Spa Executive October 2022

Spa Executive magazine, October 2022 issue

Spa Executive magazine, October 2022 issue


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Four Seasons’ Christelle Besnier on what makes an

effective spa director and a great guest experience


7 signs you shouldn’t hire someone at your spa


Help! My hours have been cut while a newer

employee has more hours than me


Wellness trend: talking menopause

and perimenopause


Roger Sholanki


Elizabeth Bromstein


Design Pickle



Sal Capizzi

Note from the Publisher

Dear readers,

As 2022 enters the fourth quarter, it’s time to start looking forward to what will be happening

in our industry in the next year. This means looking at the spa and wellness trends looming

on the horizon. There are those who don’t like the word “trends” and who shy away from

making predictions about what the future holds. We at Spa Executive are not among them.

We might not be right all of the time, but our batting average is actually pretty impressive, and

it’s fun!

So, in this issue we’re looking at something almost everyone is talking about lately - women’s

health and menopause. It’s refreshing to see people finally paying attention to something

that, until recently, almost nobody talked about, despite the fact that half the global

population will go through it during their lives and that many will suffer debilitating and life

altering symptoms. Better late than never.

For our spotlight interview, we also spoke with Four Seasons’ Senior Spa Director, Middle East

and Africa, Christelle Besnier, about what she’s excited about in the industry. Besnier told us

that, “post Covid, we see that wellness is so recognizable everywhere, like wellness at work.

Everyone wants to start their fitness goals again. The development of wellness programs is to

me quite important. I hope to see a new reality after Covid that some behaviors will change.

I am really looking forward to see how the near future will translate wellness and how we will

be the artisans of wellbeing and living well.”

We also take a look inside one of Ms. Besnier’s spas, The Pearl Spa & Wellness at Four

Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi, as our featured property, and cover the topic of signs you

shouldn’t hire someone to work at your spa.

Spa Executive

Spa Executive is Book4Time’s

magazine for leaders in the

business of wellness. News,

views, and interviews for those

who want to attract top talent,

increase customer retention,

and offer the best possible

guest experience.

And in our popular new advice column, Sal Capizzi, answers a reader question asking about

what to do when their spa hours have been cut while a newer employee has more hours

than they do. If you have a question about managing staff, operations, or anything else you

want to know (challenge him!) send it to Sal at scapizzi@spaexecutive.com.

I hope you enjoy reading this month’s articles in Spa Executive and they provide valuable

information to help you achieve success.

Roger Sholanki,




October 2022 Volume 40



Wellness trend: talking

menopause and perimenopause



Dear Sal, help! My hours have

been cut while a newer employee

has more hours than me



The CARING checklist for spa,

wellness & hospitality



The Pearl Spa & Wellness at Four

Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi



7 signs you shouldn’t hire someone

at your spa



Four Seasons’ Christelle Besnier

on what makes an effective

spa director and a great

guest experience



Wellness trend: ketamine



trend: talking

menopause and


Empowered and emboldened by numbers,

social media, and celebrity voices, women

are talking openly about the previously taboo

topics of menopause & perimenopause.

Half the global population will go through

menopause during their lives. And yet, until

recently, nobody talked about it, a mind

blowing reality, considering the debilitating

and confusing symptoms that can

accompany these life changing events. There

are dozens of these symptoms that include

but aren’t limited to:


Weight gain


Digestive issues


Non-migraine headaches

Short-term memory loss

Brain fog

Night sweats


Heart palpitations

Hair loss

Bone loss

Mood swings


Itchy skin

Dry skin

Joint pain

Back pain

Sleep problems


Urinary incontinence

Reduced sex drive

Doctors didn’t even recognize perimenopause as

a real thing

The list goes on, yet women have been

suffering in virtual silence as the only

recognition menopause got, until recently,

was either as a source of humor or in

whispered tones accompanied by winks

or eye rolls (there’s a good Los Angeles

Times article about all this here). Women

were too embarrassed to ask questions

and seek relief for a variety of reasons that

include shame over getting older and men’s

discomfort with the topic.

Some doctors barely recognized

perimenopause (the symptoms caused

by changing hormones in the 5-10 years

leading up to the menopause) as a real thing

until recently, and sufferers are still often

told the symptoms are all in our heads.

People – many of them women – are waking up

to the potential revenue in the menopause and

perimenopause market

Well, the tides have changed. Women

empowered and emboldened by numbers,

social media, and celebrity voices have

started to talk and look for answers.

Moreover, people – many of them women

– are waking up to the potential revenue in

the menopause and perimenopause market.


| Spa Executive

Takes on the topic differ. Courteney Cox

recently made an update to the 1985

Tampax commercial in which the American

actress became the first person to use the

word “period” in a national ad (we have been

afraid of these topics for a long time). In the

new version, which Cox, now 58 , posted on

Instagram, she wears an almost identical

outfit to the one she wore in the eighties

and riffs on the same lines she

said all those years ago, this time talking

about menopause.

Not all women agree that there is “nothing”

good about menopause

Not all women agree that there is “nothing”

good about menopause. For some, the end

of periods and fertility can be a blessing, but

it’s still a struggle.

Australian actress, Naomi Watts, meanwhile,

is launching a “menopausal wellness brand”

called Stripes, in partnership with Amyris.

Watts wrote in an Instagram post:

“When I was in my late 30s, I was finally ready

to start thinking about creating a family. Then

the M word swiftly blew my doors down, it felt

like a head-on collision with a Mack truck.

“How could I figure this out when no one

was talking? I was earlier to it than my peers.

My mentors and mum didn’t seem up for

discussing it, I didn’t know how to ask for

help and they didn’t know how to provide….

even doctors had little to say. It’s oddly like

an unwritten code of silence: women should

suck it up and cope, because that’s how

generations passed have done it.

Replacing the words, “Tampax can change

the way you feel about your period,” she

says, “Menopause can change the way

you feel about getting older,” adding,

“Menopause will eat you alive. It’s horrible.

Nothing else can do that,” and “Plus, you get

the added bonus of drier skin, and getting

bald patches.”

She closes with “Remember—there is

nothing good about menopause. It can

actually change the way you feel about

getting older.”

“I think it’s time to see women in this phase

of life or this age group be well represented.

We’ve been under-served in media, stories and

marketing far too long.”

And Stacy London, former host of TLC’s What

Not to Wear and current CEO of State of

Menopause, a company to help people “feel

their best during menopause,” is hosting the

first Menopause CEO Summit in New York

City this fall on October 18, which is World

Menopause Day.


| Spa Executive

Womeness offers solutions for symptoms like dry skin, low libido, and hot flashes that include a

Menopause Survival Kit and a Sexual Wellness Kit

Forbes reported that speaking at the

conference are leaders in “the up-and-coming

field of menopause health.” The companies

helmed by these leaders all offer some kind

of menopause wellness solution. They include

Womaness, a company offering solutions for

symptoms like dry skin, low libido, and hot

flashes that include a Menopause Survival Kit

and a Sexual Wellness Kit. And Evernow, a

start-up offering prescriptions and sciencebacked

solutions for menopausal and

perimenopausal women. Investors include

Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz. Another

example is Thermaband, a wearable device

that automatically detects body temperature

and delivers battery-powered cooling or

warming based on the wearer’s needs.

A wellness movement has been born. Expect

it to flourish as this formerly underserved

market gains traction and more of the

industry catches on.

Better late than never.

Thermaband is a wearable device that automatically detects body temperature and delivers batterypowered

cooling or warming based on the wearer’s needs.


| Spa Executive

Dear Sal, help! My hours have been cut while

a newer employee has more hours than me

Sal Capizzi, Marketing Director at Book4Time

and a former Director of Spa and Wellness

at NEXUS Luxury Collection, shares his expert

insight into your reader questions.

Send your queries about managing staff,

operations, and anything else you want to know

(challenge him!) to scapizzi@spaexecutive.com.

Q. Hello, Sal.

I have been happily working at my hotelresort

spa for one and a half years as a spa

coordinator. My manager has informed all of

us that our hours would be cut because of

this slow time.

I was hired full-time before the newest parttime

coordinator, yet she has more hours

than I have weekly. I really enjoy my career

and do not know what to do or who to turn

to about this unfair amount of hours that has

been given to me. Please advise me.

at a resort that is highly dependent on travel


My first thought would be to have a

discussion with your boss to learn the hard

facts. I would be curious to know if this

happened last year as well, I know you had

mentioned you have been with this brand for

a year and a half. Do they have a slow season

each year or was this a one-off decision?

Nonetheless, frustrating because you may

have a family to take care of or other people

depending on you.

Thank you.

A. Hello,

First and foremost I am sorry your hours have

been reduced. The past couple of years in

the spa and wellness industry have been a

bit volatile for everyone from management

to practitioners, especially if you are working

I would schedule a time to meet your

manager and ask questions like: How long do

they anticipate this “slow period?” If it is an

annual occurrence, why wasn’t it mentioned

to you when you were hired? Is this solely

based on the slow period and not because

of performance related issues? But also tune

into what your gut is telling you. Have you

noticed a change in foot traffic? Does the spa


| Spa Executive

seem slower? If yes, then budgeting in that

department is definitely coming into play

and that’s never easy for anybody from the

messenger to the recipient.

But this isn’t the end of the world. The

majority of people in the industry are wearing

many hats right now. Do you see yourself in

a management position in the future? Now

may be a great time to segue. Let your boss,

and their boss know that you are interested

in picking up additional hours across other

departments if possible. Highlight your

strengths and the transferable skills you

have learned in this department and from

the brand itself to showcase your worth.

Hopefully they see that you’re eager to not

only learn more but your commitment to stay

with this brand.

I do hope this helps and that they have

additional opportunities for you before the

spa needs you back full time again.

Sometimes all hands are tied when it comes

to certain things and it may be time to see

yourself at another brand or even begin

passively or actively looking for another

opportunity you are interested in. It’s always

tough to make that call especially when you

love what you do and the co-workers with

whom you have spent the past year and a

half building relationships. But if it comes to

that point, you should rest easier knowing

that you put your best foot forward and

opened yourself up to your boss and the

company by expressing that you wanted to

learn more and take on more with them!

Good luck!



| Spa Executive

The CARING checklist for spa,

wellness & hospitality

There are some common best practices for spa,

wellness & hospitality success. We’re outlining

those practices here. Together, they make up

the acronym “CARING.”

As we head into 2023, wellness is seeing

a surge in interest and people are eager

to travel. There are heightened desires for

sustainable health and wellness practices,

human contact, and new experiences. We

are living in an incredible time for those

who are ready to take advantage of this

interest and prepared to devote themselves

to business success and applying the

lessons we’ve learned over the last

few years.

There are some common best practices

that will help your spa, wellness, and/or

hospitality business thrive in the next

year and beyond. We’re outlining those

practices here. Together, they make up the

acronym “CARING.”





Network building


Read on to learn why taking a CARING

approach to your business will set you up

for success in the coming year and beyond.


Communication between everyone

at your organization will always bring

success. When setting your goals and KPIs,

communicating these goals, and how you

plan to achieve them, to stakeholders

is key.

Everyone at your company should be

aligned and working together towards

common objectives. Your software

should allow you to stay connected to

each other, to track KPIs, and facilitate

performance management. The information

gathered from your software’s reporting

dashboard should serve as a facilitator for

communication between you and both your

team and the people to whom you answer.

Additionally, communication with guests

is key to elevating the guest experience

and building and maintaining relationships.

Effectively communicating what you have

to offer and keeping the lines open is what

will keep guests coming back and help the

relationship grow.

A good communicator is first and foremost

a good listener. Listening to guest needs –

which includes listening for things that are

unsaid – allows you to meet and exceed

those needs. This is where recording guest

information in your spa software system

comes in. A guest should never have to tell

you something important more than once.

Having to repeat oneself is a sure sign that

the other party is not listening.


| Spa Executive


Adaptability is the ability to adjust to

change and new conditions. Every business

has to navigate uncertainty and unexpected

disruption, and we can only plan for what

we can envision. It’s the disruptions we

can’t envision that are the true tests of our

adaptability. Something business leaders

learned over the past few years is that

disruption is impossible to predict. That’s

what makes it disruptive.

The result of adaptability is agility. An agile

company is a business that can adapt

quickly to market changes.

Hospitality was one of the hardest hit

sectors in the world during the recent

upheaval we experienced during the

COVID-19 pandemic.. It was agile

businesses that fared the best, those that

were flexible and that made the effort to

pivot and try new things, started offering

online classes and connecting with guests

virtually, introduced touchless therapies

and contactless experiences, leveraged

retail, and showed courage and creativity.

Becoming an agile company means hiring

flexible, creative teams with multiple

talents, open minds, and a willingness to

learn. It also requires leadership that is

always willing to learn and look for ways to

apply those learnings.


An article in the Harvard Business Review

(HBR) defines resilience as “a company’s

capacity to absorb stress, recover

critical functionality, and thrive in altered


We’ve recently become aware of how

important resilience is, and many business

leaders have resolved to increase the

resiliency of their organizations. However,

the HBR article points out, “very few

companies are able to explicitly design for,

measure, and manage resilience.”

Fortunately, there are principles of longlasting

systems one can implement to

structure an organization for resilience.

These include diversity, which means

employing people from diverse

backgrounds and with diverse skill sets, and

creating an environment that encourages

diverse ways of thinking. This helps beget

an array of innovative responses to

problems, which can protect against failure

and collapse. Diversity can also mean

offering a diverse array of menu options

beyond the traditional one-to-one, handson

treatment with a therapist. And it can

mean diversifying revenue streams, so that

you are not at risk of collapse if you lose

just one stream. Diverse revenue streams

can include gift cards, memberships, and

subscription services.

Building ecosystems within, and outside

of, your organization – with vendors,

suppliers, and even partnering with other

businesses – can help create resilience

when more standalone businesses are

more vulnerable.

Resilience also requires prudence, humility,

forward thinking, adaptability, collaboration,

and more. Devote yourself to becoming

resilient. There’s no guarantee of survival

but creating a resilient organization

will help.


Innovation is always valuable and necessary

and is an important part of business success

in any industry. It is the process or act of

introducing new ideas, approaches, concepts,

products, and processes.

Until very recently, the spa and wellness

sectors had been somewhat overly steeped

in traditionalism for many years, as has

been noted more than once by industry

leaders. There was resistance to change

and a reluctance to embrace technology

and innovation. This is less the case since

the COVID-19 pandemic forced global

industries to accelerate technological

advancement to the rate of decades in

days. Now, more people understand the

importance of innovation.

As we move forward as an industry post

COVID pandemic, there will be more

disruption and further technological

advancement. Biogenetic testing,

bioengineering, robotics, virtual and

augmented reality, nanotech, AI, wearables,

and software may all contribute to massive

change in the industry over the next

decade. Businesses with the wherewithal

to innovate along with these and other

technologies will thrive.

Innovation can be as simple as finding

new ways to package and offer existing

experiences. We might find whole new

offerings in new available technologies,

or find ways to integrate new tech into

existing services.

Network building

As mentioned above, networks and

ecosystems will help safeguard against

disruption and also help grow revenue in

the new era. It’s much more difficult to thrive

alone than it is to thrive within an active

network, the components of which rely on

each other for survival.

Your network includes your guests, with

10 | Spa Executive

whom you are obviously already working

to build relationships. It also includes your

guests’ connections, including colleagues,

friends, and family. With your existing

customers as your ambassadors, their

referrals should make up a significant portion

of your new customers. The same thing

applies to your team members, who are also

part of your network. Their referrals should

be helping you find new talent.

Your network includes the other departments

at your organization, if your spa is a part of

a hotel or resort. Integrating departments

will help things run more efficiently and

successfully than working in silos. Your

network includes businesses with which you

partner, and it includes your visiting experts.

Each of these elements of your network

should be nurtured and maintained.

Networks can also refer to your internal

systems and integrations, working together to

create a seamless guest experience. Online

and mobile booking, contactless check-in and

check-out, and integrated payment systems

all help create that experience.


The importance of gratitude can be

overplayed in self-help circles, but it’s often

underplayed in business. The power of

saying “thank you” can go a long way towards

building successful businesses.

Research on gratitude has reportedly

exploded over the past 20 years and studies

of gratitude at work have linked it to “more

positive emotions, less stress and fewer

health complaints, a greater sense that we

can achieve our goals, fewer sick days, and

higher satisfaction with our jobs and our

coworkers.” According to Berkeley’s Greater

Good Magazine, “evidence suggests that

gratitude and appreciation contribute to

the kind of workplace environments where

employees actually want to come to work and

don’t feel like cogs in a machine.”

You need your team to love where they work

in order to provide the best guest experience.

But that gratitude has to be genuine.

“[Gratitude is] going to make your business

more profitable, you’re going to be more

effective, your employees will be more

engaged—but if that’s the only reason you’re

doing it, your employees are going to think

you’re using them,” Steve Foran, founder of

the program Gratitude at Work, is quoted as

saying. “You have to genuinely want the best

for your people.”

Gratitude at Work also cites research findings

that 81% of people would work harder for a

grateful boss and that the top reason people

leave their jobs is because they don’t feel


You want your customers to feel valued and

appreciated, and the surest way to convey

this appreciation is to say “thank you.” —

“Thank you for your business,” “Thank you

for referring a friend,” “Thank you for being a

wonderful guest…”

Gratitude that your business has made it this

far will help you make it even further.

Say “thank you.” Say it loudly and often.

Apply the CARING approach to your

hospitality, spa, or wellness business and

let us know if you see the results! To learn

more about Book4Time and how our leading

software can help your spa business thrive,

visit www.book4time.com.

11 | Spa Executive





Book4Time is the global leader in spa, wellness, and leisure activity management software for the hospitality market. Our SaaS

platform manages the end-to-end guest experience and back-office operations for some of the world’s top hotels, resorts, casinos,

and private clubs in more than 85 countries.

Book4Time is experiencing rapid growth and is hiring experienced professionals in a number of key roles including:









If you thrive on innovation and are you looking for a compelling career

opportunity, view our current openings

@ https://book4time.com/careers/

We look forward to working with you!

Featured property:

The Pearl Spa & Wellness at Four

Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi

The Pearl Spa & Wellness at Four Seasons

Hotel Abu Dhabi is designed to embrace guests

and cater to every facet of wellbeing with

experiences formulated to help you “find your

inner pearl.”

The Pearl Spa & Wellness at Four Seasons

Hotel Abu Dhabi at Al Maryah Island occupies

two floors and spans over 21,500 square

feet. The spa has eight treatment rooms, a

beautiful relaxation area, wet facilities, a co-ed

fitness center and a women’s-only gym. Each

treatment room includes soft sheets and a

private shower while a large couple’s suite

includes a Jacuzzi for two.

The space is designed to embrace guests

and cater to every facet of wellbeing with

experiences formulated to help you “find your

inner pearl.” Senior Spa Director, Middle East

and Africa, for Four Seasons Hotels, Christelle

Besnier, who is our Spotlight interview for

this month, describes the spa as “traditional,”

explaining that “You feel the culture of the

Middle East,” when visiting.

Each of the Four Seasons Pearl Spas has

a signature oil with special scents that are

blended and sourced locally. Besnier told us,

“In Abu Dhabi, we have za’atar, white fig, and

white tea. It’s very warm. You really feel the

Middle East when you have your massage.”

The Four Seasons brand is known for the

highest standard of guest experience and the

spa’s immersive environment delivers with

exquisite treatments and high-quality brands.

Unwind in a relaxation room with Jing teas

and auto-adjusting beds, enjoy a romantic

massage in the couple’s suite, or try the

only heated quartz sand table in Abu Dhabi,

which is said to help increase relaxation and

alleviate pain.

Every detail of The Pearl Spa & Wellness

brings you the essence of the UAE’s rich

traditions, from the design of the spa to the

therapies themselves. And with decades

of experience and passion, the team of

international therapists have guests in

expert hands.

Stand out menu items include:


“Begin your authentic beautifying ritual with

a full body coffee exfoliation. Allow the rich

emollient oils of camel milk and the warm

aromas of honey to envelop your body. A

traditional deeply nourishing hair treatment

concludes the experience leaving your skin

rejuvenated and nourished.”

13 | Spa Executive


“A combination of deep tissue, Swedish,

lymphatic drainage and acupressure points will

release deep seated tension from the body. This

specialized full body massage together with

the benefits of Oud will stimulate circulation,

remove accumulated toxins and relieve

water retention.”


“Enjoy an exclusive massage experience by

customizing your time and therapist’s touch

using a blend of our signature UAE Spa

collection oils and massage techniques. A

personal consultation will ensure that you

receive a unique treatment to suit your

wellness needs.”

14 | Spa Executive




Enjoy the contact-less experience.

7 signs you

shouldn’t hire

someone at

your spa

When interviewing a new potential hire for

your spa, there are some red flags you should

not ignore. Here are some signs you shouldn’t

hire someone at your spa.

When interviewing a new potential team

member for your spa, there are some red

flags you should not ignore.

The staffing situation is always difficult

in this industry and that can sometimes

lead people to ignore the signs that

someone might not be a good hire. This

is understandable, but can lead to bigger

problems, because hiring a bad employee

can cost you more in the long run than not

hiring anyone at all. You don’t just want to fill

a role. You want to fill it with someone who

is reliable, professional, and personable,

and who will maintain or surpass your high

customer experience standards. You want to

fill it with someone you won’t have to replace

in three months.

This isn’t always easy and we can’t always

get what we want. What you can do is take

note of red flags and weigh them against the

job candidate’s skills, experience, and other

qualities – and make the most appropriate

decision based on all available information.

Some small issues may be possible to deal

with in training and onboarding, while others

may not.

Here are some signs you shouldn’t hire

someone at your spa, or at least that you

should take a closer look before hiring.

They’re late to the interview

This applies to all industries to varying

degrees, but you really need your spa team

members to be on point. They have a lot to

stay on top of when providing services and

treatments: schedules, cleaning, sanitation,

customer notes and information, sales… you

therefore want to hire people who can stay

on their game. This means, at the very least,

showing up on time to the interview. The

job interview is when people are on their

best behavior – it’s not going to get better

from there. So, if they’re late to the interview

(unless they got hit by a car or lightning or

something), they’re likely to be late later.

They are otherwise unprepared

Spa workers need to be the sort of people

who like to be prepared – maybe even

overprepared. It’s not just about preparing

the room and staying on top of stocking

and cleaning. It’s also about familiarizing

themselves with the customer information

before the guest arrives at the spa and

readying everything required to personalize

that experience and make it as amazing as

possible. Showing up prepared shows you

care. Your job candidate should come to the

interview knowing about your spa and what

makes it special and unique. If the spa is

part of a hotel or resort, they should be able

to tell you why they want to work there. They

16 | Spa Executive

should have prepared questions to ask and

have ready answers to your questions.

They trash talk their former employer

or colleagues

No job candidate should ever speak

negatively about a former employer or

colleague, regardless what their experience

was at another job. This is a bad sign for a

few reasons. One is that it’s a potential sign

that the person tends to blame others and

doesn’t take responsibility for their own

mistakes or behavior. It’s also a potential

sign of a gossip who lacks discretion and

solid judgment, and who may talk behind the

backs of their colleagues, customers, and

managers (which might be you) in future.

Even if there is reason for a true grievance

with another person, diplomacy is key.

They show a lack of humility and empathy

Your spa service providers and front desk

team should have the ability to connect with

people, and the interpersonal skills required

to do that include humility and empathy.

These skills are demonstrated in many ways,

most of which are simple and obvious, like

listening. You can often tell when a person

is actively listening rather than just waiting

to talk, because they respond to what you

are saying and ask appropriate follow-up

questions. And you can tell something about

whether a person shows empathy by the

way they treat others around them who are

not in a position to help them or advance

their career – so, anyone who is not doing

the hiring, for example, like a

desk staff member. You can find job

interview questions you can ask to assess

empathy here:

Tepid references

Don’t skip the reference checking, and pay

attention to what people say – while also

17 | Spa Executive

paying attention to what they don’t say.

In some places, like Canada for example,

former employers will almost never say

anything outright negative about a former

employee. While it’s not illegal to give a bad

reference (in Canada) it can open you up to

a defamation lawsuit and nobody wants to

risk that. They might therefore confirm that

a person worked there but not say much

else. You may be able to ask if the person is

eligible for rehiring and they can tell you that

the person is or is not eligible. Obviously,

anything other than a glowing review should

be cause for pause.

They think they know everything

Arrogance is a bad sign in a spa employee,

because the ability to adjust and adapt to

each guest and learn from one’s everyday

experience is key. A good employee is

always learning and growing, and continues

to do so throughout their career. If someone

appears resistant to the idea of training and

ongoing learning, they will likely eventually

stagnate in their role. Look for an eagerness

to learn and a curiosity about the world of

wellness, the world in general, and your

own experience.

Your gut tells you something is off

Listen to your gut. It might know something

you don’t. Research findings suggest that

there’s a neurological basis for intuition or

“gut feelings.” Scientists call the stomach the

“second brain” and in it, there is a neural

network of 100 million neurons lining the

digestive tract.

According to HBR, when your brain works

in tandem with your gut it can assess

“your memories, past learnings, personal

needs, and preferences,” and make the

wisest decision given the context. “In this

way, intuition is a form of emotional and

experiential data that leaders need to value.”

CEOs of major corporations often credit

their success to this intuition.

That doesn’t mean your gut can’t be wrong.

But if it’s telling you something is off, pay

attention to that message.

Also pay attention to these signs you

shouldn’t hire someone at your spa. They

might not be 100% dealbreakers but

they are indications you should take

another look.

Four Seasons’ Christelle Besnier on what

makes an effective spa director and a great

guest experience

Four Seasons’ Senior Spa Director, Middle East

and Africa, Christelle Besnier, talks about her

spas and the habits of effective spa directors.

Christelle Besnier is the Senior Spa Director,

Middle East and Africa, for Four Seasons

Hotels. With a passion for setting the

standard across Abu Dhabi and Dubai for

wellness, Ms. Besnier’s goal is “to perfect the

entire guest experience from end to end.”

Her career started with a specialized

tourism agency in Cannes, through which

she was introduced to hospitality at the

Hotel Metropole where she moved to work

in sales and marketing and moved up the

ranks through the executive office, working

on special projects and guest relations. Ms.

Besnier says, “When the project of the spa

came along, with ESPA at that time, I wanted

to be a part of it. I didn’t even know what

spa was and I was very excited about it. So, I

worked on the pre-opening of the Metropole

Spa, Monte Carlo.”

She then opened the Guerlain spa at Hotel

du Palais in Biarritz and worked as an

international trainer for Caudalie Cosmetics

before returning to the hospitality industry

(“I missed hospitality and being a part of

a team,” she says), taking on the roles of

Assistant Manager, then Spa Manager, and

finally Spa Director at the Hotel George V in

Paris. She later left to open the spa at the

Four Seasons Abu Dhabi, moving her family

and twin girls (now 10 years old) with her.

Ms. Besnier is now in Dubai overseeing

a collection of three spas in the United

Arab Emirates: the Pearl Spa and Wellness

Jumeirah, The Pearl Spa and Wellness DIFC,

and the Pearl Spa and Wellness Abu Dhabi,

while also doing regional duties overlooking

all Saudi and Beirut projects.

We connected with Christelle Besnier to talk

about Four Seasons spas in the Middle East

and what makes a great guest experience

and effective spa director.

Can you talk about the three spas you oversee

for Four Seasons in the UAE?

They are amazing. With this collection, we

are celebrating the identity of each spa.

So, Abu Dhabi, which I consider my baby,

because I opened it, is a city hotel. It’s a

two-floor spa with eight treatment rooms,

a beautiful relaxation area, wet facilities,

and a big fitness center. That spa is more

traditional. You feel the culture of the

Middle East.

We have signature oils with special scents

18 | Spa Executive

that are blended and sourced locally. In

Abu Dhabi, we have za’atar, white fig, and

white tea. It’s very warm. You really feel the

Middle East when you have your massage.

In DIFC we have myrrh and black tea, so

it’s very warming as well, amazing for the

muscle tension, and it represents the bustle

of Dubai because that spa is nestled inside

DIFC, so it’s full of business traffic, and when

you come to the spa, you have an amazing

feeling of relaxation. That spa is very small,

with only five treatment rooms, no steam

room, no sauna, but there is access to an

outdoor glass pool and jacuzzi that overlook

the Dubai skyline. The resort at Jumeirah is

bigger, with 10 treatment rooms, including

a double couples suite, an indoor pool,

relaxation rooms, outdoor area, fitness

center, and tennis court. The signature oil

there is more resort-y. We are surrounded

by beautiful frangipani, so our scent is

frangipani, lavender, and neroli, promoting

relaxation and disconnection.

The brand’s mantra is centered in wellness

that connects, balances and inspires

fulfillment and self-love. The spas all offer

signature treatments and rituals that are

common between them and a range of

experiences that are unique to

each location.

What makes a great guest experience?

The great guest experience for us is to be

understood. It starts with the reservation

team being on hand to fill the needs of

the guest, flowing down through the spa

professionals to take note of their needs

and requests. We have a lot of regular

guests that we know well. We know their

preferences and can anticipate their

needs, their preferred therapist, treatment,

techniques, the setup of the room. Obviously

we need to go the extra mile to satisfy the

guests. Whenever there is an opportunity for

us, to pay extra attention and do something

that they are not expecting and that makes

sense for their experience, we encourage

the team to do so. It can be a farewell gift, a

little card in the treatment room, a healthy

beverage to celebrate a special occasion. We

have many stories like this.

What are some habits of effective spa directors

or leaders in spa and wellness?

An effective leader in spa and wellness

should be a listener and multitasker. These

would be the two main words I would use.

Spa professionals are not in the same

culture as F&B or room professionals. You

need to have extra attention and extra care

and be able to understand people even

when they’re not talking. Leaders need to

listen to their teams and be role models.

I’m a very hands-on spa director. I think it’s

important that the team be inspired by

your actions

And multitasking, because being a spa

director is doing everything. I’m doing

finance, I’m hiring, I’m doing marketing,

I’m doing guest relations, purchasing,

negotiating with suppliers… I have to be

creative because I’m looking for new ways

to build new products and new treatments.

The days are not long enough but I love it.

What’s your favorite thing about your job?

I think you feel the passion when I’m talking

about it, and I think my favorite thing is

when I see and hear amazing feedback from

the team or from a guest. And then I am

sharing that with the team. And when I see

the pride in their eyes and their smile, I’m

happy because it’s teamwork. To see the

team super proud of themselves makes me

very happy. This is what I missed when I left

hospitality, and this is why I am still here so

many years after.

What are you excited about?

I’m excited about Four Seasons because

we have a new VP of wellness, Michael

Newcombe. And also because post Covid,

we see that wellness is so recognizable

everywhere, like wellness at work. Everyone

wants to start their fitness goals again. The

development of wellness programs is to me

quite important. I hope to see a new reality

after Covid that some behaviors will change.

I am really looking forward to see how the

near future will translate wellness and how

we will be the artisans of wellbeing and

living well.

19 | Spa Executive

Wellness trend: ketamine

Ketamine has been found to be a potentially

promising treatment for depression,

migraines, generalized anxiety disorder,

and more.

When they called cannabis a “gateway drug,”

they may not have meant as a wellness

therapy but that’s what has happened.

CBD is old news these days, and since the

mainstreaming of cannabis in wellness,

there has been an explosion of research

into, and use of, other formerly frowned

upon substances. We’ve talked in the past

about the mainstreaming of psychedelics,

like psilocybin, the compound found in

more than 200 species of mushrooms,

and DMT (N,N-Dimethyltryptamine) the

chemical substance known as the “spirit

molecule,” used in ayahuasca, a South

American entheogenic plant brew, as

potential treatments and preventatives

for depression, anxiety, Alzheimer’s,

and addiction, among other things. And,

while these are still on the rise and in

the spotlight, another player has recently

entered the game: ketamine.

Ketamine gained infamy as a recreational drug

Ketamine was developed in 1962 and later

approved by the American Food and Drug

Administration as an anesthetic but has since

gained infamy as a recreational drug. Studies

into its potential as a treatment for depression

by targeting the neurotransmitter glutamate

started in 2000. A more potent version,

esketamine, was approved as a treatment

for depression in 2019, though clinics began

administering intravenous treatments without

approval about 10 years ago, according

to the Los Angeles Times. Johns Hopkins

University psychiatrist, Paul Nestadt, told

the Times that about three-quarters of “very

treatment-resistant patients” show significant

improvement in depressive symptoms.

Ketamine and looking at smiling faces holds

“promise” for helping people with

treatment-resistant depression.

Meanwhile, a new study at the University

of Pittsburgh found that ketamine paired

with looking at images of smiling faces to

build positive associations holds “promise”

for helping people with treatment-resistant


In cities including Toronto, New York,

Miami, and Seattle you’ll find clinics offering

ketamine IV drips. Manhattan’s Jeff Ditzell

Psychiatry clinic, for example, provides an

approximately 40-minute drip accompanied

by theta brain waves and psychotherapy.

The treatments are for people with

debilitating depression who have already

tried other treatment options.

And the Nushama Psychedelic Wellness

Clinic, also in NYC, offers “sub-anesthetic

doses of Ketamine, to occasion an ego-

20 | Spa Executive

dissolving inner exploration.” The website

explains that, “Unlike most medications

which pharmacologically produce a healing

response, ketamine provides a doorway into

your consciousness for you to explore and


On top of treatment-resistant depression,

ketamine has been found in studies to

be a potentially promising treatment for

migraines, generalized anxiety disorder,

social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress

disorder, anorexia nervosa, obsessivecompulsive

disorder, and alcohol and

cocaine abuse.

Researchers are naturally cautious.

Professor Celia Morgan, a

psychopharmacologist at the University of

Exeter, told the UK Telegraph: “Ketamine is

an addictive substance and associated with

harms to bladder and a risk of accidents,

so we have to be cautious when using

it in groups who are prone to addictive

behaviours. But this is important work

trying to drive the science of ketamine and

memory forwards.”

As wellness, medicine, and mental health

supports continue to overlap, we expect

that we might see more normalization of

psychedelic treatments across the board,

including ketamine, in the coming years.

That being said, please don’t try this

at home.

21 | Spa Executive





scapizzi@book4time.com www.spaexecutive.com

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