Greening Your Spa

By Arthur Weissman President and CEO, Green Seal, Inc. | September 02, 2010

With this article, we begin a series of applications of sustainability to particular segments of the lodging industry: spas, conference centers, resorts, and full-service hotels. The intention is to focus on those aspects of the segment that have special opportunities and needs from the perspective of improving environmental sustainability.

The need for and interest in health and sustainability could not be more intrinsic and central to the spa segment, which is dedicated to improving well-being and healthfulness. A recent survey of spa industry professionals completed by TREC International Inc. for the International Spa Association (ISPA) revealed that 46% of respondents indicated they want to reduce or eliminate the use of toxic products, while 52% reported they are currently selecting green products and services or are planning to go "green." In this article, we will look at issues related to spa facilities as well as the operations and internal environments therein. By addressing environmental sustainability, many spa operators are now finding that it is an integral foundation for their business as well as for society at large.

The Spa's Place in the World

Many lodging properties are expanding to incorporate spas to tap this growing market segment, either by converting existing space or by adding a wing or separate building. All such construction has innumerable opportunities to be more sustainable: in the siting and orientation, so as to have least impact and to maximize compatibility with climate (for example, shade for southerly exposures) and opportunity for daylighting and passive solar benefits; in the selection of construction materials, whether it be salvaged or sustainably harvested wood, composite board with adhesives that do not contain formaldehyde, or Green Seal-certified paints or windows; and in the landscaping around new construction, where use of native plants is preferred. Another important design element is selecting and using an effective system for collecting, treating, and recycling water with minimal impact on the land.

Many interior furnishings such as carpet, furniture, and window treatments may contain chemicals (binders, flame retardants, coatings, etc.) that can off-gas volatile toxic compounds for weeks or months after construction. Clearly, no spa wants to assault its clients with such toxins at the same time it is trying to cleanse and restore their bodies and minds. So the choice of these materials must consider their components as well as their overall aesthetics and style.

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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.