red-bedThe spa industry has grown into the number three largest leisure category in much of the world. Topping the movie industry, skiing, golf, and other prized leisure sectors, the spa industry has proven to be a stellar performer even in times of economic
downturn.  Even during the industry’s crisis in 2008 and continual global economic downturn over the last several years, the beat goes on as spas continue to produce and perform in new venues, innovative business models and diversified genres.

Spas in hotels and resorts are more common than ever with
recent spa projects dripping in elegance and built out as if for a horde of
moguls. While these new spa projects are a real step up from the dingy, Soviet
styled dark rooms of the recent past the new spa model still isn’t generally

What is Wrong? 

Turn Key Brand Buying

Hotels are still trying to turn-key their spas. This trend
will continue as more and more brands buy into proven spa brands like Bliss and
The Golden Door expecting that they have finally thrown money in the right
direction easing the spa nuisance. Is this strategy working? Many would say no. The exacting nature of a spa is emotional, personal, experiential and fragile. Like expecting a Wendy’s manager to please a bride on her wedding day in many ways the turn-key, super-size my brand model is a recipe for disaster.

 Retaining Clients

While a remote destination resort can get by with offering poor spa treatments a hotel simply cannot because of the multitude of options. A business traveler, for instance, is going to quickly find a spa with superb services, better prices and a more attentive staff. The worst part is once your spa has disappointed a regular traveler they will simply never return. While they might continue to frequent your hotel, they will not return to the spa. If
they find a better spa near or in a comparable hotel, you will have lost their
lodging business as well.

 Retail Sales

Hotel spas sell less than 5% of retail per service dollar earned. Conversely at a dayspa it is very common for an esthetics client to follow up the service with a hefty retail purchase. Spas doing it right typically sell dollar for dollar retail to service sales. That means that a spa guest receiving a $120 facial would typically purchase $120 in corresponding
product. In many ways the retail sale confirms the knowledge and talents of the
technician performing the treatment. The client has been properly diagnosed,
treated, educated and sent off with a homecare plan. This simply doesn’t happen
in a hotel spa. Not only is this a disaster for the spa’s bottom line it also
let’s the client down. Spa-goers expect technicians to treat them with results
in mind and likewise to prescribe additional care for at home and for their
subsequent spa visit.


Oftentimes a hotel spa will have a novella of a menu of treatments: Exotic signature therapies, therapists hanging from the rafters offering massage, gemstone laying, multiple body buffing. The list is entertaining but insanely difficult to keep up with. If turnover is a problem for the facility the training issue is even more pronounced. Consequently, the
guest expects the world to move during their visit and the therapist barely
understands how to do each treatment let alone why the various services are
therapeutic. Once again, everyone loses.

The Secrets to Hotel Spa Success

 Hire a working manager. It isn’t enough to have someone within
the organization manage the spa or multiple spas. Certainly the general manager
of the property should have a high level overview of the spa but management of
the actual spa facility should be given to an individual with both technical
abilities and previous managerial experience. A licensed individual will
understand the treatments offered and be able to cross train other spa
employees. Most of all, a licensed leader within the spa will garner respect
from those actually doing the treatments whereas a manager who is not obligated
to work on the front lines will not.

 Hire for potential not for experience or skills sets. It is
virtually impossible to force an employee to get a work ethic, adopt a positive
attitude or become entrepreneurial in thinking. However, it is relatively easy
to teach someone how to apply a masque, how to answer the phone or how to
present a product line.

Put your spa everywhere on your property. Have spa cuisine in
your restaurant and on your in room dining menu. Combine cuisine with spa
treatment options. Have a spa stay option where spa activities are built into
the room price for the duration of the guest’s stay. Offer spa samples in each
room’s bath area and consider enhancing your bath rooms to include a Swiss
shower, steam shower or Jacuzzi. Skip the soaking bath options—guests don’t
want to soak in a bath in a hotel. Offer an evening option of a massage with
your bed turn down service. Sell your spa.

 Build your treatments and spa style around your core market. A
spa truly isn’t a build it and they will come kind of project.  Your property has a clientele already. What are they looking for when they stay at your facility? Do you know what spa
services are most popular among guests currently and why? What do guests do
with their spare time during a stay at your property? Do female guests often
order room service in the evening when they could be enjoying a spa service? Do
male guests gather round the bar to watch sports and down beers when they could
first be relaxing with a massage or executive facial?

 Don’t be all things to all people. Instead of offering a
laundry list of treatments focus on doing a smaller number of services
extremely well. There are very successful spas out there that only offer one
treatment. Focus on making your classic services the best in the market.
Popular workhorses like classic one hour facials and Swedish massage when done
exceptionally well can carry a spa without a great deal of extra training and

The Future

 More and more hotel guests want at a minimum the creature
comforts they would expect at home. The fluffy pillow additional thread count
boost in the bedding department was a step in the right direction but
unfortunately sheets alone will not fill beds. As spa-goers become savvier the
“big and pretty” build a mausoleum solution to spas will also no longer work
because guests will expect top quality customer service and excellent
treatments. Particularly as baby boomers age and are willing to spring for
specific luxuries the hotels who have their spa routine down will attract those
guests willing to pay a bit more for a higher quality of experience. Most
importantly the spa will become a competitive advantage, a safety net against a
poor economy and an insurance policy against seasonal uncertainty. For some
hotels the spa will become the product in itself with the lodging portion of
the property only a convenient addition to the core offering. Learning to
create a world class spa experience now is well worth the time and effort and
will pay back the property for years to come.

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