The Hotel Spa: A Spa's Evolution

By Leslie Wolski President, Wolski Spa Consulting | June 30, 2013

Cupping, tarot card reading, glamour day, Thai massage, clinical sports massage, Chakra balancing, caviar facial and hypnotherapy… All wonderful spa treatments, but all on the same spa menu. Is this good business? Or is this a perfect example of a hotel spa trying to be all things to all people? The challenge hotel spas face is how to identify and then adapt to the needs and tastes of their guests without compromising the hotel's brand and the spa's identity within that brand. If this balance is not achieved, then the spa's product and services will be diluted, guests will be disappointed and ultimately revenue will decrease.

The first step every hotel spa should take is to align itself with the hotel's brand. Ideally, this should happen from day one. It doesn't have to be an exact match, but more like a complement between hotel and spa. So many times hotel spas operate independently of the hotel. This is a missed opportunity for both the hotel and spa. There should be a synergy between the two providing continuity for the guests, creating a flow throughout the property that subtly reinforces the brand at every turn.

For example, picture a wine country, luxury hotel world renowned for providing impeccable, sophisticated service, delicious cuisine and hosting an incredible wine cellar. Then imagine that the spa's menu offers strictly health and wellness services because that's what spa trade journals were touting as the wave of the future when the spa opened. Does it make sense that these well-traveled guests who came to relax and indulge in the finest food and wine are going to want to spend money to have their body fat measured or receive a three-part cellulite treatment? Not likely. These guests will go to a destination spa or their local medi spa. Conversely, let's say the spa director takes the obvious route and goes grape crazy! Wine country right? Grape seed facials, grape seed wraps and to top it off a grape seed massage! This route is likely to draw a little more interest, however this overused and somewhat cliche "wine country spa" approach is still not in alignment with the hotel's sophisticated, well-traveled guest's wants and needs. There is an obvious disconnect between the hotel and spa.

How can this spa honor the hotel's brand and still have a strong "spa" identity? Hotel spas host different guests almost every day. Unlike a day spa, which enjoys a returning clientele, hotel spas have a challenging time developing a spa menu that focuses on its specific clientele due to the diversity of the hotel guests. An upscale hotel chain will have a specific market and target guest, but within that group there will be a multitude of spa tastes. The spa must search for the commonality among the guests' wants and needs as opposed to offering something for everyone or just providing services the spa director finds interesting.

In the wine country hotel example above, the commonality is sophisticated luxury enhanced by exquisite cuisine and wine. The spa can take this information and create a multitude of captivating services and even incubate exciting trends. What about pairing wine and spa services? Or creating a package that includes dinner followed by a night cap in the spa while soaking in a tub? Retain the grape seed oil massage, but refine it by offering oils from a diverse group of grapes and present it almost as a wine tasting might be, with the provider discussing the benefits and dimension of each oil. Understand what your guests want and need from their "wine country" visit and figure out how the spa can deliver this in a manner that augments the hotel brand.

Once the spa is in alignment with the hotel brand what do you do about trends in the spa industry? For example, feet are getting a lot of attention right now. The "Medi Pedi" is a hot trend. Hollywood is completely on board (at least in the recent issue of Star magazine). The masses are clamoring for the treatment. Is it time to invest in new products, training, marketing and add the "Medi Pedi" immediately? Not so fast. Stop and ask does this treatment strengthen our brand? Is there a way this treatment can complement our current spa menu? Do OUR guests want this treatment? And do they want it from us or from their local medi spa? In this example, consider instead adapting and personalizing one of your current pedicures to address individual guest's foot care issues. This is a much better approach to take as it requires less training and minimal product expense. Guests truly appreciate individualized attention. Personal service will outlast and outsell a trend.

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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.