Medical therapies

Manuela Sanchez, spa manager at the recently opened Khatt Springs Hotel & Spa in Ras Al Khaimah, talks to Leisure Manager about the challenges of opening a new spa, bringing health tourism to the northern emirates and educating the local market on alternative therapies and their medical benefits

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By  Sarah Gain Published  September 12, 2006

|~|Team.jpg|~|The Khatt Springs spa team.|~|The recently opened Khatt Springs Hotel & Spa offers a unique blend of natural therapies, high-tech treatments and experiential cures at its 16-room spa. Equipped with the latest treatment technology available, predominantly from Silhouet Tone, the spa was designed and furnished by Balnea of Germany and looks set to prove a hit with both European tourists and local visitors.

The spa has been furnished to the highest standards, with separate male and female spas both offering a hydro pool with massage jets and showers, equipped with chromotheraphy lighting, eight laconium beds, Technogym-equipped gymnasium, a sauna, ice room and a wide range of treatment rooms, many of which are 'firsts' into the region.

Managing Ras Al Khaimah's latest spa retreat is Manuela Sanchez, an experienced spa professional who specialises in alternative and complementary medicine. Sanchez arrived at Khatt Springs from Italy in February 2005. By the time of her arrival, the hotel's owner and management had already decided that the spa was to be an integral part of the property's attractions, and had brought in some of the world's leading spa equipment suppliers to furnish the new facility.

Balnea from Germany, and America's Silhouet Tone, had been chosen to equip the spa, through regional distributor, Beauty Leaders. German brand Babor was the treatment provider chosen for the many facials, massages and bathing therapies. All in all, it made for an impressive spa shopping list, and Sanchez was more than pleased with the choices made prior to her arrival.

“The owners had already decided on Balnea. Balnea has done beautiful things around the world. I did not want to put so many rooms in, but I am happy with the choice,” Sanchez says.

“When I arrived I began with choosing the treatments. Dubai has so many spas. You have to try and give something different. If you give a massage — this is something everyone has — so we have tried to give something more.

For the moment there is not much to do here [in Khatt] so we have to provide complete treatments,” she remarks.
The treatment range is an impressive array of traditional therapies, complementary medicines and high-tech gadgetry.

The spa offers the first precious stone therapy room in the UAE. A mosaic tiled steam room, with two specially prepared chairs, makes up the basis of the treatment, which focuses on rebalancing the Chinese elements of earth, metal, fire, wind, water.

“First we test the constitution [of the client] to find which element the client is in need of. Round precious stones are then placed in a wooded box and slotted into the chairs to sit against the chakras on the back. There are four aromas belonging to the element in need, and the client chooses one for a massage, which follows the steam room.

“Music and colour, all according to the element in need, are then fed into the room. It is a combination of therapies. It is something new and sounds so beautiful. It is very relaxing,” Sanchez explains.

Treatment times do vary, as Sanchez says time should be up to the client. “We allow people to be themselves; they can have 20-30 minutes in the precious stone room and over 45 minutes for a massage.”

The precious stone room is a first for the region, and Sanchez is working hard to promote this alternative form of therapy. However, more traditional treatments are also available, although each comes with its own Khatt Springs twist. For example, the traditional Cleopatra Bath has been reworked with camel milk, honey and dates.

“The most effective things are from the place you come from. Camel milk is very rich in nutrients. The treatment includes a 15-20 minute soak followed by a 30 minute massage. This is very popular. People like to be in the bath — it is like a Jacuzzi,” Sanchez says.

Another local therapy is a full moon massage. The hotel is currently building a semi-permanent tent on a small hill close to the hotel, which looks out over the mountain terrain. Once completed, clients will be able to take a massage under the stars, with the desert mountains spread out before them.

The spa menu also includes favourites such as aromatherapy massage, hot stone massage, facials, manicures and pedicures. The spa is equipped with Cirrus Silhouet Tone machines, which provide pure light for skin rejuvenation. “This is preferred to lasers as it leaves no redness,” Sanchez explains.

Another popular treatment is the Serail bath, which sees clients smothered in four different muds for different parts of the body, and then placed in a steam room for ten minutes, with colour therapy.

Colour therapy plays a big part in the spa, with showers and all water features offering some form of chromotherapy, which Sanchez claims helps balance the mind and body.
“We are close to being a medical hotel. We will have seminars and bring in specialised speakers. We are focussing on spa, beauty, health and the mind. People who understand this want to receive a whole treatment,” Sanchez says.

“My idea is to have a doctor here to focus on the natural medicine. We are looking for have some treatments with natural products, which give amazing results. We want people to know there will be no side effects.”

Guests come for 7-15 days, and while they are at Khatt Springs Sanchez and her team will provide advice on diet, exercise, treatments and also focus on self esteem. “This is very important, as the client must feel comfortable in themselves,” she says.

So far, the spa is conducting 40 treatments a week, but once the hotel is fully up and running Sanchez claims this will rise to 40 treatments a day. Already, she is looking at extending the treatments on offer, with rooms being prepared for Thai and Shiatsu massage, which will open later this month.

Most of the clients are Europeans, but the spa is receiving local visitors, and Sanchez is now working hard to educate the local community. No stranger to the UAE, Sanchez lived and worked in Ras Al Khaimah many years ago, and is confident that people are now accepting the benefits of spa therapies.

“In 2001, the local community were scared when I talked of natural medicines, but now they are more open to complementary medicine. They are definitely more open,” she says.

“Ras Al Khaimah is still a very closed society. Ladies feel that maybe they cannot come here until they understand that we have a ladies-only spa. Then, they are coming. It's not easy, as they have to have the approval of their parents or the family. We cannot push too much,” Sanchez admits.

However, one main attraction of the Khatt Springs is the natural springs themselves. Located at the base of the mountain, and now under the management of the Khatt Springs Hotel & Spa, the springs have been a local attraction for many years and are now being rebuilt to the same five-star standards as the hotel.

The waters at the springs are good for rheumatism, digestive disorders and the skin, and Sanchez is confident that, once rebuilt, the facility will be a major attraction. Separate areas for women, men and foreigners are being created, so as to respect local traditions, and will open to the public in December.

For now, Sanchez is focussing on promoting the spa, and hiring more therapists. At present, she has 10 trained therapists, but claims that she needs at least six more. All therapists are multi-skilled, able to carry out massage, facials, manicures or pedicures.

“I have good staff, who are well prepared and know how to give a good massage, facial or treatment, and they are very well trained,” she says.

For promotion, the first step is to get clients up to Khatt Springs. Hotel guests at sister resort Al Hamra Fort are able to use the spa. Meanwhile, Sanchez is promoting discounted opening rates for spa memberships.

“We can have 100-200 members, as they will all be doing different things. Later on, when all the other facilities are ready, we should receive a good amount of people.”

With treatments such as the Cleopatra bath, aromatherapy treatments, the precious stone therapy and serial bath all proving very popular, Sanchez is confident that this 'get away from it all' spa will prove popular once word gets out.

“I love this place. It has a special energy. It is like an oasis in the mountains. I am very confident that good things will come,” she maintains.||**||

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