A Resurrected Retreat

hot rock massage

A Spa with Legs

Tourism is big business in New Orleans (in 2011, the city welcomed nearly 10 million visitors), and accordingly, the Big Easy boasts dozens of hotels and inns at every price point. But the No. 1 tourist hotspot, the famed French Quarter, located just minutes away from Le Jardin, spans only about half a square mile. While architecture here is iconically beautiful and intimate, the majority of hotels offer only between 50 and 100 guest rooms, which, as Cuartas explains, doesn’t bode well for adding on-site spa facilities.

“If you only have 50 rooms in your hotel and a spa takes up 4,000 square feet, that really cuts into the number of rooms you can spare,” she says. “Even in the most glamorous hotel, only a small portion of guests will use spa services, so it’s not a great model for the hotels to build and staff their own.”
Still, many travelers view a vacation as incomplete without a massage or body treatment. Enter Le Jardin’s mobile service, offering the full menu of treatments in the privacy of a client’s hotel room.

Since the spa is operated wholly independently of the Avenue Plaza, any New Orleans hotel can book guest treatments through Le Jardin. This has allowed many area properties to add in-room spa services to their offerings; even land-based casinos, such as Harrah’s New Orleans, now use Le Jardin to comp high rollers seeking VIP treatments. The arrangement has proven mutually beneficial.

“We designate weekly visiting days, when we hit the streets to chat with concierges and front desk staff to foster partnerships,” says Cuartas. “It’s really an easy sell—we’re offering additional amenities to their guests at no cost to them.”

Not all of Le Jardin’s off-site business stems from concierge relationships, though. During tourist high season (Mardi Gras- and Jazz Festival-fueled spring, as well as fall), Cuartas and her team make sure that all popular tourist destinations are wallpapered with Le Jardin’s elegant flyers and brochures. With 25% of mobile service calls coming directly from clients, the word seems to be getting out.

Using the same stable of therapists for both on- and off-site services, Le Jardin’s in-room treatment protocols are largely unchanged for the mobile versions, but Cuartas describes the latter as “less clinical” and more “sensory.” For instance, hotel-room facials don’t include pore extraction, but place greater emphasis on aroma and music.

The mobile operation is not without additional costs. Le Jardin therapists are uniformly compensated whether they perform a treatment in the Saint Charles Avenue location or in a suite across town at the Intercontinental, while management foots the bill for transportation costs, insurance and parking. Plus, some hotels insist on additional background checks. And hauling equipment such as massage tables from place to place can hasten wear and tear. To cover the difference, Le Jardin prices off-site services at $15 to $30 more than those performed at the spa.

Still, not every menu item translates seamlessly from home base to hotel room. The purifying Mississippi Mud body treatment (90 min./$135; $155 off-site), while a big hit with clients, has proved unpopular with hotel maids, who often balk when the see the treatment name—and the number of towels required for cleanup. Cuartas notes that flexibility is crucial when working in partnerships. “Our relationships with the hotel staff are important,” she says. “If one of our services poses a problem for a certain hotel, they don’t have to offer it.”

With Gulf tourism on the rise, Cuartas and the Melitos are working with various properties, setting up additional services to better take advantage of outdoor spaces such as hotel pool areas and courtyards. And Le Jardin’s team is also getting a foot in the door of New Orleans’ extensive convention business (in 2011 the city hosted 34 separate conventions bringing more than 3,000 attendees each). The staff was trained in chair massage and foot reflexology, and recently started performing mini services in convention center hallways. (This has also led to calls from convention-goers seeking additional treatments during their stays!)