To be able to see and hear the Indian Ocean every morning is a truly inspiring awakening; its crystalline waves lapping at the white sand of the beach at Shangri-La’s spectacular Villingili Resort and Spa, in the tropical paradise of the Maldives.
“My home is an island surrounded by natural beauty! Palm trees and clear ocean. Of course I’m enjoying it!” laughs Blanche Macdonald graduate and the Shangri-La Villingili’s Director of Spa and Recreations Roxana Sanchez. “I have the opportunity to scuba dive every week and disconnect from the world into a breathtaking experience.”
It’s not all relaxation. Luxurious Island life keeps Roxana busy. Aside from recruiting, guiding and training the Villingili’s international team of therapists and estheticians, she is responsible for the short and long-term strategic planning of her departments, purchasing and budgeting, and spearheading marketing campaigns, all the while keeping on top of everything going on in the spa and leisure industries, both in the Maldives and around the world.
It’s an interesting challenge, but Roxana is used to management roles. She rose to the position of Spa Director with the Fairmont Hotels & Resorts group before she even began her Esthetics training at Canada’s Top Spa School.
“I came to Canada from Mexico when I was 18 and lived close to the Fairmont Empress in Victoria, BC. Every morning I walked past this beautiful castle and really wanted to learn more about it. The first job opening I saw available was a spa receptionist, for which I applied instantly. The rest is history! For me it was the beginning of a beautiful journey that has taken me to places I would have never imagined. The more I learned about the industry, the more I became interested. I started to understand that it takes a special group of people to work towards the overall wellbeing of a complete stranger. It takes passion, selflessness and good energy to pull it all together. By the healing power of touch you can cure many conditions and make a good living at the end of the day.”
I did my research and from the very beginning, so I knew Blanche Macdonald was the best school for what I wanted to accomplish.
All Roxana needed to get her career rolling was a foot in the door. The more she learned about the spa industry, from administration to therapies to products, the more she loved it. She quickly rose to the position of Group Coordinator to Spa Reservations/Revenue Manager and was soon transferred to The Fairmont Mayakoba in the Riviera Maya, Mexico to become Assistant Spa Director. From there she was invited as an Acting Spa Director at Fairmont Nile City in Cairo and subsequently to Beijing, China as Spa Director for Fairmont Beijing. Roxana had become an international force in the esthetics world.
“I was doing everything except being an actual esthetician,” she explains. “I wanted to learn more about how to perform the treatments. I knew the protocols and the steps the estheticians and therapists had to follow. But that’s a different thing from actually performing the services. I was always on the other side.”
Roxana had decided that the time had come to complete her esthetics education. And it was only ever going to happen at one school.
“I did my research and from the very beginning, so I knew Blanche Macdonald was the best school for what I wanted to accomplish. I didn’t think twice about going anywhere else. Deciding to go to Esthetics School wasn’t about taking a step back. It was all about increasing and enhancing the skills I already had.”
Even though Roxana had been around spas her entire professional life, stepping through the doors of Blanche Macdonald was like entering a new world.
“It was a completely different environment. I’d been in the industry but never actually performed a treatment. There are so many aspects of anatomy and skin that you need to take into account before you touch someone or apply a product to someone’s skin. That was exactly what I was looking for!
Here I’m able to combine all my different areas of experience to create an environment inspired in nature that promotes healthier living.
“I was thrilled to have the opportunity to get to know Simona Gozner too. She’s an amazing lady and someone I really admire. She started at the bottom and rose to the top by working hard and really caring about what she does. I was thrilled to spend time with her. She’s so professional and so was the education. The approach I learned at Blanche Macdonald was what I’d experienced in the industry. It opened my eyes to new things too. Like how important the ingredients in various product lines are.”
With her in-demand skills as an esthetician and experienced Spa Manager, it hasn’t been unusual for Roxana and her husband to move to a completely new corner of the world every two or three years. For now though, they’ve found a home in the Maldives.
“All our therapists and estheticians are expats. Our team is from Fiji, India, China, Bhutan, Philippines, Turkey, Thailand and Indonesia, which is exciting! I give complimentary skincare nutrition education to our guests and colleagues, including sun protection, naturally. Here I’m able to combine all my different areas of experience to create an environment inspired in nature that promotes healthier living. That means combining physical, holistic, fun and educational activities, nutrition and, of course, various techniques of spa therapies to meet every guest’s individual needs.
“Of course, working in a five-star hotel in the middle of the ocean comes with logistical challenges. You always learn something new. For example, we want people here to be wearing organic products on their bodies. That contributes to the prosperity of the marine life, the fish and the coral, in this naturally blooming part of the world.”
Roxana’s commitment to her industry has taken her around the world. But wherever she’s travelled, her caring approach remains the same.
“Travelling makes you better prepared for new challenges. I still love the spa environment: the combination of health, beauty and education, and how it all interacts to help people to promote overall wellbeing. Physical touch and stress relief are things anyone can enjoy. It’s a place where people can come and de-stress. It’s a holistic approach to healing people.
“To be an esthetician you need to care about people. It’s something you’re giving from within yourself. Taking care of the little details transforms your guests’ experience. If you are able to customize every experience according to your client’s needs, identifying what your client likes and how they like it, they feel comfortable and they know they’re being taken care of. Once you’ve built that relationship, they’ll always come back to you.”