Hotel Spas - Staying Current, Creating Profits

By Peter Anderson Founder, Anderson & Associates | October 28, 2008

Staying current in any professional field is an on-going process that requires diligence, focus an open mind and at times an open wallet. The same innovations that result in ever-evolving technology and treatments also provide the potential to distract and confuse. There was a time, not too long ago when staying current in the North American spa industry more or less meant, keeping breast of trends in both the salon and the massage industries (In other words, the universe of knowledge of which one needed to command consisted of understanding hair, nails, makeup and knowing where the clear line of differentiation existed between a massage facility and a massage parlor). If an establishment were truly exclusive, their facials might include mud or seaweed. "Exfoliation" and "d'ecolletage" were technical words saved for the professionals.

There is a "king of the hill" mentality in the spa industry, as one modality of care or cure is embraced, incorporated or modified, another school-of-thought comes by to either challenge it or build upon it... not bad for an industry that can trace its roots back 6,000 years ago to Ayurvedic India. In short, if not managed properly, the dynamics of a rapidly escalating industry and can be dizzying for an operator who not only desires to stay current but also wants to get a good seat on the "What's Next Band Wagon". This article will address how navigate the ever-morphing scope and depth of the spa industry and in doing so maintain a competitive position.

Increased Depth

In the fourth quarter, 2006, it was reported at the annual I-SPA convention in Las Vegas Nevada, that spa revenues had officially eclipsed golf revenues as a free standing revenue silo within the leisure and recreation industries. As hoteliers this is not just a red flag but rather a neon sign on The Follow the Money Trail. The depth of the industry continues to evolve. For instance, many spa treatments available at the ubiquitous strip-mall day spa have a comparable cousin offered at the regional resort, the experience enhanced with thicker robes, crown molding in the treatment rooms and more extensive landscaping to view from the pedicure thrones. Further, it is not uncommon to have a variation of either of the aforementioned treatments offered with a medical focus in the local medical spa. Here, points of differentiation may include stronger reagents or treatments enhance by lasers or herbs for a more lasting effect. Prescriptive retail (hand crafted in the doctor's own lab) may be the icing on the cake. This vertical growth is attributed to market segmentation where the consumer's needs and expectations are being met by qualified professionals with different skill sets and foci.

Expanding Scope

While vertical developments have created depth, never before seen in the spa industry, it is horizontal or scope expansion into a myriad of life style industries that have truly turbo-charged spa development across many disciplines. This phenomenon has left many spa operators with the difficult choice of where and how to expand. Spa therapies treatments and programs are constantly evolving to enhance lifestyles and are now tailored to address issues related to: Aging ("anti-", "healthy"& "reverse"), Beauty, Child Rearing, Creativity, Disease (prevention and management), Detoxification (alcohol, drugs, pesticides, preservatives and generally unhealthy diets), General Wellness, Joint Flexibility, Medicine (Eastern and Western), Nutrition, Philosophy, Pain Management Recreation, Relationships, Relaxation, Self- esteem, and Spiritual Growth ... to name a few. This is a partial list that will experience sustained, aggressive growth because of: an affluent aging baby boomers, increased leisure time, ease of travel, savvy spa consumers and an experience-hungry population base. This trend shows no signs of abating in the foreseeable future.

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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.