Spa Benchmarking: Reliable Research Versus Press Release Research
By Judy Singer President & Co-Owner, Health Fitness Dynamics, Inc. | December 01, 2009
Spa Benchmarking is one of the "hottest" topics in the spa and hospitality industries. It is a relatively new discipline; therefore, it is filled with challenges and opportunities. While spa benchmarking studies are very much needed, not all studies are useful... some can actually be quite damaging and harmful. There are too many studies that lack credibility, integrity, quality and reliability, yet they receive significant press coverage. Poor information, conclusions and recommendations can be very detrimental when a spa relies on this information to make operational, personnel, marketing and investment decisions.
HFD conducted a study of companies that are performing spa benchmarking research. Our goal was to determine if the studies are "real research" or "press-release" research, e.g., are they following the best practices for valid, reliable research or are they providing information that get people's attention. There are lots of established, well-known as well as new research and consulting companies that are conducting various types of spa benchmarking studies, but their reputation and expertise in one area does not mean they have the experience, industry knowledge, objectivity, etc. to conduct reliable spa research.
HFD contacted several reputable and respected companies that have received a substantial degree of media attention for their spa research studies. We read almost every press release related to companies that are conducting spa benchmarking studies. We carefully examined the actual research reports and presentations. We then contacted the research companies to hear first-hand what they are doing and how they are doing it so that we could have as complete an understanding as possible. We gave each company the opportunity to explain their approach so that the end-users (asset managers, directors of finance, general managers, developers, investors, consultants, spa operators, etc.) could read spa research with a "critical eye" which would help them understand and determine the nuances attached to the various ways in which information is gathered, analyzed and reported. We want the end-users to be able to tell if the study is a "real" study verses a "marketing" study, e.g., are the findings reliable, valid, useful, representative of the industry, etc. In the process of analyzing what the companies do and how they do it, it was obvious that there is lots of room for error and lots of ways data are compromised in which case findings are unreliable yet they are still "reportable."
Based on all the information we gathered and analyzed, HFD selected three companies that represent a good cross-section of the reality verses marketability of what is happening in the much needed area of reliable spa benchmarking. These companies approach spa benchmarking in very different ways and, as a result, their reports differ significantly in terms of data integrity and "usefulness."
Who's Doing Research & What are They Doing?
Julie Garrow, Managing Director, Intelligent Spas