Why the Hotel Spa is Becoming the New Fitness Center

By Mary Gendron Senior Vice President / Managing Director, Eric Mower & Associates | 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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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.