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 What’s Behind China’s Sizzling Spa Culture?
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by Bernard Burt, April 2007

Sparked by plans for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, new hotels and resorts in the People’s Republic of China sport spas that blend traditions of East and West. Traditional Chinese medicine is on many spa services menus alongside yoga and marine therapy.

Entrepreneurs like Yue-Sai Kan, states ForbesLife magazine, capitalized on Chinese consumer demand for the good life. In a country where an estimated one-fifth of all entrepreneurs are female, the self-made Yue-Sai Kan created a cosmetics line for Asian women so successful it was snapped up by L’Oreal. A former journalist, Kan says everyone in China wants the same thing: Fui Gui – money and style. 
From new Mandarin Oriental hotels in Guangzhou and Shanghai, to the Westin in Beijing, and Shangri-La Resorts, couth is catching up with cash in the New China. 

Keeping up with demand, InterContinental Hotels Group has a training center for therapists. Group director of spa development Greg Payne currently oversees 14 spas in Asia/Pacific from regional headquarters in Singapore.   “We are developing and growing two brands:  The Tea Tree brand will cover both Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza properties, and the Spa InterContinental brand will be for the leading InterContinental hotels.

  • “The Tea Tree brand is being positioned as an enabler to get more out of your day”.  This can be getting your holiday off to a “flyer” or getting you back on your feet if you are on business 
  • “We are working with a focused menu of 15 treatments across all of our properties that incorporates brand and regional signatures, luxury indulgent packages, and outcome orientated packages.  The goal is to provide great treatments in a welcoming environment at great prices”
Payne’s first Tea Tree spas in China met instant success, and InterContinental will be rolling out this concept to more than 30 spas in the next 24 months. These include the new Moon Valley Resort near Beijing, and a business hotel in Huizhou, China.

MGM Mirage partnered with the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing to develop non-gaming hotels and resorts. Initial plans by the joint venture focus on luxury hotels in the People’s Republic of China. The expectation is a distinctive brand identity, associating “MGM Grand with “Diaoyutai,” the official State guesthouse in Beijing. Terry Lanni, Chairman and CEO of MGM Mirage based in Las Vegas, said the association with Diaoyutai  will provide “significant opportunities to build on the strengths of our two organizations and to expand our brand identity in rapidly growing international markets.” (See Hotel Online special report April 3, 2007)

With the Asian Spa show and conference in Shanghai, sponsored by ISPA June 7-9, China goes for the gold.

On a Mission 
When the Guinness World Records called Mission Hills the world’s largest golf club, we went online to get the skinny. Golfers can tee off on 10 courses, then find comfort and rejuvenation in not one, but four spas. Opening this spring: Mission Hills’ first “destination spa.” Mission Hills is near a national park in Dongguan province. Including herb and spice gardens, rooftop pavilions for yoga or qi gong, the resort’s three clubhouses offer spas appealing to families. At the new Mission Hills destination spa - Wellsprings - elaborate bath rituals: aquatonic pools, tepidariums, samarium, and caldarium are designed for international spagoers. Sounds more Roman than Asian. Featured from France is China’s first thalassotherapy by Algotherm and Beaute´ Oce´ane. Also: Traditional Chinese medicine, Thai and Balinese massage. www.missionhillsgroup.com

Workouts by The Great Wall
Designed by 12 Asian architects, Commune by the Great Wall is Beijing’s most creative new place to live and enjoy historic wonders. Set in a retreat-like environment, the Commune includes a five-star hotel managed by Germany’s Kempinski group. Gazing out at the Great Wall from the hotel’s Anantara Spa, your inner voice may remind you of other wonders. Offering healing massages from around the world, as well as Chinese wellness rituals, this new entry by an Asian spa group promises a revolutionary experience. Coming in 2008: luxury train excursions managed by Kempinski. www.kempinski.com 

Experience Shanghai Marriott Style
Towering over Tomorrow Square, the JW Marriott Hotel Shanghai has China’s first Mandara Spa. Re-creating an ancient village, cobblestone walkways lead to your private suite. Experience Elemis skincare made in the UK, treatments with Dr. Spiller line. Complete with salon for hair/nail care, baths, massage, Thai stretches, indoor swimming pool, the Marriott is steps from museums, opera, dazzling shops and restaurants on the Bund riverfront. Join tai chi groups in the People’s Park, explore this cosmopolitan city to see the new China. 
Both the Mandara spa brand and JW Marriott franchise are controlled by Minor International Ltd., based in Bangkok, Thailand. Contact: www.marriott.com

Tea-off at Fuchon Resort
Tea plantations surround Fuchon Resort, supply fresh leaves for spa treatments, scenting the air. This design hot spot is a favored hideaway for Shanghai business executives and expats. A blend of contemporary style with traditional architecture, Fuchon Resort is featured in the new edition of “100 Best Spas of the World” published by the Globe Pequot Press.  Enjoy spa treatments with organic products by A. W. Lake in your private villa or lakeside pavilions. Join tai chi and yoga groups every morning, swim, play the par-72 golf course. The resort restaurant is associated with one of Shanghai’s top kitchens for new Chinese cuisine, Restaurant T8. 
Located near the picturesque Fuchunjiang River, the area is said to cleanse the soul of mundane life.  Newly opened, the Yoga Lounge at Fuchun Resort features Himalayan Master Yogi Giri to guide guests in breathing, stretches, and meditation. www.fuchunresort.com

Sojourn to the Silk Road Banyan Tree Resort
Dating to the Song Dynasty, Lijiang was a stop on the Silk Road trade route. Set in foothills of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Lijiang’s new Banyan Tree Resort and Spa is close to scenic Tiger Leaping Gorge and a dry sea where you can go grass sliding. Built like a Tibetan village, 55 private villas with red-clay roofs nestle in secluded gardens. Treatments incorporate the five Chinese elements: earth, water, fire, wood, and gold. Contact: www.banyantree.com

Return of the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong
Legendary style and service distinguish the Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong. Inspired by feng shui design, the hotel’s makeover features a three-floor spa with herbal steam room, Vichy shower, Kneipp water walk, Ayurveda sanctuary, traditional Chinese medicine consultation. Indulge in ice fountain or topical rainfall shower, vitality pool soak. Guys get urban lifestyle retreat, barber and pedicure by legendary therapist Mr. So. Redolent of the 1930s, this beautiful oasis on the hotel’s 24th floor overlooks Victoria Harbour.  Andrew Gibson has been appointed corporate director of spas for Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group based in Hong Kong. Formerly with the Six Senses spa group, Gibson brings a wealth of experience in Asia and the UK to the Mandarin Oriental expansion plans. www.mandarinoriental/hongkong.com

Bet on Macao

The Chinese Territory of Macao may be the next Las Vegas.

American casino impresarios Sheldon Adelson and Stephen A. Wynn led a wave of new casino hotels in the former Portugese colony. High-speed ferries get you there in an hour from Hong Kong.

The Chinese version of Adelson’s Venetian hotel, casino, and shopping complex, bigger than its Las Vegas namesake, opens this fall with gondolas plying indoor canals of a miniature Venice. The 32-floor hotel will have 3,000 suites, spa featuring an international treatment menu, 500,000 square feet of gambling space with 6,000 slot machines. www.venetianmacao.com

The Wynn Macao rates raves: high-tech guest rooms are equipped with deep-soaking tub, tropical spa has garden swimming pool.
Looking remarkably similar to the Vegas tower, but smaller, Wynn Macau spa features marble baths, salon, and Cybex fitness center. www.wynnmacao.com

Government estimates show Macao outpacing Vegas in gambling revenue. Chinese high rollers contributed to amazing growth. Last year, 22 million tourists visited Macao, up from about 7 million in 1999. Just opened by Hong Kong billionaire Stanley Ho, the Grand Lisboa casino attracted huge crowds over the Chinese New Year holiday, an estimated 500,000 visitors in 10 days. Ho’s latest project is a joint venture with MGM Mirage, due to open at the end of this year, featuring a 600-room hotel and casino. Ho’s other projects include a six-star Park Hyatt hotel, and an entertainment complex.

When the Sands casino opened here in 2004, people broke doorways as they stampeded to enter, according to reports in the International Herald Tribune.

With the Venetian aiming to take further advantage of that demand, Sands founder Adelson says “This is just the tip of the iceberg.”   Next for Sands: Singapore’s Integrated Resort/Casino/Spa on Sentosa Island.                

About the Author: Bernard Burt’s Spa Sleuth column is a regular feature of Healing Lifestyles & Spas magazine. Co-author of “100 Best Spas of the World” (2006), Burt is a member of the Advisory Board for SpaAsia magazine. He recently visited Asia, and participated in a seminar sponsored by the Asia Spa Institute in Singapore.

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Contact:

Bernard Burt
www.SpaGoer.com
 Biburt@aol.com

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Also See: The Asian Spa Market Experiencing Brand Expansion / Bernard Burt / June 2006
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