Nichola Roche has more than 15 years' experience of spa and aromatherapy in the Middle East, Asia and beyond. Nichola Roche has more than 15 years' experience of spa and aromatherapy in the Middle East, Asia and beyond.

Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi spa manager Nichola Roche helped develop and implement the stunning Atarmia Spa on Saadiyat Island from scratch; Hotelier finds out how

Sat at her makeshift desk in the Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi construction site office, with its intermittent power failures and the loud screech of jack hammers, Nichola Roche set about creating a luxury spa concept.

The pre-opening environment was far from idyllic, but the brief was simple; as per Hyatt’s philosophy the spa must be unique — from its name to the treatments offered — and it should feature elements indigenous to its UAE location.

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“Hyatt never repeats a spa concept. There will never be another Atarmia Spa, that’s what made my job so exciting. We don’t hire a copywriter, a designer, a conceptualiser or a brand designer,” says Roche, who joined the pre-opening team as spa manager at the start of 2011.

Roche wasn’t new to the task of creating a five-star hotel spa concept from scratch, prior to moving to Abu Dhabi for her new role, she had launched a spa at a Hyatt Regency in Hong Kong.

“The first task on your critical path is to design your spa concept and brand, beginning with the name. You start with a blank page and research. It has to be indigenous, relate to the local culture. Treatments will draw ingredients from the Middle East and the name must relate to this,” she explains.

“So ‘Attar’ is a form of aromatherapy that was used in ancient Arabia as an extraction method for oils from bark, roses, roots and wood — forming a resin block used for self-anointing and medicinal purposes. ‘Mia’ is Arabic for ‘water that moves’, so Atarmia translates to aromatic flowing waters.”

Armed with the name, the next step Roche took was to put her stamp on the spa design, bringing the concept together.

“The fit-out is already done by the designers so you look at the floor plans to see what goes where and you bring in accessories and small touches to accentuate your concept.

“I love the tree carved into the black marble in the couples’ treatment room, it is symbolic of the mystical ‘Tree of Life’ located in Bahrain,” she says.

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