Wellness and Hotel Spas – A Conversation

Recently, the folks over at Hotelintel asked me a few questions about Spa and Wellness and what it all means to hotels. Having spent the first half of my career in hotels and the latter part of my career in Spa and Wellness, I guess they figured I’d have something to say. I did.

They asked. I answered. And here it all is…

Self-Manage vs Outsource

Question:

Should hotels outsource the spa or operate it themselves?

Answer:

Hotel Spas are simple. They’re about Staff and Stuff. If you can find both those components, there’s no reason the hotel can not manage the spa themselves. Finding the Spa Stuff is pretty easy. Where most hotels have trouble is on the Spa Staff front. There are lots of great spa therapists in Asia especially, but many hotel HR departments struggle to adequately assess their qualifications and skill levels. The same often holds true with Spa Managers. And unlike other hotel departments, when a new Spa Manager arrives, they often like to introduce their own treatments, products and protocols. This leads to inconsistency in the Spa experience for your guests.

Spa Management companies can be a good alternative to self-managing the Spa. But it often comes at a cost. Most will want to have a revenue / profit share model. That means the hotel will now need to forgo a sizeable chunk of the spa revenue. And sometimes, there just isn’t a lot of revenue to go around anyway. You will, of course, also need to work with them on integrating with the rest of the hotel to ensure a seamless Spa experience for your guest.

I have written in more detail about Spa Management Companies in this article  – Spa Business Model Series #2 : Spa Management Company

Retail First

Question:

How do you get a guest to spend more on spa? (Do retail products sell in a spa?)

Answer:

There’s a simple way to get your guests to spend more in the Spa. Sell them something they need. Spas have been focussed for way too long on providing nice-to-have experiences. Pampering. Relaxation. We need to offer different products and services that offer a real functional benefit to get guests out of their room and down to the spa. In the past, we have looked to spa retail as the answer to an additional revenue stream. However, we have restricted the retail range to skincare products and some candles. If we’re going to explore retail, how about we reimagine the Hotel Spa as a ‘Retail First’ store? Guests will come in specifically to buy retail items, then maybe stay for a treatment.

I wrote more about this in an article titled –  Retail Spa of Tomorrow

Location, Design or…?

Question:

What are the most important elements to attract guests to a spa? (Locations? Designs? Products?)

Answer:

Hotel Spas are often not in a prime location. 6th floor, next to the gym and the pool. Or worse still, in Basement Level 2. Partly this is for practical construction reasons. Spa wet areas and the swimming pool have the same sort of M&E and HVAC requirements. Another reason given is that gym and pool users are potential customers for the Spa. Really? The Gym & Swim Guest is active. The Spa Guest is passive. Seems like polar opposites to me.

Spa Managers often complain that the guests don’t know where the spa is. I don’t accept that. No matter how bad the location, the guest who wants to find the Spa will find it. They manage to find the breakfast restaurant every morning, don’t they? Ask yourself why that is. It’s not about the location, it’s about offering something that guests need.

There are a number of other considerations when it comes to the location of your Hotel Spa. I discussed a few of them in this article – Spa Design for Dummies – Location

Traditional Wellness vs Scientific Wellness

Question:

Should spas & wellness programs use a traditional approach (Ayurvedic, etc) or scientific approach? Which approach will appeal more to guests?

Answer:

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to offering Wellness in your Hotel Spa. Indeed, a big part of my current thesis is that the Spa of Tomorrow will only have 20% of what’s on offer in the Spa of Today. The other 80% will vary considerably between city and resort spas and even between two spas in the same location. It will need to differ based on the specific guest profile and needs of each property. A big call, perhaps. But I think it’s essential if we are to remain relevant.

Targeting Wellness Tourists

Question:

Are wellness tourists attractive target guests?

Answer:

There’s a bit of research around to suggest that a ‘Wellness Guest’ will spend more in the hotel than a Non-Wellness Guest. The same has been said about the Spa Guest. For my part, I can see that there is a correlation. But I am yet to see any evidence of a causation. I do believe that evidence will come, in time. It should be noted, however, that a true Wellness Guest will also probably demand true Wellness, not just superficial attempts.

Wellness Everywhere

Question:

How can wellness be integrated into the whole hotel/resort and not just be limited to the spa?

Answer:

For Wellness to be done properly, it must be integrated into the whole hotel. But that doesn’t mean that you need to hire Wellness Specialists to offer exotic Wellness therapies to your guests. That just won’t make sense for many hotels. At least not yet. A great place to start integrating Wellness is in the kitchen. So much of how Well we are is determined by what we eat. Most hotels have at least few healthy dishes on the menu. So why not create a Wellness Menu to highlight them? Many 5 Star hotels offer a Pillow Menu, from Housekeeping. Sleep is another big one when it comes to Wellness. So the Pillow Menu should come from your Spa (of course, Housekeeping can still handle the logistics). Do you have a yoga or stretching channel on your TV? What about walking and jogging maps? All of these are relatively simple ways to start bringing Wellness into your hotel.

You can read more on this in Hotel Spas and the Wellness Journey – Part I & Part II

Wellness Trends

Question:

What are the latest trends in spa & wellness right now?

Answer:

I’m a bit wary of Spa Trends. Every year we seem to come out with a whole new list. I worry that often times these are more Fads than meaningful Trends. I wrote about why that can be a problem in this article – Spa Trends vs Fads.

With that in mind, I do think that Digital Detoxing in something we all understand and it fits well with what Hotel Spas can deliver. So I see that as something real in the coming years. CBD, or Cannabidiol, is also becoming a major trend across the world. It has significant Wellness implications. There are still significant regulatory hurdles to overcome, especially in Asia, but I believe they will indeed be overcome. CDB is a real global Wellness Trend, whether you agree with it or not.

That’s what I said. What about you?

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