The Evolution of the "Spa Concept"

By Paula J. Azevedo Principal, dash design | July 03, 2016

In an era of where the words personal, experiential, adventure, extreme and destination are often heard – at least among those of us in the business of hotels – it is clear consumers are seeking uniqueness in their travels, whether they are for business or pleasure. Hoteliers are wisely taking this to heart and responding to these demands.

One way owners and operators are strategically meeting guests' needs is by tapping into and elevating the experience of a once luxury-only amenity: the spa. The focus makes logical sense. After all, wellness tourism is the fastest growing sector in the industry, with recent statistics gathered since emerging from the recession indicating continued growth next year and well into 2017, to the tune of 20% overall. In other words, health and wellness is big business, hence the evolution we're seeing today.

However, this is more than a desire for people to indulge at the spa; the trend is part of an overall lifestyle movement toward holistic wellness. The average modern day traveler is fully maxed out 24-7 and often seeking a better work-life balance, a reprieve from the high stress, super charged world we live in.

Changing Clientele

One major factor in the evolution of amenities, including hotel spas, is the melding between business and leisure travelers, a hybrid class of guest that has become known as the "bleisure customer." Generally well-heeled and well-traveled, this growing class of customer has disposable income and, due to the many demands they face, are combining their business travel with 'healthy' fun and indulgence.

And as this trend expands, their workplaces are typically on board. It's what's driven many companies to now offer diverse benefits with employment – unlimited personal days, working from home or added fitness or spa-like amenities within the office. We've all seen the stories chock full of data about how healthier employees are happier, more productive and less susceptible to burnout. Aware of these findings, the latest shift is encouraging the idea of 'bleisure' travel or 'athleisure' lifestyle, a term first coined by the fashion industry regarding fitness wear to indulge in the experiential adventures the local environment has to offer, extending their stay between meetings and taking a more comprehensive approach to how they divvy up their time while increasing their overall well-being.

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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.