LAS VEGAS—After a day and night of partying on the Las Vegas Strip, a pampering session at the spa never felt so inviting. For revelers of all ages, Shane Upson is turning the traditional spa concept on its head as the director of the new Away Spa at W Las Vegas.
Housed on the second floor, the Away Spa has 10 treatment rooms, a communal relaxation lounge with custom massage chairs, plus locker rooms with steam rooms and oversized experience showers. It has a decidedly fashion-forward vibe, but there’s a touch of drama, too.
Upon entering the spa environment, guests are enveloped in a high-energy and sensory experience much like the Strip itself. The lights in the lounge and check-in area are magenta pink. Moving into the treatment rooms, there’s a neon green hue. Ambient music is designed to be energizing. Once the treatment begins, the lights are turned off and magenta accent lights add a subtle glow to the room to set the mood for an experience that is anything but ordinary.
“We give guests different options and the ability to customize the experience,” said Upson, who previously worked with Bliss spas for three years at the W South Beach Miami and the W West Beverly Hills, as well as held careers is the fashion and cosmetics industry. “W Hotels offers two spa brands—Bliss Spa and Away Spa, and our owners chose Away Spa for W Las Vegas. This was the first Away Spa developed under new brand guidelines that will shape the future of the brand.”
A self-described guru of beauty—see his colorful life played out on Twitter and Instagram—Upson had the creative freedom to inject his own personality and expertise into the spa concept for the Vegas outpost.
“When I was looking through the presentation of the design concept, I received inspiration from different ideas and images. As everyone knows, my vision is not exactly traditional… I definitely felt the support and trust of the stakeholders. I wanted Away Spa to be larger than life to match Vegas’ mentality,” said Upson. “For example, we took an image from the Away Spa business card and turned it into a piece of wall art and put it on the uniforms. We wanted to create a multi-sensory experience that impacts every sense, from sight, sound, smell, touch and even taste.”
Sound is an impactful way to set the tone for a rejuvenating spa experience, but Upson eschews the notion that Enya-esque meditative music needs to blare out of speakers and opts for a soundtrack that is more fitting of an ultra-lounge.
“It’s not traditional waterfalls or ukuleles; we bring that modern fashion-forward experience,” he said. “In the treatment rooms, we present them options so they either can have more of the relaxation music or more energizing music. In the very near future we’ll be able to have different customized playlists for full customization.”
In every creative concept there is first an inspiration or jumping off point. Upson noted that he is continuously inspired by people, communication, teamwork and building success. His philosophy on holistic healing is based on self love and knowledge: “I think that believing that you’re worth it is important for most people and so is understanding the dynamic of what it takes to maintain your health, which includes massage, skincare and nail care. Looking good is part of feeling good. I love helping our guests look good, feel good and feel empowered,” he said. “Beauty is a lifestyle and looking good, feeling good and embracing that experience is a passion point for me. I’ve looked for this leadership experience throughout my career, the ability to transform each touchpoint of the experience.”
To create a successful spa concept, Upson says it’s not necessarily about selling products but more about taking guests on a journey and extending the healing beyond the walls of the spa.
“I always ask my team, ‘What is your signature that sets you apart?’ And that’s being memorable, leaving that mark and being able to relate to our guests,” he said. “Leave them with a memory that they’re never going to forget from the technician to the services to the exclusivity of the retail products. By creating a sensorial experience that is not just about one thing or the other, but taking them on a journey through the Away spa from the moment the lift opens, guests experience the scent and the lights and the decor. I want them to remember us.”