Interview with the ‘Spa Whisperer’, Nigel Franklyn
Interview with the ‘Spa Whisperer’, Nigel Franklyn
On any given day, you could find Nigel Franklyn at the Four Seasons George V Paris or The Siam in Bangkok. Franklyn is known as The Spa Whisperer and he is the man that turns luxury spas around the world into something exceptional. I met Franklyn at Emirates Wolgan Valley Retreat and Spa in NSW where he was spending a couple of weeks tweaking their Timeless Spa into perfection.
Having worked as a health, beauty and travel journalist for the past 20 years, I have to say, I was quite skeptical meeting someone who called themselves a ‘spa whisperer’. Here was someone who travelled the world testing out spas. A dream job no doubt, but was he really making a difference?
Meeting Franklyn dispelled any skepticism. I quickly learnt why reputable spas were scrambling to have Franklyn advise them. Franklyn not only has practical advice to fine-tune the running of a spa, he also knows what it takes to transform a spa experience from “a nice massage” to “wow, that 90 minutes just changed my life.”
Formerly a New York-based model, Franklyn knows that good looks can only get you so far. “Many spas spend a great deal of money making the building look amazing, but if the service, treatments and products are not right, it’s all wasted,” says Franklyn. “When I come in, I look at all the little things; from how a client is greeted, to the cleanliness of a therapist’s nails, to the scent of a room. People invest a great deal of time and money when they come to a spa. The total experience has to be perfect. An experience starts even before someone gets on the [treatment] bed. It’s 101 tiny parts working together that makes a truly great spa. People can feel vulnerable in a spa, they may be naked, hair in a mess, and you’re in their personal space. They need to feel comfortable and secure. The technical motions [of a treatment] are important, but that’s just a small part of a much larger story.
Franklyn had been developing spas in the US for five years when he attended an international spa conference. “I just knew it’s where I needed to be,” says Franklyn. He met Megan Larsen, the Founder and Director of Sodashi at the conference and an instant connection was formed. “Sodashi is a very unique and beautiful skincare range. Megan is also an inspiring woman and I was impressed by her absolute commitment in working in harmony with nature. Everyone who works with Sodashi practices Transcendental Meditation. None of the products have synthetic chemicals, preservatives or fragrances. The products are carefully formulated using aromatherapy and Ayurveda.” The products and treatments are found in spas all over the world including Four Seasons [globally], Qualia [Hamilton Island], Kamalaya [Thailand], The Oberoi [UAE], Landmark Mandarin Oriental [Hong Kong].
Franklyn now works exclusively with Sodashi, travelling ten months a year to various spas around the world. He had just left CHI spa in Sydney’s Shangri-La Hotel, arriving for a two-week stay at the luxurious Wolgan Valley Resort and Spa, before he is due to jet off to his next appointment at the Four Seasons Hotel in Lisbon, Portgual.
“I love coming to Wolgan Valley”, says Franklyn. “There’s a lot of energy here. I first visited in 2011 for a couple of days just to meet the team. Since then I come back a couple of times a year. Obviously the place is gorgeous but the treatments are what’s really unique here. Because it’s a small spa with incredible therapists we are given the opportunity to create something very different. The treatments have been designed by Sodashi and they are amazing.” The Timeless spa at Wolgan Valley is certainly one of the most beautiful places I have seen. Nestled in a World Heritage area in the Blue Mountains, the spa itself is built from timber, sandstone and lots of glass to make the most of the surrounding view. With six double treatment rooms and a glorious relaxation space, the spa is quiet, private and totally luxurious. The treatment menu is extensive without being overwhelming and includes treatments such as the 90 minute Thermal Infusing Facial [$240] and the 90 minute Earth Mineral Detoxifying Body Cocoon [$255]. “If I look at the spa bookings and see a whole lot of 60 minute relaxation massages I get disappointed,” says Franklyn. “The Timeless Spa offers some really special treatments and while a massage is great, you can really get more out of the spa experience if you are a little adventurous. Yesterday I encouraged one gentleman to try the chakra balancing treatment and he was totally blown away by it.”
As glamorous as it sounds – travelling the world to beautiful spas – I ask Franklyn if he ever misses home. “I return to my base in San Francisco for a month at a time and by the end of my stay, I’m always itching to get on the road again. I miss my dog but I love my work. What excites me the most is to see a therapists reignited by the work they are doing. Every week, I see people change and grow, and often I have helped to create that change. A spa can be a very special, sometimes life-changing place. If a person is really stressed, or going through a really challenging time, a spa can provide a safe and nurturing space. The healing touch of a therapist can help to unravel some of the strain. The right treatment can help bring a person back in to balance. Working to enhance that healing environment is what drives me.”