Meliá’s Arabelle del Pilar Rosario on how reading the room can improve guest experience

Arabelle del Pilar Rosario, Spa & Wellness Director for Meliá Hotels International in Dominican Republic, talks with Spa Executive about how learning to read a situation enhances the guest experience. 

Arabelle del Pilar Rosario is the Spa & Wellness Director for Meliá Hotels International in Dominican Republic. She oversees spas at four hotels, including the Meliá Punta Cana Beach, Meliá Caribe Beach, Paradisus Palma Real, and the Paradisus Grand Cana. Each of these properties is like several hotels in one, with separate facilities catering to groups like business professionals, families, and couples.

Ms. Rosario’s hospitality career began in 2002, and included stints at a private hotel and country club and cruise ship tours of Europe and Africa before she started as a spa manager in 2005. She is responsible for a growing portfolio of spas and under her leadership, the YHI spas have won some key awards, including Best Spa in America at World Luxury Spa Award for two years running and Best Golf Resort with Spa. Now Ms. Rosario and her team have their eyes on an award for sustainability.

Meeting the needs of a diverse array of guests takes a special level of insight and intuition and a unique vision. This is where Ms. Rosario excels after 18 years in the industry.

We talked with her about why the ability to read a room is a key soft skill and what makes a great leader in spa and wellness.   

Arabelle del Pilar Rosario

Tell us about the spas you oversee at Meliá

Meliá’s YHI Spa brand offers wellness services to appeal to a diverse clientele, and every location has a unique theme to delight guests. One concept is a focus on local roots using ingredients like coffee, salt, and chocolate from the Dominican Republic. We use Moringa, which is a superfood and powerful plant that grows everywhere in the country. It will grow as much as you cut it, so it’s very sustainable which is important to us. We take pride in our efforts to support local economies and protect fragile ecosystems, using earth-friendly products sourced from within 100 kilometres of each of our locations. I see this as a way of adding authenticity to the spa experience while helping surrounding communities.

We also have an Ayurvedic spa, another that uses only products from Natura Bissé, a family spa, and a romantic couples spa.

How are things in your region right now?

We’re really happy. At the beginning of the pandemic were worried about when people would come back to the spa and fortunately, we have a lot of demand. There are so many people looking for wellness and spa services. We’re busy. We’re happy. We’re raising our budgets every month.

What makes a great guest experience?

We have to be proactive and anticipate people’s needs. When they arrive at the spa, we should know what they need and provide it before they ask.

The therapist has to be able to connect with the guest. If a client is shy, has a problem they’re not comfortable talking about, or doesn’t feel confident with the therapist, they’re not going to feel good about the service. It matters that the therapist is in a good mood and carries good energy. If they feel rushed because they’re behind, if there’s a personal situation, or they don’t feel well, this needs to be resolved before they work on the client.

Sometimes we have to make adjustments behind the curtain and change therapists. We need to know how to read a situation. If a client is complicated and has been assigned a therapist who isn’t suited to take care of them, we have to make a switch to the one that is going to heal this client and make them change their mood and energy. If the guest is nervous, sad, or mad, or they’re expecting something big, and we don’t have the right person to connect with them and provide what they’re expecting, we completely damage the spa experience for this client.

Sometimes a client just wants the service and they don’t want to talk to anyone. So, the therapist adapts themselves to the clients. We look at the client’s energy and adapt the therapist to the client. That is what we do here and we see the result and it’s amazing.

What makes a great leader in spa and wellness?

Leadership for me is to guide everyone in the process but also to be part of it. A lot of leaders know what they want to achieve but they are not part of the process, helping and encouraging people to achieve the outcome that they want. Setting an example and doing things yourself so your team members can see how it’s done, enjoying the process and making it fun. Things are more fun when we are passionate about them. We want our teams to be happy because we work with energy and if they’re happy that creates the ambience we want and the guest experience is better because the therapist feels involved in the process.

What challenges do you think the industry will face in the near future?

Right now, people need more touch, more healing, and more care but there’s a trend towards therapies that can be provided with machines rather than hands. I think the hands have an energy that can’t be matched by machines. So, for me the biggest challenge is finding good therapists that can provide a great service and a great spa experience.

In this country, we need more education for therapists and more educators that can help us provide holistic services using the hands rather than machines.

What are you excited about?

I’m excited about the shows and conventions and seeing what people have come up with and being ready to train and learn about new holistic services and new trends.


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