Hotel Spas and the Wellness Journey

By Trent Munday Vice President, Steiner Spa Consulting | July 26, 2015

Professor Gerard Bodeker has said that spas are the ‘organizational face of Wellness’. What he means by this is that spas provide a safe and understandable entry point into the diverse and often confusing world of Wellness. Much like a hospital is the organizational face of illness. Patients rarely know which medical specialist is the most appropriate for their specific condition. They trust that the hospital will direct them to right doctor. Spas, according to Bodeker, offer the same for Wellness.

People are often confused and even intimidated by the field of Wellness because they simply don’t understand it. I think we, as the Wellness industry, have managed to create a certain level of mystique around what we provide. The end result of this is that our potential guests don’t really understand what we’re doing or what the real benefits are and so ultimately they just stay away. And this is where spas come in. Spas can allow you to dip your toes in the metaphorical waters of Wellness, without going all the way in.

If this is true - and I personally believe the theory has a lot of merit - then hotel spas should be ideally positioned to play an active role in introducing guests to the world of Wellness. After all, for many guests, hotel spas, especially resort hotel spas, provide them with their first real spa experience. It makes sense that many hotel spas are now trying to incorporate Wellness elements into their menu offering. Unfortunately, for the most part, it doesn’t seem to be working.

Before I joined Mandara Spa and Steiner Leisure over ten years ago, I was a hotel guy. My last two roles in particular, were with companies that were very focused on Wellness – although back then it was really just called ‘spa’. At Six Senses and COMO Hotels I witnessed first-hand what it takes to do Wellness well. What I learned was that to make Wellness work in a hotel, you need to be clear on exactly what elements of Wellness you want to offer in your hotel and then you need to be ‘all-in’ in terms of delivering them. It’s been my experience so far that most hotels fail to do both of these things.

Let me share a couple of examples of how hotels can do it right...

COMO Hotels decided that yoga should be key part of their Wellness offering. This was not simply a corporate directive. The owner herself was a big believer in the benefits of yoga and practiced yoga on a daily basis. So, when it came to offering yoga in her hotels, the owner insisted that we had to do it right. COMO had a four-pronged approach to doing yoga right. Firstly, COMO hired experienced and highly professional yoga teachers as full time employees of the spa. In most cases, at least in Asia, that means another expat position, with all the expenses that go along with it.

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Human Resources: Value Creation

Businesses must evolve to stay competitive and this is also true of employment positions within those organizations. In the hotel industry, for example, the role that HR professionals perform continues to broaden and expand. Today, they are generally responsible for five key areas - government compliance; payroll and benefits; employee acquisition and retention; training and development; and organizational structure and culture. In this enlarged capacity, HR professionals are no longer seen as part of an administrative cost center, but rather as a member of the leadership team that creates strategic value within their organization. HR professionals help to define company policies and plans; enact and enforce systems of accountability; and utilize definable metrics to measure and justify outcomes. Of course, there are always new issues for HR professionals to address. Though seemingly safe for the moment, will the Affordable Care Act ultimately be repealed and replaced and, if so, what will the ramifications be? There are issues pertaining to Millennials in the workforce and women in leadership roles, as well as determining the appropriate use of social media within the organization. There are new onboarding processes and e-learning training platforms to evaluate, in addition to keeping abreast of political issues like the minimum wage hike movement, or the re-evaluation of overtime rules. Finally, there are genuine immigration and deportation issues that affect HR professionals, especially if they are located in Dreamer Cities, or employ a workforce that could be adversely impacted by federal government policies. The March Hotel Business Review will take a look at some of the issues, strategies and techniques that HR professionals are employing to create and sustain value in their organization.