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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Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.