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Interview
Lyndell Nelis

Katie Barnes gets the lowdown on spa performance and business streamlining from the wellness director for Atlantis Resorts


In its first year of opening, Awaken spa at Atlantis The Royal in Dubai has had to add 16 people to its workforce to keep up with demand. Therapist utilisation is always above 60 per cent and up to 30 per cent of guests have at least two treatments during their stay. It’s no wonder that wellness director Lyndell Nelis says the team is “smashing it”.

On p82 Lindsay Madden-Nadeau gives her first-person impressions of the spa, which has a lot to live up to considering its sister destination is the iconic Atlantis The Palm. Here, Delis – a seasoned spa professional of more than 20 years who’s worked for leading names such as Shangri-La, Fairmont, Mandarin Oriental and Resense – talks to Spa Business about creating an overarching spa concept for both properties as well as streamlining the two operations and standing out in the highly competitive Dubai market.

How is Awaken at Atlantis The Royal making its mark in Dubai?
It’s an extremely competitive market, but we have a clear understanding of who we are. Atlantis The Royal is like a docked cruise ship and 90 per cent of spa visitors are hotel guests rather than locals. The spa at Atlantis The Palm on the other hand has been open 16 years and stands out because it has no off-season. My brief was to create a spa concept for the group that delivers a whole gauntlet of wellness opportunities and then figure out what that looks like at each property.

How similar are the two spas?
The Awaken brand, which I’ve been working on for four years, is based on the elements and how they relate to us – Earth represents the physical body and its ability to heal, Water represents emotion and so on. The spas share about 50 per cent of their DNA. There are slightly shorter, more fun treatments at The Palm which people can fit in between other activities, but at The Royal we offer longer, elevated treatments. It’s not just a regular stone massage, it’s a 24-karat gold stone massage and there’s a focus on family where up to four people can come together in a suite and have the same experience. Lemi has even custom-made ¾ size treatment beds for our younger guests which are beautiful.

Nothing possibly ground-breaking there, but it’s how it’s being delivered…

Tell us more about your USPs
A definer for us is that all 70 of our spa employees across the two properties, including our fitness providers and receptionists, are trained in Reiki I and II. We brought in Ewa Mahina, a reiki master from Sweden, to teach staff and she also elevated the knowledge of our in-house reiki master. It’s part of our onboarding process and the first week of orientation includes two days of reiki training.

What are the benefits of having all employees trained in reiki?
From a business point of view, it means we can use the same service providers between properties. If the spa at The Royal is fully booked, guests can go to The Palm, or we can get therapists to come here. It also means employees don’t get bored and with such a big team it means we’re not just communicating via a WhatsApp group – we work together energetically and more cohesively. Staff turnover is negligible and that speaks volumes given that working at such a high-profile property makes you such a hot commodity.

Guests feel it too. We’ve created an energetic space that people feel safe in. We work closely with our butlers and incredible VIP Services team so about 70 per cent of bookings come through them and recent stats revealed that of those guests, 30 per cent have a minimum of two treatments during their stay – on consecutive days or soon after.

What’s your most popular treatment?
We have our A-List signatures and another section called our Local List which has therapies such as the Dubai Desert Sand Scrub based on a date, which is revered here. Up to 85 per cent of the treatments we perform come from one of those two categories.

Up to 60 per cent of our business comes from just one treatment – our Awaken Massage which includes an initial crystal consultation, a choice of oils and four slightly different techniques (it’s actually like four massages in one) that hit the top 20 muscle groups. It’s very therapeutic.

Our second most popular service is a Chakra-Balancing Massage that incorporates tuning forks.

But, to be honest, there’s no real sluggish performer. Guests are curious to try different things and we add on lots of extras such as localised cryotherapy, the Theragun and Celluma LED.

How is business going?
It’s performing above and beyond my expectations – and I’m a pretty optimistic person! Therapist utilisation is always above 60 per cent and some days up to 70, 80 or 90. We have 15 treatment rooms and the hammam with six rooms and utilisation for those is very high too. Since opening, I’ve added 16 people to our headcount including five therapists and reservationists just to handle the sheer volume of calls and information requests. It’s really on a growth trajectory.

But, we’re very conscious that we’re the ‘in thing’ and need to deliver what we’re promising to keep up the expectations of our strong brand image and loyal guests.

Is the plan to take the Awaken brand to Atlantis Sanya in China too?
I think that’s a possibility, yes and there are a couple of other projects in the pipeline. But I respect that Atlantis knows who they are – these are huge propositions which aren’t just going to pop up anywhere for the sake of being in a cool place. Location is paramount… but watch this space!

• See p82 for our review of how, or if, Awaken spa at Atlantis The Royal is delivering on its brand promise

90 per cent of spa visitors are hotel guests rather than locals Credit: photo: Atlantis Dubai
Families enjoy spa time together in the suites, says Nelis Credit: photo: Atlantis Dubai
The Awaken Massage accounts for 60 per cent of business Credit: photo: Atlantis Dubai
 


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SELECTED ISSUE
Spa Business
2024 issue 1

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Leisure Management - Lyndell Nelis

Interview

Lyndell Nelis


Katie Barnes gets the lowdown on spa performance and business streamlining from the wellness director for Atlantis Resorts

Nelis has created a spa concept for the group and hints at a wider rollout photo: Atlantis Dubai
90 per cent of spa visitors are hotel guests rather than locals photo: Atlantis Dubai
Families enjoy spa time together in the suites, says Nelis photo: Atlantis Dubai
The Awaken Massage accounts for 60 per cent of business photo: Atlantis Dubai

In its first year of opening, Awaken spa at Atlantis The Royal in Dubai has had to add 16 people to its workforce to keep up with demand. Therapist utilisation is always above 60 per cent and up to 30 per cent of guests have at least two treatments during their stay. It’s no wonder that wellness director Lyndell Nelis says the team is “smashing it”.

On p82 Lindsay Madden-Nadeau gives her first-person impressions of the spa, which has a lot to live up to considering its sister destination is the iconic Atlantis The Palm. Here, Delis – a seasoned spa professional of more than 20 years who’s worked for leading names such as Shangri-La, Fairmont, Mandarin Oriental and Resense – talks to Spa Business about creating an overarching spa concept for both properties as well as streamlining the two operations and standing out in the highly competitive Dubai market.

How is Awaken at Atlantis The Royal making its mark in Dubai?
It’s an extremely competitive market, but we have a clear understanding of who we are. Atlantis The Royal is like a docked cruise ship and 90 per cent of spa visitors are hotel guests rather than locals. The spa at Atlantis The Palm on the other hand has been open 16 years and stands out because it has no off-season. My brief was to create a spa concept for the group that delivers a whole gauntlet of wellness opportunities and then figure out what that looks like at each property.

How similar are the two spas?
The Awaken brand, which I’ve been working on for four years, is based on the elements and how they relate to us – Earth represents the physical body and its ability to heal, Water represents emotion and so on. The spas share about 50 per cent of their DNA. There are slightly shorter, more fun treatments at The Palm which people can fit in between other activities, but at The Royal we offer longer, elevated treatments. It’s not just a regular stone massage, it’s a 24-karat gold stone massage and there’s a focus on family where up to four people can come together in a suite and have the same experience. Lemi has even custom-made ¾ size treatment beds for our younger guests which are beautiful.

Nothing possibly ground-breaking there, but it’s how it’s being delivered…

Tell us more about your USPs
A definer for us is that all 70 of our spa employees across the two properties, including our fitness providers and receptionists, are trained in Reiki I and II. We brought in Ewa Mahina, a reiki master from Sweden, to teach staff and she also elevated the knowledge of our in-house reiki master. It’s part of our onboarding process and the first week of orientation includes two days of reiki training.

What are the benefits of having all employees trained in reiki?
From a business point of view, it means we can use the same service providers between properties. If the spa at The Royal is fully booked, guests can go to The Palm, or we can get therapists to come here. It also means employees don’t get bored and with such a big team it means we’re not just communicating via a WhatsApp group – we work together energetically and more cohesively. Staff turnover is negligible and that speaks volumes given that working at such a high-profile property makes you such a hot commodity.

Guests feel it too. We’ve created an energetic space that people feel safe in. We work closely with our butlers and incredible VIP Services team so about 70 per cent of bookings come through them and recent stats revealed that of those guests, 30 per cent have a minimum of two treatments during their stay – on consecutive days or soon after.

What’s your most popular treatment?
We have our A-List signatures and another section called our Local List which has therapies such as the Dubai Desert Sand Scrub based on a date, which is revered here. Up to 85 per cent of the treatments we perform come from one of those two categories.

Up to 60 per cent of our business comes from just one treatment – our Awaken Massage which includes an initial crystal consultation, a choice of oils and four slightly different techniques (it’s actually like four massages in one) that hit the top 20 muscle groups. It’s very therapeutic.

Our second most popular service is a Chakra-Balancing Massage that incorporates tuning forks.

But, to be honest, there’s no real sluggish performer. Guests are curious to try different things and we add on lots of extras such as localised cryotherapy, the Theragun and Celluma LED.

How is business going?
It’s performing above and beyond my expectations – and I’m a pretty optimistic person! Therapist utilisation is always above 60 per cent and some days up to 70, 80 or 90. We have 15 treatment rooms and the hammam with six rooms and utilisation for those is very high too. Since opening, I’ve added 16 people to our headcount including five therapists and reservationists just to handle the sheer volume of calls and information requests. It’s really on a growth trajectory.

But, we’re very conscious that we’re the ‘in thing’ and need to deliver what we’re promising to keep up the expectations of our strong brand image and loyal guests.

Is the plan to take the Awaken brand to Atlantis Sanya in China too?
I think that’s a possibility, yes and there are a couple of other projects in the pipeline. But I respect that Atlantis knows who they are – these are huge propositions which aren’t just going to pop up anywhere for the sake of being in a cool place. Location is paramount… but watch this space!

• See p82 for our review of how, or if, Awaken spa at Atlantis The Royal is delivering on its brand promise


Originally published in Spa Business 2024 issue 1

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