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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Coming up in February 2019...

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.