Planning a Spa? Avoid the Pitfalls: Staff Traits That Make or Break

By Gary Henkin President & Founder, WTS International | October 28, 2008

Our previous two installments in this series devoted to spa development focused on the importance of taking appropriate steps to plan, design and prepare the facility for a successful launch. Part I in the series discussed the importance and value of feasibility studies and how best to avoid critical mistakes and pitfalls associated with the design process. Part II addressed the importance of taking a focused approach to the pre-opening process in thinking through, in an orchestrated way, the steps required for a successful launch of the spa. Timeline development, licensing, staffing modules, operating systems, budget and menu development and the importance of retrieving accurate and timely data were but a few of the items highlighted.

In order to ensure that a hotel or resort spa will offer a truly memorable experience while maximizing revenue and potential for a positive bottom line, one item is of critical importance. Perhaps the most important decision that will influence the success or failure of a spa operation is to select staff that will "make a difference". Putting it another way, will guests and other spa patrons remember their experience as one that is delineative and memorable in some way, and one they wish to share with spouses, friends or colleagues? Spas may be beautifully designed and have a wonderful and diverse menu of services; however, if the staff aren't really attuned to their customers, friendly in their demeanor and well trained, the entire spa experience can be ruined before it ever starts. In our view, staff selection and training is the make or break decision for most spas and leisure facilities. Yet, in many cases, not enough time, effort or emphasis is placed on this crucial area.

Placing a premium on the hiring and retention of personnel who share your values, culture and service ethic will reap substantial dividends. Whether your site is a hotel, resort, condo hotel, private club or residential development, sourcing quality personnel and retaining them for the long term can help your business stand out from the crowd and attract loyal repeat visitors.

Finding the Right Fit for the Right Position

Our clients consistently ask, "Where and how do you find qualified spa staff, and what qualities and traits do you seek in the selection process?" In the past, our response skewed more toward the specific qualifications and practical experience candidates brought to the table. Although experience in the work environment is clearly an important factor, it should not be the ultimate criteria in finding the best person for the job. Today, it is even more important to establish what we typically refer to as "core qualities and values," and we recommend that your staff selection traits should embrace and mirror these. Taking a hard look at a candidate's customer service, communication and organizational skills will usually yield better results than just looking at a resume or work experience alone. That said, before you start the solicitation of candidates for the Spa Director position or other key slots, create an organizational chart mapping out each position with roles and responsibilities for each; this will greatly assist your efforts in understanding what the spa will need.

Having a broad base of candidates for open positions allows you to match the right person to the job responsibility and to the site. Such a job "fit" must be present if a relationship between the staff and the hotel or resort is to succeed over time. Each property develops its own personality, and it is important that new employees fit in with existing staff and with the clients they serve. Sometimes, management hires a candidate, but there isn't necessarily a clear fit between the person and the property. There are any number of viable ways to source qualified staff, including advertising in trade publications and associated magazines and periodicals. In addition, the Internet provides a broad means of reaching people in your particular market niche. Attending trade shows, networking with colleagues and establishing relationships with spa industry vendors also produces positive results.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.