News > UAE Armenians > Talar Hagopian sees a bright future for Fujairah’s spas
Interview with Talar Hagopian, Spa Manager at Le Meridien Al Aqah in Fujairah, UAE
Spa and leisure facilities at Fujairah’s first five-star beach resort, Le Meridien Al Aqah, are preparing for expansion, following three successful years of operation, according to Talar Hagopian, spa manager at the resort.
The resort, which first opened in 2003, has set the benchmark for hotel operations in the emirate, and is soon to be joined by Rotana and Japanese hotel group JAL Hotels, which is set to open the Nikko Fujairah in December, as the Fujairah coastline becomes a favourite weekend and day destination for those living in the UAE. As local weekend and day visitor numbers continue to grow year on year, Hagopian is preparing to extend her spa facilities with the opening of more treatment rooms and is now busy promoting the resort’s day spa offering.
“My new challenge is to market our day spa, or what we refer to now as ‘Al Aqah Journeys’, to the residents of Dubai and neighbouring emirates. These journeys are a complete experience in the hotel, starting from treatments to healthy meals to swimming and relaxing in our beautiful swimming pool or by the ocean,” Hagopian explains.
Another new addition to the spa menu is the Spa Ritual Bath, introduced last year.
“Of course we have female therapists that perform the treatments for the ladies and male therapists for men. In addition to that, we have separate heat experience areas, equipped with saunas, steam rooms and Jacuzzi. And for those who would like to share that relaxing moment with their loved ones, we introduced last year the Spa Bath Ritual — signature baths — in the privacy of your own room in the hotel. This has been very successful,” she explains.
Ask Hagopian what is the unique selling point of her spa and she will tell you quite simply that it is the location, and Fujairah, that make the spa, and the resort, stand apart.
“Just a 90-minute drive from Dubai and you arrive at a truly unique spa getaway destination,” she remarks. “[Add to that our other USPs], our extensive range of aromatherapy and Ayurvedic treatments, using one of the best spa products in the spa industry, Elemis, [and that is the secret of our success].”
Indeed, the location does appear to be a winner. Approximately 10% of all in-house guests will use the Spa Al Aqah, and with the resort running at occupancies in the high 80s that provides a constant stream of clients for Hagopian and her team.
“Currently, hotel guests do make the majority of our clients during the weekdays. As for the weekends, the bookings are considerably even between the hotel guests and the day guests coming from Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Fujairah,” she explains, adding, ”about 7-10% of our hotel guests use our facilities and this number is growing. Taking this into consideration, we have decided to enlarge our spa.”
Adding more rooms to the existing spa offering does not appear to faze Hagopian, who claims that the biggest challenge for her is getting, and keeping, experienced staff. Le Meridien Al Aqah has stood alone on the Al Aqah beachfront for three years now, and staff have to be totally immersed in the job to be able to make the commitment to stay in such relative isolation.
“A big challenge for my spa is attracting and keeping qualified, passionate and dedicated therapists. The therapist devotes a solid hour, if not more, of undivided attention to our clients’ face and bodies, to transform a physical treatment into the mind, body and soul experience [we promote]. For this specific reason, you need well rounded therapists that can do this in a professional manner,” she says.
“We have staff from many different nationalities highlighting the variety of the treatments we offer. These include therapists from Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines and India.”
While attracting qualified personnel may be an issue, Hagopian claims that getting the amenities and the supplies for the spa is not difficult. The Spa Al Aqah is an Elemis spa, and also offers a Softouch Ayurvedic Centre, and most, if not all, of the treatments and amenities can be sourced via Dubai.
“Our spa treatment menu is a fusion of many different traditions, including aromatherapy, reflexology and Eastern and European styled massages to offer a treatment menu suitable for a holiday environment. We also offer selected pure treatments based on European, Indonesian or Thai or Indian traditions,” Hagopian states.
“As for the brand, Elemis has the most successful and professional spa and anti ageing product range in the world today and thus it makes complete sense to have only the best in our spa.”
When it comes to treatments, anti-ageing facials and body treatments prove the most popular with hotel guests. “The anti-ageing facials are very popular with the ladies since they show powerful and dramatic immediate results due to the techniques and products we use. As for the body treatments, we tailor-make them according to the client’s preference in the style of the treatment and its aroma and this gives our body treatments their unique feature — the individualised solution,” Hagopian says.
The Ayurvedic treatments are also beginning to make a mark in Fujairah, and hotel guests and local residents start to learn more about this traditional Indian form of spa treatment.
“Ayurveda is still quite new to the West and even newer to the spa industry. I do believe that the Ayurvedic treatment market is going to grow very fast in the next couple of years as people are getting more and more aware of the benefits of these treatments. Our Ayurvedic treatments provide a unique way of preserving this ancient tradition whilst providing much needed benefits to today’s client,” says Hagopian, explaining that Spa Al Aqah works closely with other Softouch Ayurvedic Centres in the UAE, including those based at the Kempinski Ajman and the Cleopatra spa in Dubai.
“Since Ayurveda is quite new to the western market, there is the need to educate the market for these types of treatments,” she adds.
Beyond the spa, and leisure facilities at Le Meridien Al Aqah continue to improve and be developed. The resort offers one of the largest free-form pools in the region, as well as a large stretch of private beach, which last year saw the addition of 100 coconut trees planted to offer natural shade to guests.
Le Meridien Al Aqah also played host to the UAE’s first lifeguard championship at the end of June, again affirming its place as one of the region’s leading leisure resorts. All of which makes Hagopian feel very confident for the future, despite the fact that she will soon be sharing her pristine beach with local and international competitors.
“I see a very bright future for the spa business in the next couple of years in Fujairah. Al Aqah is a destination for spa lovers and the new hotels will definitely bring in more business to Spa Al Aqah,” she claims.
Source: “Hotelier Middle East”, Dubai ITP publication, 5 August 2006
Article by Sarah Campbell (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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