The Importance of Being Earnest: The Key to Spa Success
By Mark Wuttke Principal, The Wuttke Group | July 07, 2013
The unwritten contract between hotelier and guest is one of trust – trust that the guestroom will be clean and comfortable, the restaurant well run and delivering the expected levels of quality and service, and the same for function space, business services, leisure amenities, and the spa. Yet nowhere does the guest demonstrate more trust than in the spa. Here, the guest is typically clad in a bathrobe or towel at most, in a room without a key, and agreeing to receive a spa service at the hands of someone he or she has most likely just met. That guest trusts that the spa experience, from start to finish, is going to be one of quality and integrity. The guest expects the facility to be sanitary, the therapists to be well trained and, where required, licensed, and the services to be properly rendered using products and processes that are good for one's skin. The anticipated takeaway is health and well-being. A tall order? Perhaps, but it is essential, whether your spa is self-operated or outsourced, to maintaining that contract of trust.
When you think about it, the spa is probably the most important touch point for a hotel or resort that has one. It is where the barometer of trust can increase exponentially – fostering loyalty, repeat business and positive word of mouth – or it can drop dramatically if the experience is unsatisfactory or regarded to be unhealthy in any way. In short, the spa experience can have a tremendous impact on the entire hospitality operation and the brand. Ensuring that that impact is a positive one is not rocket science, but it does require commitment on a very personal level.
In the 2013 SpaFinder Wellness Trend Report, the top trend among the 10 is "Healthy Hotels" and it cites the fact that health-focused travelers now account for 40% of the travel segment. Stress, chronic disease and the desire to live not just long but well are fueling this trend. "If the gym and the spa have traditionally been positioned as mere 'amenities' (locked up in the hotel basement), now those walls are being conceptually (and literally) broken down."
Correspondingly, in the 2013 Washington Spa Alliance Annual Symposium, Dr. Pamela Peeke, noted author and expert on healthy living, said that one should think not in terms of a life span but a "health span" and focus not on longevity but on the ability to live vitally as one ages.
In my estimation, the key to success does not begin with brand standards or a standard operating procedures manual. It begins with the person in charge of the spa – most likely the general manager or spa director. It starts with that individual making an earnest commitment to adopting the practice of conscious leadership. Making decisions from this platform is guaranteed to give the guest the positive and healthy experience that is expected. And a satisfied guest translates to the bottom line. Here is why it is so important:
As the spa industry has grown and evolved, in large part because of the addition of spas to the hotel environment, the spa goer has, too. Locating spas in hotels has made it easier for the first-time spa-goer to cross the threshold into a spa – a choice that may be more comfortable than committing to a week at a destination spa. While the satisfied spa goer may indeed book a destination spa in the future, that first time over the threshold may be more appealing as a shorter hotel spa stay. Hotel spas have also made converts out of an increasing number of men who appreciate the conditioning, stress reduction, sports recovery, anti-aging and other services, therapies and products tailored to their needs and desires.
In fact, the SpaFinder Wellness 2013 Trend Report cites trend number nine as "From Barbers to Brotox" and notes that the recent recession, competition for jobs and workplace competition are causing men to spend "on self-preservation to stay in the game." In fact, its survey reveals that 25% of men ages 18-34 have spent money on manicures. In the United States, male skincare products have grown 18% since 2006 and are expected to increase by another 23 percent by 2015. And much of this product is being purchased in spas, as a result of a treatment or in the retail portion of the operation.