JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts has long established itself as a popular luxury brand, with 67 properties in more than 25 countries. Recently, the company debuted a new wellness concept called Spa by JW to “further enhance the travel experience of guests while catering to their passion for wellbeing,” says Mitzi Gaskins, vice president and global brand manager for JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts. The brand kicked off in September with the first location opening at the JW Marriott Houston Downtown. A second is scheduled for December at the JW Marriott Hotel Mumbai Sahar (India), and 20 more outposts are on the near horizon. Based on the company’s four pillars—Calm, Indulge, Invigorate, and Renew—the concept includes a consistent design plan, menu, standout experiences, and more. “All Spas by JW will be purposeful and easy to navigate, following the same hand-crafted and authentic core design, which includes a lobby and a curator’s desk, a spa lounge, and no-appointment-necessary express spa suites,” says Gaskins. “Each Spa by JW will also feature an experiential retail area with beauty and spa products, jewelry and fashion lines, exercise gear, and indulgent treats reflecting benefits of each of the four pillars and the property’s specific locale.” Here, Gaskins shares the story behind this new addition to the portfolio, as well as the exciting plans for growth.
What is Spa by JW’s mission statement?
A: Spa by JW provides guests with a personalized, distinctive spa experience tailored to their needs, focusing on the four different pillars. With Spa by JW, we aim to provide an intuitive experience that is luxurious yet purposeful. We created Spa by JW to demystify and reimagine the luxury spa experience, making it approachable and accessible for today’s consumer while directly addressing their wellness needs.
What sort of education and training do you offer your spa team?
A: JW Marriott puts a great deal of emphasis on providing intuitive, thoughtful service in every aspect of the hotel experience. Our goal is to provide the necessary tools and guidance for our spa directors to achieve success with a focus on bringing the wellbeing experience and spa philosophy to the forefront. We have designed specific training for new Spa by JW directors, which takes place three to six months prior to each spa’s opening, in addition to in-depth training for our spa associates. The process begins with an immersion into JW Marriott’s Symphony of Service training programs, where our associates learn the fundamentals of luxury-level service with a particular focus on poise and grace, developing, for example, skills like proper body language, reading guest cues, and appropriately engaging with guests.
We then train our associates on the specifics behind Spa by JW and provide them with management resources and tutorials featuring best practices for staffing levels, spa menus, pricing, and more. We always educate therapists on local customs and ingredients so that our spas operate seamlessly in different markets. In addition, our JW Marriott corporate team plays a key role in the development of each Spa by JW, from the initial interior design and menu concept to opening and implementation, and is always a valuable resource.
What do you do to keep your spas at the forefront of industry trends and development?
A: When looking to develop a new brand-wide concept, we wanted to do something innovative and different. We saw an opportunity to improve the traditional luxury spa experience. We conducted significant global research where we visited spas around the world, spoke extensively with spa enthusiasts, tested products, and more. As a result, every element of Spa by JW is purposeful and tailored to the exact needs of the consumer, both today and in the foreseeable future.
What sort of elements do you maintain brand-wide, and how do you encourage your spas to honor their varied locales?
A: We see arrival as a defining moment of the Spa by JW experience. Each spa includes an airy, open entryway leading into the arrival area. There, guests encounter a circular low-set curator’s desk and a lounge where guests can take a moment for themselves to enjoy light bites, thoughtfully selected drinks, or just unwind—even without an appointment. The design allows for guests to tailor the spa experience to their moods. Whether guests have a few minutes or a bit longer, they can achieve their desired benefit state—Calm, Indulge, Invigorate, and Renew.
One of the most distinctive features of Spa by JW is our express spa suite, a private pod anchored by a truly luxurious, custom-made massage chair with embedded scent infusers, noise-canceling technology, cell phone charging docks, and heating features—essentially everything you need to escape for a moment. Express spa suite treatments do not require an appointment, so travelers can pamper themselves before a long flight or business meeting or after an early morning workout or an indulgent dinner. Express spa suite treatments include a variety of 12- to 25-minute services like the Relaxing Scalp Massage (Calm), Hydrating Hands (Indulge), the Energy Boost Massage (Invigorate), Nail Shine (Renew), and more. All of these elements are designed to be intuitive and accessible, which is the core of this brand-wide concept.
In order for each Spa by JW to celebrate its locale, each spa will take inspiration from its local culture and showcase that culture within its food and beverage offerings, hand-selected retail items, and service attuned to the traditions of that community. In addition to our brand-wide line of Aromatherapy Associates, spa directors are always encouraged to customize part of their product offerings and treatments to reflect local customs, ingredients, and traditions.
What do you think your clients want in a spa experience, and how, as a company, do you meet those needs?
A: Guests of JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts are passionate about wellbeing, looking for ways to incorporate wellness into their daily lives even while on the road. We’ve spent a lot of time listening to and understanding what our guests need. We conducted extensive qualitative research with luxury business and leisure travelers, as well as spa users in both the U.S. and China, where we facilitated in-depth consumer interviews in addition to completing more than 160 global spa assessments of key competitors in the market. We found that our current and potential spa clients look for a spa environment that is luxurious yet purposeful, offering quality amenities while still taking into account that they are hard-pressed for time. Seeing a lapse in the market and a need to offer a more tailored spa product, we developed Spa by JW. In order to deliver a personalized and impactful experience, we have created a treatment menu that addresses four benefit states. In this way, spa-goers have a variety of offerings that fit exactly what they want and need at any given time, whether traveling for business or leisure.
How do you appeal to spa-goers from various cultures?
A: JW Marriott is a global luxury brand, so we are committed to offering an elevated hotel experience that resonates with travelers from all over the world. With 67 properties in more than 25 countries, we cater to all cultures. In addition to implementing local offerings into the spa experience, we offer menus in multiple languages and always take into account the customs and traditions of each region where we operate our hotels. For example, in Asia and India, we may use more traditional Eastern-based massage techniques, which may not be as prominent in our U.S. spas.
Do you work with specific spa product, equipment, and retail brands across your portfolio?
A: We look to partner with like-minded companies to offer expertise in designing luxury guest amenities and offerings that speak to our guests’ needs. One of our featured Spa by JW and overall brand partners is Aromatherapy Associates. Cofounder Geraldine Howard and her team have offered their expertise in developing the four benefit states featured at Spa by JW in addition to curating specific essential oil blends to help support treatments tailored to each state of being. Aromatherapy Associates is also the designer and expert behind JW Marriott’s in-room bath amenity set and signature lobby scent, as well as the complimentary turndown Revive Oil featured as part of the brand’s Nightly Refresh Program to help guests wake up feeling well rested in the morning. Living Earth Crafts developed the Spa by JW custom-made massage chair exclusively for the brand. Capitalizing on the newfound popularity of massage chairs but wanting to raise the bar on what is currently available, we worked directly with Living Earth Crafts to design an exclusive chair that not only features advancements such as noise-canceling technology and imbedded scent infusers but that could also be incorporated seamlessly into the approachable and intuitive spa environment we were looking to create with our new concept.