NEW YORK—Located at 80 Columbus Circle at 60th St. in the Time Warner Center, the 244-room Mandarin Oriental, New York offers sweeping views of Central Park and environs, allowing guests and visitors a bird’s eye view of the hustle and bustle that is Gotham. It also allows a respite from that urban symphony—or the intensity of HX and BDNY—on floors 35 and 36, where its luxury spa spans 14,500 sq. ft. and incorporates a 6,000-sq.-ft. fitness center that features TechnoGym Cardio equipment, the Kinesis Personal Heritage system and a 75-ft. lap pool with views of the Hudson River.
The spa also has separate men’s and women’s heat experience areas with oxygen-intensified vitality pools, steam rooms and experience showers, an Oriental tea lounge and men’s and women’s relaxation lounges.
Designed by architect Brennan Beer Gorman with interiors by HBA (Hirsch Bedner Associates), spa features include bamboo flooring, natural stone, three-dimensional artwork, slate flooring in wet areas, gold leaf millwork, Chinese furniture and Japanese rice paper window treatments.
The luxury hotel’s signature spa therapies historically offer customized treatments based on traditional Chinese medicine that combine Oriental meridian massage with custom-blended essential oils with all therapies designed to address guests’ needs, whether it’s to relax, re-energize, re-balance, hydrate or ease muscle tension.
Gaylen Brown, director of spa at Mandarin Oriental, New York, noted this past September as part of a global initiative by Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, the property launched a “Digital Detox” program for its spa.
The brainchild of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group’s Hong Kong-based Jeremy McCarthy, group director of spa, and Andrea Lomas, head of group spa operations, along with Jennifer Lynn, Las Vegas-based senior director of spa and wellness, the program looks to disconnect and reconnect both guests and locals all at the same time, simply by asking for their cell phones.
“We’re definitely seeing more of a trend toward ‘mindfulness,’ and we’re constantly looking for ways to evolve our offerings to give back to our guests,” Brown told Hotel Business, during a recent East Coast gathering of ISPA, the International Spa Association. She noted through the Digital Detox program, the aim is to separate—if only temporarily—the guest from his or her mobile device “to give them the gift of mindfulness, to teach them ways to incorporate it into their day-to-day because in this day and age, we are spread so thin. We are working harder than we ever have before; we’re constantly plugged in. People are working on their days off, when they’re in the car, right before bed, the second they wake up in the morning—and it’s not healthy,” said Brown. “So, what we’re looking for is a way to give back to our guests. It’s a way for them to connect back with themselves.”
There’s two parts to the program: a treatment component and a home-care component.
“From the second our guests walk into our spa in New York, Las Vegas, Doha, Shanghai or Paris—no matter where they are around the world—we’re going to offer to take not only their shoes to signify the start of their spa journey with us, but also their phones, as a way to help them disconnect. We’ll charge it for them, keep it safe for them, but their time at the spa is their time alone and a time to really have some self reflection,” said Brown.
Toward this, the program includes a Digital Detox quiz that adjudges just how “addicted” a person is to his/her electronic/mobile devices to get an understanding of how the process should proceed.
Treatments incorporate a focus on a guest’s head, neck and shoulders to clear “the passages of [a guest’s]energy meridian,” said Brown. “There’s also a beautiful component around [a guest’s]eyes to help reduce some of the blocked-up tension from being connected all the time.”
She noted Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group’s corporate spa team in Hong Kong also created the modality.
“Mandarin Oriental is one of the most successful spa groups in the world,” according to Brown. “And we are not resting on our laurels; we’re not just trying to fly by on our reputation. We’re constantly challenging ourselves to come up with ways to really exceed our guests’ expectations, to create treatments that will really benefit our guests to improve their daily lives.
“After the treatment, the therapist can look at how you scored on your digital-wellness quiz and give you tips and tricks on how to disconnect and encourage a state of mindfulness. There also is a component with Shungite crystals. Crystals themselves have very natural healing properties and Shungite’s wonderful because it helps to draw out ‘toxins,’ specifically toxins from infrared waves that we get from our cell phones, computers, even microwaves; everything, really, that’s electronic gives off some sort of infrared waves,” claimed Brown. “And so the element of that crystal is incorporated into the treatment and also is available for retail afterwards, in addition to journals, alarm clocks, coloring books and other items.”
As part of the new program, many of the Mandarin Oriental spas opted to purchase a variety of phone chargers to accommodate guests who yield their phones; however, Brown acknowledged the spa could not “confiscate” phones if guests are disinclined to disconnect.
Recently, she recalled, a guest spent the entire time during a facial treatment lying face up with a cell phone held above her head, checking it frequently. When the aesthetician offered to put it safely away, the guest told her she needed to check it every seven minutes. “What type of a life is that?” asked Brown.
As an adjunct to the program, the Mandarin Oriental, New York next month also will reprise its “Silent Night” offering that it piloted in December 2015.
“It’s very similar to Digital Detox,” said Brown. “It will be a night of silence in the spa. So every person who makes a reservation will be made aware that there is not one peep in the spa after 5 p.m. [until closing]. It’s interesting in that there’s no formal consultation, no ‘I have this allergy’ or ‘I have this injury’; everything has to be done with non-verbal cues. But there’s no music, no speaking, no formal tour.”
Brown said the reasoning behind the December event comes back again to mindfulness. “You’ve paid for this time. You’ve paid to relax. You owe it to yourself to disconnect fully and really allow yourself to recharge.”
Just like your cell phone and computer. HB