Is Wellness Healthy for Your Spa Brand?

By Leslie Wolski President, Wolski Spa Consulting | July 19, 2015

Embarking on a vacation is always such an exciting time. We enjoy seeing new places, meeting new people, experiencing different cultures and eating exotic foods. However, we also have to lug our over-packed bags, negotiate the maze that is airport security, flag down taxis and navigate our way around new cities. We go on vacation to escape the stress of work, social obligations and the demands of day to day life, but unfortunately many times we simply add to the aggravation.

It is no wonder that in the most recent Spafinder survey 85 percent of travelers responded that they return from vacation feeling less rejuvenated than when they left. Day to day living followed by a long journey can really take it out of you. For most of us our chosen hotel becomes the light at the end of the tunnel – an oasis in the midst of the planes, trains and automobiles. We expect to be truly cared for once we arrive. The definition of "cared for" by a hotel used to mean our guests looked forward to the simple things like comfortable beds with soft pillows, clean, well appointed rooms, daily housekeeping and efficient room service serving good, hot food. However, with the emergence of hotel spas, being cared for, moved beyond these classic basics to include something more. Guests want WELLNESS.

What does wellness actually mean to our guests? Essentially, they want to leave the hotel feeling better than when they arrived. Can a hotel spa meet this demand with just a cardio room and therapeutic massage? Does it need to move beyond the basics? We are inundated with stories of services such as weightless envelopments, "wellness" programs, expert led nature experiences and full service fitness facilities offering tai chi, virtual training and ballet. These innovative treatments, services and classes are extremely exciting to learn about and of course generate a lot of interest. They are undoubtedly good for our guests' physical and mental health, but are they better than the basics? Is developing a full-fledged, expanded wellness brand healthy for Hotel Spas?

Should you invest thousands, even millions of dollars in weightless flotation tanks, nutritionists, trainers, pedometers, guided meditation, light therapy, mineral pools and state of the art fitness centers? Will your guests actually take advantage of these expanded services and facilities once you have them? Or do they just want to have the option? Is the demand that's being talked about going to turn into profit? There are a lot of questions. Owners, General Managers and Spa Directors need to identify and truly understand what their guest wants, not just what's trending in the media or among the hard core spa consumers. The most important question is how does your Spa define wellness and does your guest understand the wellness benefits of what you offer? Once you discover your distinct definition or brand of wellness you can begin to support and expand your unique brand.

When considering the concept of wellness branding it is smart to recognize that wellness is nothing new and is simple at its core. The general definition of wellness is the condition of good physical and mental health. The definition of Spa, for our purposes, is a commercial establishment offering health and beauty treatments through such means as steam baths, exercise equipment and massage. As a result, it's not a stretch to say Wellness and Spa go hand in hand.

Massage therapist, Kacey O'Rourke notes, "Wellness is a lifestyle and spas are one small part of that bigger picture." So, what do your guests really want when they come to your spa? What part can you play in their overall wellness lifestyle? Take a look at history. Spas have been based on health and wellness since the first Spas sprung up around mineral hot springs and people came to "take the waters".

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