Why the Hotel Spa is Becoming the New Fitness Center

By Mary Gendron Senior Vice President / Managing Director, Mower | July 24, 2016

Two decades ago, the trend toward fitness centers in hotels went from nice-to-have to must-have. Today, that trend is spa. What is fortunate for owners and operators who are currently sans spa, is to realize that the definition of spa is flexible with broad parameters, transcending the confines of bricks and mortar. This article delves into the trend and reasons behind the demand and the timing for it. It also addresses the philosophy of spa, and provides a selection of options for consideration in retrofitting a spa into an existing operation.

If you've been immersed in the hospitality industry for some time, you will recognize the push-pull dynamic that propels the industry forward. In some instances, progress results from guests following hospitality's lead, adopting new services and amenities that become expected over time. In other instances, guest behaviors spark the trends.

In the late 1970s, when we helped launch Four Seasons Hotels beyond regional recognition in Canada, the notion of a concierge in a luxury hotel, while established in Europe, was new to North America. Four Seasons considered it important in attracting the discerning international traveler. At the direction of its visionary founder, Isadore Sharp, Four Seasons committed to a concierge in each hotel. It was the first luxury brand to do so on this side of the Atlantic.
To introduce the concept and establish it as a brand tenet, we created a lighthearted "field guide" to the North American concierge, using it as a gentle educational tool that addressed everything from how to pronounce the word (koNˈsyerZH) to cataloging the range of requests that a concierge might be asked to fulfill. Today, one would be hard pressed to find anyone needing this orientation. Moreover, guests now expect concierge services when staying in nice places.

In the decade of the '80s, as business travel increased, the separation between one's work and personal life blurred. Those with fitness regimens wanted to keep to them while on the road. Others without previous fitness routines began to adopt them out of necessity to balance the hours spent on planes and meals away from home.

Hotels began installing fitness equipment, then fitness rooms, then full-fledged fitness centers as this nice-to-have amenity evolved into a must-have in the hotel selection criteria of travelers. Today, hotels and resorts of all strata include fitness offerings, with few exceptions.

The Growth of Amenity Spas

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.