Fairmont's new executive director of spas Melanie Wendeler explains why location will be a key to growing the Willow Stream Spa brand in the region.
As Fairmont Hotels & Resorts embarks on a significant hotel expansion plan in the Middle East and Africa, this month the company has welcomed a new director to the region.
We are not only in the spa business but in the business of spa.
Melanie Wendeler, formerly in charge of revenue management at Fairmont's Canadian headquarters, has moved to Dubai to focus on rolling out the Willow Stream spa brand.
Having been promoted to the new role of executive director of spas, Europe, Africa and Middle East for Fairmont Raffles Hotels International last October, Wendeler is now poised to oversee the development of Fairmont's branded spas in an initial five properties.
"There are 11 Willow Stream spas worldwide currently," she says. "It's safe to say we'll double this."
Of these 11 Willow Stream Spas, only one is in the Middle East. Launched in 2002, Willow Stream Spa at The Fairmont Dubai covers 40,000ft² and features separate male and female treatment rooms and two outdoor pools - the sunrise pool and sunset pool.
Willow Stream is a premier brand, not available as a standalone spa, hence explaining why it has taken six years for a second facility to launch in the region, explains Wendeler.
"It was simply a case of waiting for the next hotel build," she says.
The second Willow Stream spa in the Middle East will open at the 552-room Fairmont Nile City in Cairo, Egypt, this September. Like all Willow Stream spas, it will be designed based on the surrounding area.
"The spa is based on the theme 'desert by day, desert by night' with some treatment rooms facing the River Nile and some facing the interior," explains Wendeler.
"The locally-inspired theme of the desert, sand and heat will be carried throughout the spa. Once we know the story of each spa, we will take that story and roll with it," she says.
The design of each facility will also be focused around ensuring the flow of the spa.
"We want the guest's arrival to be at the epitome of all Willow Stream stands for," says Wendeler.
The brand has four key commitments, which Wendeler says will be implemented in each of the future spas. They are: providing an authentic experience; focus on delivering an experience rather than a treatment; providing a nurturing environment; and energising people.
The focus on energy is central to Willow Stream and the new spas will offer Willow Stream's own product range, which was launched in 2004.
"One of the key philosophies of Willow Stream is living with abundant energy," says Wendeler.
"We wanted a product range to take that idea and follow it through."
The products were developed especially for Willow Stream by Hunter Remedies and Warren Botanicals from Hawaii.
Willow Stream offers a selection of other product lines at some of its spas too: Aromatherapy Associates; Body Polish, which offers six products in four different scents; and premium line Kirsten Florian, which will be launching in the Middle East in the next six to eight months.
As well as some of the standard and signature Willow Stream spa treatments, each new spa will also offer some treatments reflecting that particular destination.
"We are currently in the process of developing the treatment menu for Willow Stream at Nile City," says Wendeler.
The company has also started recruiting for the spa and is looking to many parts of the world to find those people that are natural healers, says Wendeler.
Training will then be significant in the growth of the Willow Stream brand. Fairmont already has a Spa Directors School in the US, which is designed to coach and master those therapists that have been promoted to spa management roles.
"Fairmont has a great belief in promoting from within and developing from within," says Wendeler.
As the Willow Stream Spa brand develops in the region, she says the company may look to develop a similar training school in the Middle East.
Wendeler's previous experience with Fairmont, which included integrating the brand each time the company acquired a new hotel, as well as revenue management, will be key to driving business to Willow Stream spas.
"We need to be competitive in the market place," says Wendeler.
"We are not only in the spa business but in the business of spa," she concludes.
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