Understanding the Benefits of Combining Creative Spa Design with Efficient Programming

By Elaine Fenard Partner & Chief Operating Officer, Europe and U.S., Spatality | October 28, 2008

As the world of spa continues to grow in an attempt to catch up with demand, spa developers throughout the world have realized the importance of creating a true point of differentiation, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the design and programming of the facility itself.

While it's true that unique spa treatments, compelling packages and snazzy marketing all help to create market separation, it is the physical spa itself that holds one of the real keys to creating a memorable experience for guests (the other key being service excellence). But it's much easier said than done. To ensure the long-term success of a spa, one also must ensure that a spa's design and programming is based on functionality to ensure maximum productivity. It's a classic case of art-meets-science.

The ultimate goal of spa design and programming is to create an environment that not only keeps guests at the spa for a longer period, but also drives them to come back for a second, third and eventually ongoing experience. Smith Travel 2007 research on the luxury spa market shows that a well executed hotel spa increases occupancy and rate, thereby increasing the value of the asset. But of course, the spa must be designed to take advantage of these notions. And this begs the question, where to begin? The answer: develop a plan.

The Road Map

Think of your plan as a road map. In the same way you wouldn't plan an extended road trip without a map, spa design and programming should not begin without a plan. How many people do you expect to experience your spa? What is your market situation? Where will you draw from? How much of your spa revenue will come from in-house guests versus local guests? What is the optimum number of treatment rooms to ensure that you are ready to service the demand while minimizing empty-room hours? All of these questions and more should be answered in a well-prepared spa market research and feasibility study. A strong market research report will provide you with the essential information to define the structure and eventual positioning of your spa. It also will help you determine an optimal site, your competitive set and proposed budget and detailed financial forecast. Only after you have determined the business case for the spa should you focus on architectural strategies. Without it, you are simply building in the dark.

Architectural Foundation

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.