Steps in Selecting the Appropriate Spa Concept for Your Hotel
By Leslie Glover Owner & CEO, Aspen Spa Management | January 29, 2012
Most hoteliers realize that they must have some kind of spa in their hotel in order to be competitive in today's market; however most do not know how to determine the most appropriate spa concept for their hotel. Just having a spa in a hotel, ten or even five years ago may have been enough, however as supply increased and consumers inevitably became more and more spa savvy, just having a spa isn't enough anymore; it's all about having the right type of spa for your particular hotel.
A successful business venture usually starts with a good concept and thorough business plan; developing a successful hotel spa operation is no different. A hotel spa can be extremely profitable if it is considered as a business from inception and not as an amenity or afterthought. Very much like any other service in a hotel, the addition of a spa must follow the same research process and clearly identify what the hotel's clientele, past, present and future will desire in terms of spa services. This is the first hurdle that comes up as many hoteliers do not understand the different approaches to, and the various types of spa treatments.
In order to bring some understanding to the subject I like to draw comparisons from the restaurant business because most hoteliers understand this element and know that there is a multitude of different types of cuisine and they understand that their clientele might be attracted to one or the other of these types of foods. Many hoteliers think that spas are the same and serve the same menu, which would be the same as saying, a restaurant is a place where food is served, period, and that all their clients want the same cuisine. The first hurdle to developing a successful hotel spa concept is to understand the vast differences and perceptions that clients have about spa and wellness and that there is not only one type of spa. One size does not fit all.
First of all, the parameters that will be used to create the concept that will fit the particular hotel will need to be identified through a thorough market analysis and feasibility study. The market analysis should include evaluating the targeted client base, identifying the average length and reason for stay, search for specific likes and dislikes of the projected clientele within the health and wellness field, specifying the demographics, ethnic backgrounds, and socio-economics along with cultural and religious sensitivities. Location, climate and environmental impacts along with potential market competition will all need to be addressed. This type of specialized market study and feasibility study will need to be performed by a savvy spa management company or with the advice of an experienced hotel spa expert in order to understand and break down the results of the market research.
The market research will provide the basis and indicate the type of spa that will fill the need of its specific client base. It might be a health club type of spa, an extension of a women centric beauty salon and or an elaborate barber shop, or sometimes just a place to socialize and enjoy a pleasant atmosphere. In some cases it is appropriate to showcase a cultural ritual, or the reminiscence of past cultures, such as Roman baths, or trendy forms of social treatments such as a Moroccan Hammam or a Russian Banya. Perhaps it will be a hybrid spa which functions differently throughout the year; the choice will have a direct relationship to the profile of the clientele. The final choice for the spa concept must take into consideration the fundamental brand standards and management philosophy of the hotel. There needs to be a harmonious synergy between the two as the client will integrate the spa with the hotel and if the spa is not in tune with the rest of the hotel services they will not say, the hotel is great but the spa isn't. They will just say that the hotel leaves a lot to be desired. The concept will also become the driving force behind the spa development and every decision made thereafter will need to be determined based on its harmony with the concept.
Once a specific concept has been identified the implementation can begin. This implementation starts, not by turning over the project to an architect, but to a hotel spa expert who will be able to draft a basic menu. Wouldn't the first step in the design of a restaurant be to identify what type of cuisine will be served? It is the same in the spa industry. The types of treatments chosen will mandate how the overall space will be designed. The next step will be to create a bubble diagram and begin allocating and identifying the various spaces, including "back of the house" areas, necessary to carry out the identified menu. This will permit a time and motion study to be developed in order to make sure that the traffic within the space is smooth and efficient. Next a one line drawing will be executed to finalize the layout. This can then be turned over to the project architect whose mission will be to use that layout to produce a final construction plan that will reflect compliance to local building codes. The hotel spa expert will continue working with the architect to provide ongoing direction and advice for the specific engineering requirements including the mechanical, electrical, plumbing and acoustic controls related to spa operations. Engineering requirements for a spa are quite different than for a hotel or residence and must be handled by someone with operational spa experience.
The consultant or hotel spa expert should continue to work with the architect and interior designer through the design process ensuring that the architecture and decoration fits the concept, harmonizes with the overall mission statement and is operationally optimal. The choice of materials, paint and the use of colors and light fixtures used in a spa must not be solely determined on their esthetic appeal. These choices must take into consideration the operational and functional requirements within a spa setting and be in line with the overall concept and mission statement.