Interview with Ms. Hani Alkaddri, The Spa & HC Director of NUO Hotel Beijing
Astounding many with its ingenious integration of ancient and modern and a unique interpretation of the aesthetics of space, NUO Hotel Beijing is widely recognized as a model of art in the hospitality industry. A series of elaborately-made artistic works are found throughout the lobby, SPA, restaurants, guestrooms and public areas.
Inspired by the colors of scholars’ gowns in the Ming Dynasty, brick grey and night sky blue are adopted against royal yellows and warm golds in the design of the hotel. Based on the ancient craft art philosophy, “elaboration for the best quality”, NUO Spa manages to achieve an artful symmetry and balance in the layout design of the nine treatment rooms, as well as maintaining pleasant ambience, and clearly-divided and practically-functioned sections. Meanwhile, the Spa does not lack for artistic elements, consistent with NUO’s essence. For example, at the entrance, pieces of modern art warmly greet customers and the multifunctional art garden is an ideal place for meditation and other mindfulness practices. After treatments, healthy foods are offered to complement the wellness journey.
With 20 years’ experience in the SPA and fitness industry, Ms. Hani Alkaddri is now the The Spa & HC Director of NUO Hotel Beijing, in charge of the department’s strategic planning, operational management and team building. “I feel very lucky to work in such a distinctive and artful hotel,” she says. “NUO Spa is very special where my team and I find a large platform to develop our ideas, and to continually pursue innovative spa concepts and treatments.” SpaChina interviewed her.
What is the concept of NUO Spa?
NUO lays its foundation with the traditional Chinese wellness regime. Likewise, NUO Spa draws its inspiration from the Yin-Yang changing rules of the four seasons according to The Inner Canon of Huangdi, and creates NUO’s signature treatments based on the concept of “vitalize Yang in spring and summer and nourish Yin in autumn and winter”, to help people restore their inner energy and maintain healthy body and mind.
Learning from Compendium of Materia Medica by Li Shizhen, the essential oil and fragrance used in NUO Spa are all extracted from pure natural herbs. The uniquely-made essential oils, when solidified, can be further used as massage candles, body lotion and cream. During the treatment, customers will hear NUO Spa’s exclusive music which is also inspired by Compendium of Materia Medica. In every aspect and detail, we try to abide by Chinese traditions, and at the same time make innovations and adhere to the artful inheritance of NUO.
There are many art pieces in NUO Spa too. What are they and why do you use these art pieces to decorate the spa area?
Most Spas have pleasant decoration. To NUO Spa, the best decoration is art, and that is what sets NUO apart from others. The aim of Spa is to strive for the utmost harmony and health of body, heart and soul, while one’s appreciation of art is a way to purify and sublimate the body and mind. NUO Spa most notably features the following art pieces:
Landscape Fun Series by Huang Qicheng
NUO Spa displays Huang Qicheng’s Landscape Fun Series which explores the spiritual and personality embodiment within the vast scope of nature. Huang aims to portray the artistic conception of traditional Chinese landscape painting through the medium of sculpture. By doing so, he allows the strong impression of landscape in Chinese philosophy to touch the lives of people today.
Rose by Wang Gang
Rose by Wang Gang can be found on NUO Spa’s mezzanine level. The art piece consists of nine nested cubes crafted from bamboo. The multi-dimensional work explores the dialectical relationship between freedom and order, finally resulting in a lamp blooming with dynamic light.
What is the signature treatment at NUO Spa?
NUO Tea Journey features Wuyi rock tea, a half-fermented green tea, produced at NUO Tea Base at Mount Wuyi. Rich in tea polyphenol, Wuyi rock tea treatment not only soothes the body and mind, but also helps remove free radicals and redundant oil so as to make the skin tender and smooth, and combat skin aging and radiation. The treatment begins with Rock Tea Bathing to help guests calm down amidst a pleasant aroma. Then in the Tea Body Scrub and Body Wrap section, the specially blended Wuyi Rock tea powder is made into body cream, together with essential oils and sea salt, to open every pores of the body and infuse in the nutrition of the cream. The following step is NUO Spa’s signature Body Massage, employing pulling, pressing, pinching and kneading according to the meridian channels of the body to stimulate blood circulation, increase skin immunity, and improve the whole body’s health and energy.
What is your operation and management style? How do you maintain NUO Spa’s quality standards?
I work to inspire and motivate teamwork for achieving goals and influence valuable changes. I am always open to new ideas coming from team members. I consult with them frequently and encourage independent thinking. I believe in establishing an open discussion for decision-making. I recognize the skills of key team members and utilize their strengths to the benefit of the team.
Quality standards must be consistent and repeatable, so it is important to set out quality standards defining what is to be done and how it is to be done. However, good standards are not entirely something that can be delivered with a standard operation procedure manual. There has to be an infusion of the Spa’s own personality and vision through which staff have the freedom to act as they see fit with the aim of upholding that vision. Nevertheless, a strong training program is very important to ensure that our staff not only understand that vision, but also understand the standards which must be achieved. A blend of consistency and flexibility is the ultimate goal.
What is your view about the local market? Do you take any action to attract the local market? Do they have different needs from hotel guests?
It is best for hotel spas to engage locals at a high level as it adds a steady stream of revenue that can help the spa’s bottom line during slower times. It also provides a groundswell of support from a marketing standpoint. The more locals that have positive interactions with your spa, the more likely you are to receive positive feedback on review sites, which lead to more interest in your spa.
We attract the local market in a variety of ways including special discounts, creative packages and special treatment offerings, to name just a few. The general perception among the local clientele is that hotel spas tend to be extremely expensive. It’s important that we offer attractive discounted packages and perks. While most international hotel guests tend to go for a combination of treatments, the local guests would go for targeted treatment regime.
Now many spas are using more of the equipment and hi-tech anti-aging products, but NUO Spa is still keeping to the original philosophy and emphasizes human hand services. What are your thoughts on this?
Despite the emergence of technological treatments, there is still a great demand for traditional treatments. I have had treatments with the most modern technology that did not have as much of an effect on me as some basic treatments.
At Nuo Spa, we prefer to focus on traditional services and techniques that rely on human touch for healing & rejuvenating. As the saying goes, no machine can replace the connection between the therapist and the guest. We want our guests to go through a nurturing experience that helps to de-stress, unwind, pamper and transform with some hands-on healing using ingredients that are geared towards comfort and soothing.
Please introduce the four hands massage to our readers.
Our Four-Hands Massage is a unique massage modality that has two therapists workingsimultaneously on one body. The simultaneous massage movements enhance blood circulation and increase muscle relaxation levels.
How do you see the changes of China spa industry in recent years? What are the strengths and weaknesses?
I haven’t been here long enough to comment on the industry’s progression, but I have noticed that the industry lacks qualified and certified professionals who can demonstrate that their knowledge is consistent with international standards and best practices. There is also no regulation to say that a Spa therapist must be qualified or how much training is required to qualify as a therapist. They are simply employed and assigned to perform treatments without proper and adequate training in the specific area of work. It would be good to see a governing body or association develop guidelines and requirements when hiring therapists.
How do you see the young generation? What kind of spas will attract them?
The millennial customer is often time-poor and demands to see a difference immediately. For spas to attract a younger clientele it is therefore essential that they not only offer a great experience but one that is tailored to the individual client’s needs. Treatments should deliver maximum results in minimum time.
You should design treatments that speak to the customer and their lifestyle. Your menu needs to target the wellness concerns that millennials face; such as stress, broken sleep and long working hours, which have a direct impact on skin and body.
The future of the spa industry is in the hands of millennials. These spa-goers of the future are made up of educated, busy individuals who are tech savvy and often cash rich but time poor. They want to be able to use their smartphones to find out everything they need before arriving at the spa and a typical millennial consumer is already using a number of different apps to research which treatments are trending. To stay ahead, spas need to use the right technology to interact with customers and make sure they’re part of setting the trends.