Monday, January 02, 2006

Travel: The New York Times - Sweat Equity

T Travel, The Ticket

By Julie Earle-Levine
March 20, 2005

Dennis Mangone parks his Porsche and strolls into the Mandarin Oriental hotel in New York. Once on the 35th floor, he trades his Dolce & Gabbana suit for a bathrobe, turns off his cell phone and slides into a pair of slippers. He's almost ready for his meeting.

Women have long enjoyed the relaxing and beautifying benefits of facials and body scrubs. Now that men are discovering spas, they are using them as a soothing, softly lighted place to do business. ''Golf just doesn't work anymore,'' says Mangone, who, as a senior vice president of the Corcoran Group, has sold real estate to the likes of Beyoncé Knowles and Ricky Martin. So, once a week, he invites big spenders to feel the tingle of warm mineral water on an underwater ''air bed'' and inhale the scent of lavender in the Mandarin Oriental's steam bath.

Swaddled in Egyptian cotton, they have a holistic massage and meet in the relaxation area to sip apple-spice tea and make a deal. ''The clients I sell to work really hard,'' he says, ''and they want to replenish themselves.''

Mangone is not an anomaly. In Bangkok, Mercedes-Benz and BMW are giving their executives corporate cards for the Shangri-La Hotel's Chi Spa. In Wisconsin, the Sundara Inn and Spa trumpets its ''Just for Guys'' events.

And in Florida, while waiting for his client, Stephen Miller, a senior vice president for a private banking group, started talking to the man next to him at the Ritz-Carlton spa, and ''I ended up doing a $7 million loan for him.''

What services do men prefer? Facials and pedicures, says Susan Harmsworth, who owns the global spa firm Espa International. Mangone likes the personalized Mandarin Time Ritual package, which for $410 can include a foot bath, body wrap and massage using advanced Ayurvedic techniques. ''I don't want to sound like a girl,'' he says, ''but the holistic pedicure with oil leaves your feet feeling great. And it helps me sell $8 million apartments.''