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Once serene spas invaded by high-tech noise

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As more hotels and resorts install Wi-Fi throughout their buildings, the workplace is increasingly invading the spa. “Occasionally, I’ll see people with laptops or their BlackBerries working right up until the moment before their treatment,” said Heather Dominguez, spa director at the Renaissance ClubSport in Walnut Creek, Calif., which offers hotelwide wireless Internet access. “It’s not something we really advertise. It’s just kind of an underground thing.” 

The Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort in Florida, for example, plans to offer Wi-Fi in its spa starting in October. So is the Four Seasons Resort in Palm Beach, Fla., when its spa reopens later this year after renovations. The Spa of Colonial Williamsburg made a conscious decision to offer wireless Internet access when it opened this past spring with the rationale that for some of their customers, staying wired was actually less stressful than doing away with their gadgets.The outside world also is creeping into the sanctuary of the spa through television. Some spas are installing flat-screen televisions for patrons who want to tune in to the news or sports before or after treatments. 

So as not to distract other guests from relaxing, the Asha Salon Spa at the James Hotel in Chicago provides headsets for the television watchers in relaxation rooms.  The two televisions in the Men’s Only Zone at Qua Baths and Spa at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas often show sporting events so spa-goers can keep up with bets at the Sports Book. 

The electronic invasion has not extended to cellphone calls, which generally remain forbidden in all spa areas. Internet usage is also different, some spas say, because guests can check e-mail or surf the Web without disturbing the serenity “In the past, you couldn’t leave your office without work shutting down. Today you can sit and get a pedicure and be working on your BlackBerry.” 

About two months ago, Michelle Howard, spa and wellness director at Zermatt Resort and Spa in Midway, Utah, said she came across a guest sitting in the relaxation room and finishing a report on his laptop.  Chris Farley, director of the Gainey Village Health Club and Spa, has been offering free Wi-Fi since April 2005, witnessed “head-in-the-face-cradle surfing” once or twice — spa-goers checking their BlackBerries while lying face down on the massage table. 

Spa purists balk at the thought. “I would not send a client to a spa with Wi-Fi,” said Jenni Lipa, president of Spa Trek Travel in New York, which specializes in spa vacations.  Skana, the spa at Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, N.Y., was given the option of adding wireless Internet access in the treatment and relaxation rooms. They declined 

“At the Ranch, we want our guests to disconnect and don’t offer Wi-Fi service in the rooms or in any of the relaxation centers,” said Roma Maxwell, a spokeswoman for Rancho La Puerta Fitness Resort and Spa in Tecate, Mexico. As an alternative, the spa offers a designated Wi-Fi area and an Internet room with computers and printers. Full Article

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