Designing the Spa Experience for Tomorrow and Beyond
What is the hotel guest actually purchasing?
By Peter Anderson Founder, Anderson & Associates | July 01, 2012
In 1999, I penned an article that stated the growth in popularity of spas actually positioned resort spas to be a profitable hotel department, and not just a revenue center striving to achieve "break even". The response was slightly incredulous, somewhere between mild curiosity and outright surprise. In hindsight that was reasonable because up to that point only in the rarest of situations did a hotel's spa revenues eclipsed their expenses. There were few profitable spas and they usually had a unique value-add such as a mineral spring, golf course or comprehensive programming (relaxation or weight loss) that positioned it as a one-of-a-kind experience.
In the following decade spa-fever took hold. Development was blazing; those resorts and hotels with spas, craved newer more competitive facilities where as those "other" resorts and hotels that had no spa at all often built in haste and sometimes emphasized fluff at the peril of form. Many of the spas lacked a strategic focus on what their target market(s) actually wanted or needed. Others were not aware of the need for spa brand compatibility with the hotel platform on which it operated. To make matters more compromising spa additions were often shoehorned into wherever the building's footprint allowed, sometime in a basement or a converted garage… seldom with a view and only by accident was the placement intuitive to the guest's needs. The proliferation of day spas, only added to operational challenges as they severely undercut the cost that their resort counterparts offered. The resort or day spas that failed the fastest were those that were ersatz imitations of the market leader that provided generic extravagances in a "me-too" fashion.
The market has gotten stronger and we, through both our successes and missteps, have gotten smarter. The salient issue at hand is how do we as hotel and resort spas operators evaluate CapEx deployment in light of where we've been and moreover where we are going? Two factors that underpin many of our assumptions in is the need for i) a value proposition and ii) efficacy based treatments; the economic downturn of 2008 was a game changer that has made the savvy consumer re-evaluate issues of how they spend their resources and how they define indulgence, leisure and personal care. This was a both a wake up time for us and is now an opportunity for course corrections.
The thoughts contained herein are presented to help us most efficiently optimize the spa ROI when designing, repositioning, evaluating and operating a spa to accommodate the needs of a 21st century spa goer.
First and foremost an identity for your spa is essential
It is the one unique quality that keeps them coming back. The mass market awareness of healthy lifestyles has exploded; the nexus between health and beauty is overwhelming. Spas that focus topically "from the outside-in" run the risk of becoming passe. Spas that lead with a comprehensiveness approach to a healthy lifestyle as their primary focus can follow with issues of beauty as a natural by-product. These spas have a much greater chance of longevity. Most day spas do not have the depth or infrastructure to position themselves with this comprehensive value-added, although many talk the talk without walking it. Your identity should be clearly defined in your business plan, and it needs to be enhanced and supported in your procedures, product and most importantly your physical space. While day spa guests are purchasing a treatment, hotel spa guests are purchasing an experience that includes at least one treatment. It is in that experience where we embed our treatments that justify enhanced pricing.