Beauty. Spa. Wellness. What is the Next Big Trend for Hotels?
By Laszlo Puczko CEOI & Co-Founder, Health Tourism Worldwide | July 2015
A new upscale hotel development without a spa or wellness centre? Quite probably no. What not that long ago was a differentiating service element now is a basic, entry level service. This is not only true for resorts but also for urban and even business hotels, too. The commodification and standardisation of spas or wellness units is, however, only characterizes the top end of the hotel business. Very rarely one can find a full service spa in a three star property!
One might say that these changes are due to the organic development of the industry. Some others might say that this is little more than repainting the shop window (in many cases). Observing the industry it can be concluded that both opinions are right.
Hotels and resorts started to offer some beauty or salon services such as hairdressing, manicure, pedicure or facials many years ago. This offer was almost exclusively targeting female clientele. Often attracting walk-in guests from the local community, too. The operation of such beauty salons was a relatively easy and straightforward proposition to hoteliers (and for guests).
The next stage of the service development was the introduction of the spa and often independently from the spa a gym. Although it is often assumed that there is a global understanding and agreement about what a spa actually is, this really is not the case. The term spa can represent very different concepts and service offers under the same word. The International Spa Association (ISPA) provides a set of definitions for the various spa forms. Still, there is no global agreement of the meaning and service characteristics of a 'spa'. In several parts of the world a spa does not tend be more than a combination of beauty and body treatments (typically massages). In other countries wet areas, e.g. steam rooms, pools and saunas are typically standard elements of a modern hotel spa.
Many resort hotels developed such variety of services that the spa has become the key selling proposition. Instead of just running a hotel spa, these facilities became spa hotels and resorts. Breath-taking locations such mountains, deserts, coasts or pristine natural setting inspired the development of spa hotels and resorts all around the world. Natural thermal springs or untouched coastal areas provide basis for very special spa hotels and resorts, i.e. thermal spa or thalassotherapy resorts, respectively. Guests in several European countries such as Italy, Germany or Hungary, or France and Greece in terms of thalasso can enjoy the power of nature in specialized spa hotels.
Soon hotel developers and operators started to hire spa consultants and then consequently to bring in specialist spa operators. Operating a spa is often seen as distant from standard hotel management, therefore the involvement of the (outsourced) spa operator seemed to be a good idea. Especially that in house spa management rarely become a favourite department of hotel GMs. Unfortunately, outsourced spa operators infrequently reached the owners ROI objectives and the spa was not considered to be a major revenue source or driver. Furthermore, cross-selling or optimization was practiced at a very low rate.