Langham Hospitality’s Amy Chan talks about TCM, spa marketing, the staffing challenge and, of course, what makes a great guest experience.
Amy Chan is a respected spa and wellness professional with nearly three decades of industry experience, starting first as a therapist and moving up through the ranks to become the Assistant Group Director of Spa & Wellness at Langham Hospitality Group. She has been with Langham Hospitality Group since 2007, was involved in the development of Chuan Spa from its early stages at the brand’s flagship at Cordis, Hong Kong (Langham Place, Mongkok), and has been part of Chuan Spa’s growth to 20 spas today, with two more in the pipeline this year at The Langham Jakarta and The Langham Gold Coast
Ms. Chan is responsible for the daily global operations and marketing of Chuan Spa, offering leadership and guidance to ensure the spas achieve greater guest satisfaction and increased profitability.
With a strong knowledge in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the concept and the core philosophy from which Chuan Spa’s treatments are derived, Ms. Chan works closely with TCM professionals to develop treatments to enhance health and wellness. As an accredited and qualified trainer in spa and wellness therapy, she not only trains all the spa therapists in the group, but also manages and teaches at the Chuan Academy, a spa-training institute by Chuan Spa in Hong Kong.
We spoke with Amy Chan about TCM, spa marketing, the staffing challenge and, of course, what makes a great guest experience.
Can you talk about Chuan Spas and the principle of TCM?
A spa retreat based on philosophy as old as time itself. In Chinese, “Chuan” means flowing water. As the source of life, water represents the re-birth and rebalancing of our whole being. At Chuan Spa, we understand the most effective cure for stress is not found on the shelves of our local pharmacy, but deep within ourselves. With roots stretching back thousands of years, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes the human body comprises two opposing yet mutually dependent halves: Yin and Yang. A haven of Oriental Serenity, Chuan Spa offers a journey to wellness combining genuine service and holistic treatments that are based on the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine
At Chuan, all of our signature services are developed in conjunction with our resident TCM doctor to maintain a high level of integrity and authenticity. Chuan signature treatments and products are guided by two key principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), with the aim of assisting our clients in their journey to regaining internal balance. These are Wu Xing (the 5 elements of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water) and Jing Luo (the meridian system).
Can you talk about Sleep Matters by Chuan and the importance of sleep?
Sleep has a huge role in a longevity plan because insomnia, or prolonged lack of sleep, affects our energy and mental clarity. From the Chinese perspective, nighttime is a quiet time when the spirit wanders and our body repairs and takes care of itself. To sleep well, Chinese medicine practitioners believe that our spirit and heart must be calm to experience restorative sleep, while anxiety, worry, and depression make it nearly impossible to achieve.
Sleep Matters by Chuan is a comprehensive global sleep wellness programme developed in conjunction with the World Sleep Society whose mission is dedicated to advancing sleep health worldwide with sleep medicine and scientific expertise. As sleep plays a vital role in a memorable travel experience, helping travelers enjoy a good night’s rest allows for greater enjoyment of a holiday, higher productivity on a business trip, and is the connective element between a hotel and its guests. Each of our hotels across the world has embraced Sleep Matters by Chuan and introduced their own packages and local elements to delight our guests.
Three TCM tips to achieve a restful sleep: allow three hours between last meal and bedtime to have sufficient time to digest the food, conduct a relaxing breathing exercise prior to sleeping to calm your breathing and cleanse the body, and sleep by 11pm for the body to replenish.
As we’re talking about detox in this issue, how does the idea of detoxification fit with TCM?
According to TCM, well-being and vitality are believed to be influenced through the nurturing of the three treasures, which everyone possesses: Jing, known as our life force, Qi, known as our vital energy, and Shen, known as our mind and spirit. Supporting our treasures is the key focus to maintaining wellness in TCM. This is achieved through: rest and relaxation, a good mental state, regular exercise, food therapy, appropriate environmental responses, utilization of Chinese herbal medicines; acupuncture and tui na (Chinese massage).
Our body detoxes naturally but due to the modern busy environment, it can be imbalanced. TCM practitioners draw upon centuries-old principles to solve a modern problem. Our TCM practitioners first conduct a consultation to understand your lifestyle, body statues and concerns, follow by recommendations of selected TCM techniques that work together synergistically such as acupuncture, cupping, herbal medicine, nutritional therapy, ear auricular therapy, Lymphatic drainage and tui na massage.
Marketing is one of your areas of expertise. How can spas better market themselves?
We need to follow the world trends where the use of technology and social media are the new norm. This is one instance where the world of spas and modern technology can enjoy a happy marriage to enhance the customer journey and offer a holistic experience from the first click to the final touches in the treatment room.
Websites are more than just a shop window for browsing what treatments and promotions are available but are increasingly used to book appointments online, seamlessly in real time, and buy retail online.
We all talk about creating experiences and storytelling. Maintaining a brand awareness via social media platforms, sharing tips, short videos and posting event photos are at least the basics people should get right. People have very short attention spans so don’t post anything too long. Word of mouth is incredibly powerful. Encourage your guests to post (positive) online reviews as customers love to read other guest experiences.
You might also want to create a selfie area for customers to post instagrammable moments.
What makes a great guest experience?
Utmost attention to the entire journey, from the moment you enter the spa, to the five senses; vision of the design, lighting tone and cleanliness; hearing of the Zen music played throughout the spa; smell of the pleasant aroma diffused; taste of the beverages and snacks offered; and the touch of the linen from bathrobes to bedding and ideal setting of the room temperature. All these elements perfectly done together with “soft skills” to create a synergistic space. With colleagues using their training to their appearance in uniform with grooming and overall professionalism, guests will feel they are in a luxurious environment.
Chuan Spa prides itself as an oasis offering a personalized journey towards optimum relaxation and wellbeing. Chuan Spa’s tranquil setting enhanced with signature design elements (moon gate, contemplation corner, dream room) and signature treatments made us a luxurious wellness institution in each city we have a presence.
What challenges would you say the industry is facing and will face in the near future? Do you have solutions for these challenges?
Recruitment is the biggest issue currently. There is a major shortage of talented spa therapists in the industry. We need to create a retention programme to attract and retain staff. These include incentive program for individual/ team performance, enhanced job skills and sponsored training, flexible working hours to adapt to a balance of life, more rest days and offering a staff wellness programme as well as celebrate their birthdays.
What are you excited about?
I am excited to see how the world is embracing wellness across all industries. I see companies putting the wellbeing of their staff first, recognizing that productivity and wellness go hand in hand. They’re organizing regular healthy tips from professionals, virtual fitness videos or classes, and simple but impactful activations like a lunchtime chair massage. People are also more open-minded and curious to try alternative medicines such as TCM, homeopathy, and complimentary therapies such as signing bowl therapy and mindfulness meditation. The ultimate goal is to achieve longevity of life.
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