Tips for Smart Spa Investments

By Jane Segerberg Founder & President, Segerberg Spa Consulting, LLC | October 28, 2008

As 2008 continues to unfold, the current economic environment reminds us that making smart investments is paramount to the sustainability of our businesses. The most recent spa industry study conducted for the International Spa Association (ISPA) reveals that while the industry is very healthy, it is maturing and the previous exponential growth in locations and revenues is slowing down, yet individual spa net profits are improving. It is clear that spa properties that have not kept up with quality expectations are suffering from increased competition. Never has there been a better time than the present to invest wisely for the future and be poised on the brink of excellence as the economy returns to robust levels.

Webster's Dictionary defines "investment" as having "put money or time to use in something offering profitable returns". Webster further defines "tip" as "a useful idea". In these two definitions lies the intent of this article. We will study the following areas of importance to reap the highest return from the overall investment in developing a spa for hotel/resort properties and offer tips to maximize the outcome:

  • The Concept and the Consumer - Why is it important to tie the concept to spa consumer attitudes? What is important and relevant to attract and sustain business?
  • Space Planning for Profitable Returns - What are the areas of detail that make a difference to the overall experience?
  • Staffing Investments - What is the most underutilized point of differentiation?
  • Marketing Home Front - What area of marketing brings great return for the expenditure?
  • Revenue "hot spot" - Why is this previously considered "additional revenue" now a major source of revenue?

The Concept and the Consumer

It is well known that keeping an eye on what pleases the spa consumer delivers positive returns to the consumer and ultimately to the hotel/resort. It is also well known that the cornerstone to long term success - a solid and compelling concept - allows a business to define and be who it is. Anyone who has studied Starbucks knows that veering from the hallmark of the business's success can lead to a decline in sales and a return to the core is essential.

Building the spa's concept with the spa consumer's attitude in mind is a win-win plan for implementation. The last 20 years of U.S. spa consumer trends has provided important milestones, most of which have been predictable. In order to entice consumers to their spas, the first hotel and resort spa environments were created as "safe" departures from their European and Asia spa experience predecessors and from the founding destination spa properties that were considered at that time to be esoteric and 'cult-like'. These hotel/resort spa models were plain, beige and fairly unimaginative with no personality. Gradually consumers became comfortable in spa environments. In a nutshell, U.S. spa consumers, having been introduced to spa-ing, are now desiring the experiences that are the very roots of European and Asian spas along with the U.S. predecessors: spending time in the spa's bathing rituals and social opportunities. While massage is still the treatment most often sold in U.S. spas and the reason that spa goers seek spas (to relieve stress, reduce stress, soothe sore joints and muscles, and feel better about themselves) remains constant, savvy spa goers realize that there is more to achieving profound results. Taking part in the heat and water experiences before treatments begins the relaxation process before the guest enters the spa treatment. Spa consumers also realize that re-connecting and re-uniting is important in today's rushed world. Spa visits can provide the opportunity to spend time with loved ones, friends and family in an environment that promotes pleasure.

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