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Centara spa in Bangkok invests in blind therapists

20 Jan 2016
Centara Grand at Central Plaza Ladprao Bangkok has hired two blind therapists, Decha Phoosiriand and Paranee Fongta, who rely on their senses of smell, sound and touch to help them understand guests’ needs.

“The innate healing power of massage therapy transcends the visual,” said Tara Hanrahan, group director of spa operations for Central Hospitality International, Centara’s parent company.

“One of the reasons visually-impaired therapists provide such amazing massages is they don’t have competing external stimuli. They are able to focus 100 per cent on the tactile environment.”

While blind therapists are quite common in Asia, their employment in five-star resorts is not widespread.

“It is quite rare in luxury resorts only due to spatial challenges,” Hanrahan told Spa Opportunities. “The blind therapist needs guidance to and from the work location, as well as safety to move in and around the area. If luxury spas were built with this in mind, we would see more.”

Hanrahan said she would like to hire more blind therapists at CHI’s properties, but the first priority is to see if the space is safe.

“In large resorts, it generally presents a large challenge,” she explained. “City hotels tend to be a bit different – they’re smaller and easier to navigate.”

Blind therapists need training in navigating the spa, and the therapists at Centara have a guide who escorts them to and from work, as well as to lunch.

“There does need to be very special consideration given to implementing such a service, but the payoffs are great,” said Hanrahan.

She said the feedback from guests has been “amazing.”

“It’s difficult to describe, but when you take away the visual influences, everything becomes focused on touch, and feeling what is wrong and where the muscles are tight,” said Hanrahan. “The therapist is not swayed by external influences or distracted by what’s going on around them – the guest totally feels that.”

In addition, said Hanrahan, blind therapists take away guests’ self-consciousness about things like cellulite or hairy legs.

“When you have a blind therapist, the guests themselves are able to relax a lot faster and just be,” she said.

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