Maximizing Your Spa's ROI

By Melinda Minton Executive Director, SPAA | October 28, 2008

Like having a sizeable indoor pool, fluffy pillows, plush carpeting and a complimentary cocktail at happy hour, spas were thought to attract more of the core business which is lodging guests.

Interestingly, no element of this equation really worked...for any of the players. Hotels put in spa facilities in all sorts of shapes and sizes from ultra posh to the ultra Spartan. Some hired the management of the spa out to expensive specialty services, while others had their Food and Beverage manager oversee the new area. Spa-goers started the '90's off fairly confused about what to expect from a spa facility and wound out the decade by becoming more and more demanding. Hotels did what they do best; they marketed their facilities showing off the new amenities in glossy brochures and interactive websites, on television commercials and through travel agents.

After all, spas were just service related facilities; quite similar to the core business of a hotel-or so the logic goes. Moreover, the add on was an amenity. What could possibly be wrong with offering guests more? Guests meanwhile expected the moon and the stars and were inevitably disappointed by some small detail of their experience at the spa. "The earth didn't move..." While spas thought that they were hiring staff for their spa just like they would add staff to their front desk, they quickly found out differently. Spa technicians had to be licensed which translates loosely into hard to find, borderline extinct and they had challenging attitudes about pay, work, rules and their role in the spa. What started as a na"ive and well-intentioned foray into more comprehensive amenities and customer service, turned into a money hungry monster. An unchecked, mismanaged, unruly monster turned lose upon the masses.

As if responding to a bad date or an adverse reaction to a drug, many in the hotel business retreated. Some removed their spas, other handed the mess over to a consultant or management firm and yet others accepted defeat in the pocketbook. Like a glaring stain on an otherwise perfectly white carpet, spas were declared "loss leaders..." end of story. Many reluctantly kept their spa amenities feeling that they needed that extra perk to remain competitive, but no one embraced the concept of day-to-day management of the spa.

Just recently, as if catching their second wind, hotels have regrouped on the spa issue. Unfortunately the spa trend has become a mainstay. The quirky way to have fun and feel relaxed has become an American way of life. Spas are here to stay; dreaded horrors. Accepting a loss leader as a permanent fixture in your business model is a bit disheartening. With no other choice, the lodging industry has decided to dig in their heals and tackle the beast head on. It is possible to make the spa equation produce profits. Read on to discover how.

Your spa facility should not be confused with your hotel business

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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.