the spa.
The couples' treatment room features the neutral color scheme found throughout the spa.

With plans to ultimately employ approximately 100 staff members, Roquemore is dedicated to finding those individuals who make efficacy a priority, pay attention to detail, and maintain an obsessive focus on service. According to her, the word "no" is rarely heard, as all reasonable client requests need to be addressed. "Our employees must be focused on the experience in its entirety," says Roquemore.

Intent on providing spa-goers with a truly memorable experience, the spa gives the hotel another amenity to boast about and provides yet another way to woo high-end luxury seekers. With the new Guerlain Spa in its midst, The Waldorf=Astoria is destined to remain a popular place for discerning guests to lay their heads.

(New York City)
OPERATOR: Spa Chakra
SPA DIRECTOR:Kimani Roquemore
OPENED: September 2008

70% female
30% male

14,000 square feet; 16 treatment rooms

$23 million

Body treatments, couples' treatments, eyebrow tinting, facials, fitness, hand and foot treatments, hydrotherapy, makeup application, massage, nailcare, nutrition consultation, prenatal services, reflexology, waxing

Exceptional Orchidée Treatment Experience ($600, 2 hours)

-Lippmann Collection
-Lycon Wax

Boca Terry, Earthlite, Hydro Touch, Pratesi, SpaBooker by SpaFinder, Stas Doyer

Rana Makarem, Spa Chakra (Beverly Hills, CA)