The award-winning spa at The Yeatman stands out as a luxurious, light-filled wine and spa hotel pouring out excellent Caudalie vinothérapie treatments
WORDS SUZANNE BEARNE
The Yeatman hotel is barely of age. It’s only been open five years, but you wouldn’t know it from the number of awards lining one of the walls near the reception. In fact, this display showcases just a small selection of the prizes the hotel has scooped up since it was established, including Hotel Spa of the Year - Europe in the 2013 World Spa & Wellness Awards.
The Yeatman, set high among the port lodges and offering stunning views across the Douro river and the historic centre of breathtaking Porto, has already wowed critics and guests with its luxurious experience (its Gastronomic Restaurant has a Michelin star) and its USP: wine.
The wine theme seeps through to its Caudalie Vinothérapie Spa, which as its name suggests, serves up a programme of exclusive treatments from the French brand, based on vineyard ingredients. The driving force behind The Yeatman is Adrian Bridge, chief executive of the hotel and The Fladgate Partnership, the hotel’s family-run business which also produces Taylor’s Port wine.
“Adrian’s goal is to make The Yeatman a destination well known worldwide for its wine,” says the hotel’s spa director Adília Oliveira. “He wanted the hotel to become a kind of host for Portuguese wine because it’s really well known for Port wine but not for other Portuguese wines.” Oliveira describes The Yeatman as like “a museum of wines”.
It’s true, everywhere you go in the hotel there’s some reference to wine, with even the treatment rooms named after different Portuguese wines. “The Yeatman is the first wine hotel built in Portugal,” says Oliveira. “We really wanted to offer vinotherapy [the name for the wine-based beauty concept behind the Caudalie brand] to create awareness of our traditions and wine region.”
Oliveira says the tie-up with Caudalie and its vinothérapie concept was the “perfect choice of partnership”. She adds: “They have the same philosophy about wine, the families have the same dream and they are both owners and producers of wine. It’s like a marriage - you have to fall in love with the brand.”
The spa at The Yeatman offers a vast number of treatments, with 12 choices of massage alone. Among its most popular treatments are the Caudalie Relaxing Massage and the Barrel Bath Experience, which takes place in a separate room with views over Porto and the Douro river and the Crushed Cabernet Scrub. Of the latter, Oliveira says: “When I trained in at the Caudalie flagship spa in Bordeaux for the first time, it was the first treatment I fell in love with.”
The 186sq m spa was two-thirds built before the team at The Yeatman joined forces with Caudalie to create a space designed to both the property’s and the French brand’s specifications. While there’s plenty of nods to Caudalie brand identity, such as in the shape of the use of wood, Bridge also put his stamp on the décor, adding elements such as a Roman bath area.
The end product is a spa created from natural materials such as wood and marble, with plenty of natural light seeping through, even in the 10 treatment rooms – two of which are designed for couples. The team has created a number of standout features, including an immersive shower experience that serves up different lights and sounds depending on your preference (for example relaxation) and a relaxation room that offers stunning views of Porto.
The Caudalie Vinothérapie Spa clientele is largely made up of couples between the age of 40 and 60, but Oliveira says she has also noticed an uptick in younger females, with more visiting from Poroto as they seek out relaxation. Seven out of ten clients are hotel guests, with 60% from other countries, including the US, the UK and France.
Experiences on the spa menu include four different styles of rituals, such as the 110-minute Sommelier Ritual, which involves soaking in the barrel bath, an exfoliation, a signature massage and a visit to the Port wine cellar, to allow guests to enjoy a longer experience on their quest for relaxation.
The Yeatman wants clients to spend longer at the spa in order to truly switch off and relax. In order to facilitate this, it has packages that range from two to six days and include facials, massages and the barrel bath.
“There’s a big change in the world,” says Oliveira, who has worked in hotels and spas for 14 years, and trained in far-flung destinations such as India, Brazil, the Maldives and Mozambique.
“Most of us now live very stressful lives, so it’s important to spend time with ourselves, to find ourselves and our balance. Most of our guests are looking for relaxation but at the same time, they want to combine this with eating better food and doing exercise, which makes packages fundamental.”
She adds: “Fifty minutes for a massage is not enough time for a person to relax. They’re just beginning to relax when the treatment finishes and then they say ‘can we start again?’
The art of standing out
“When I was at Spatec in June, Jeremy [McCarthy, group director of spa at Mandarin Oriental] said that ‘Wellness is the new luxury’. It is a fact - people want the best experience, with a full package. That’s why we have partnered with Global Wellness Day [for which Oliveira is one of the ambassadors] Like the creator [Belgin Aksoy] said, ‘It’s important to create awareness to show how important it is to drink water or walk for an hour’. It’s important to bring wellness in our lives.”
The Yeatman’s own events on Global Wellness Day, which this year took place on June 13, included a series of activities such as yoga and lectures on health issues – which sold out within four hours of going on sale online. With wellness flagged up as a crucial area for
Expanding the wellness side of its offering, the spa at The Yeatman, will introduce meditation classes towards the end of the summer. The spa in many ways stands out in a country not as widely known for its spa industry as some of its European neighbours.
“There isn’t a culture of going to spa [here], Oliveira says. “In Bordeaux families go together, like mother, daughter and father. Here, it’s different; we are really just beginning.” One of the key challenges, says Oliveira, is impressing clients who have high expectations given the many awards the spa and the hotel has won.
“It’s a challenge every day because people know you have won best hotel spa awards, they have high expectations,” she explains. Maintaining those expectations and being consistent is a big challenge.”
Developing the industry
She adds that another challenge is finding the right staff. However, having been in the business for 14 years, half of her opening team were people she’d already worked with. Oliveira is interested in nurturing the future talent of the industry.
She was selected as one of the spa directors mentoring a more junior spa manager as part of the Global Mentorship Pilot Program, which launched earlier this year, and is currently mentoring Arantza Azparren, spa operations manager at the Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona.
As well as the mentorship, Oliveira is interested in challenging the status quo in the industry and is keen to see the introduction of an international ratings system for spas.
Looking ahead, Oliveira’s focus continues to be on creating a consistent high quality experience at the Caudalie Vinothérapie Spa. “The objective is to maintain the Yeatman Spa as one of the leading spas in Portugal. We strive to further improve through differentiation and by offering excellent service.
“This can be obtained by maintaining the staff and further developing them both in service and product knowledge. We will develop further in accordance with the latest [trends], including nutrition, stress handling, wellbeing and lifestyle.” It sounds like more space might need to be made on that trophy wall in the future.