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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