Ms. Segerberg

Spas, Health & Wellness

Looking for Spa Assistance in all the RIGHT Places

By Jane Segerberg, Founder & President, Segerberg Spa Consulting, LLC

The current economic downturn makes us all look at our businesses differently and realize the importance of good planning and execution. Your property's commitment to a new spa build, expansion or renovation during the current economic climate not only is a strategically smart maneuver, but also one that requires a talented team. When this short-term downturn begins to level out and improve, your property will be poised with a compelling edge on the market.

In this article we will briefly examine the state of the spa industry and indications for spa development, then focus on the team of services and what each should bring to the project. The intention is for you, the reader, to have a clear understanding of "who does what", why each is important and what to expect from each area of expertise.

As Frank Blake, CEO of Home Depot recently observed, "It is easier to understand the need for change when things are tough". It is important to keep a sense of direction about where your property is heading. Frank Blake's number one tip for turning around in an economic downturn is: "Don't be afraid to invest in the business during a downturn. You'll be in a position of strength when the economy recovers."

With the above in mind, a quick re-cap of the current state of the Spa Industry is helpful to gain a sense of direction for the new spa, expansion or renovation of the spa. The Spa Industry is maturing and spa goers are extremely savvy about spa treatments with high expectation for the level of service delivery, spa ambiance and the effectiveness of the spa treatments. Spa-goer demographics are changing to reflect a broader age range that includes the late twenties and early thirties all the way through the mid sixties. The female/male ratio is no longer dominated by female spa-goers, especially in the hotel/resort spas with the rate nearing 50/50. The increase in international travelers and family/friend reunions and groups also affects the facility program and the spa treatment program.

Of all the types of spa properties in the Industry, the resort and hotel spa businesses tend to be the most luxurious, chic and high end. Therefore, there are high expectations amongst spa consumers for resorts and hotels to have a high level spa facility and program. Preparing for this discerning and shifting market cannot include fluff or gimmicks, only authentic life-enriching experiences. Good service is critical and it goes hand in hand with a high quality product and well-organized facility.

The smart players are moving to improve the level of service, design and programming of their spas. Well conceived new, expanded or renovated spa models include design flexibility in order to target the spa's market and the changing requirements of the market. In addition, with its need to meet higher service expectations, facilities should be designed to organize the service delivery efficiently. Employees are expensive and seemingly scarcer at the higher services levels, so facility design must organize and accommodate service that can be accomplished with minimal staff.

Where are the right places to look for assistance?

The development of a significantly unique luxury service spa that draws guests and differentiates your property will require a seasoned multi-disciplinary team approach. The following should help you cut through the clutter of assistance listed within increasingly blurred lines.

Ultimately, the property needs a spa concept, spa program and spa facility design that is synergistic with the way you conduct business, appeals to your market and delivers profitability. This requires expertise in the areas of conceptual and programming design, architectural program design, interior design, equipment and products. A team of an experienced full-service spa consultant, architect, interior designer, equipment supplier, spa product vendors and possibly spa management assistance working with your property's visionary team will deliver a spa that is not only compelling but also works.

Here is the scoop on each area of expertise including what is offered and what you should expect from each team member.

Full-Service Spa Consultant

A good full-service spa consultant can help you clarify or create a clear vision for your spa and bring the vision and concept to reality. Unfortunately there is not a list of spa consultants that clearly separates the full-service spa consultant from the myriad number of businesses that include the words "spa consulting" in their list of offerings. Under "spa consulting" you will find: 1)product companies whose focus is selling product and also provide consulting on training and retailing, 2)equipment providers whose focus is selling equipment and also provide consulting on the build out of the treatment rooms in order to house the equipment that they sell, and 3)training and service consultants who primarily assist with staff training.

For the best results, partner strategically with a full-service spa consultant that is not influenced by the need to sell product, equipment or a training service and, in addition; knows the spa market, has had experience in the industry and can assist you in customizing the design of your spa program and facility. Look for full-service consultants who have demonstrated their expertise in spa development and openings at luxury properties and have had extensive successful spa and resort operating experience. Even if you feel that you are not in need of the entire gamut of offerings, an accomplished firm that is capable in all aspects of consulting is invaluable for the depth of understanding the relationships of each developmental stage of the project. Expect that the partnership with the spa consultant will bring experience, skills, knowledge, collaboration and a shared vision to assist and guide the day-to-day spa development decisions.

The Architectural Firm

A good architect will immediately get in tune with the property's concept and the concept and vision for the spa. Look for the architect who seeks to understand the program of space, equipment and mechanical requirements and function needs of the spa program.

It can be helpful to work with an architect who has designed spas only if the architect has clarity that each spa is and should be different with different operational and space constraints. Actually, some of our firm's better experiences with architects have been with those who may not have designed a spa but are willing to gain an understanding of the operational and programming needs and be creative in the design. Often architects who have completed spas assume that all spa needs are the same and they may have a tendency to recycle ideas that don't work well operationally and are ultimately a financial drain on the business. Expect that the architect will listen carefully to the goals for the spa and offer creative design solutions to the team.

The Interior Designer

The interior design team brings interior space relationships and flow along with much of the physical 'personality' into the spa spaces. The ID working closely with the architect and spa consultant can deliver the overall sense of escape, pleasure and ease of the spa experience.

Expect that the Interior Designer will get on board with the intended ambiance of the spa, space and spatial requirements as well as budget requirements. The designer should have an understanding of the flow of treatments, retail space prerequisites, equipment needs and relevant spa trends. Look for the designer with a track record for good service and who possesses strong design capabilities and is also known for compatibility and open and easy communication.

Equipment Provider

A good equipment provider will have your best interests at heart and sees their business as a part of the design team as well as an ongoing partner. With a good understanding of the project, along with its needs and budget, the supplier can access vast resources of spa equipment.

Expect that the supplier will give a fair and balanced opinion on the various pieces of equipment and their use. The supplier's primary purpose should not be to only "sell equipment". After the spa's opening, the supplier remains as the ongoing partner with the spa, catering to all equipment issues before, during and after the sale. Since equipment choices come from many different vendors, the supplier can simplify the process of purchasing and shipping. After the sale, any equipment issues are handled with one phone call to the supplier who has clout with vendors. Install and mechanical specifications for each piece of equipment is also managed by the supplier. In addition, most suppliers offer a supplementary discount through the spa consultant which is passed on to the client.

Spa Product Companies

Product companies will approach the hotel/resort property once the project is in the development pipeline. The spa consultant can help short list potential suppliers according to their track record for ongoing partnerships with spa properties along with the willingness to team with the property for opening training, ongoing training, creativity, support and successes. Equally as important is the effectiveness of the product itself and the synergy between the spa's concept and the philosophy of the product company.

Choose your product vendor for its synergy with the property, effectiveness of the product and ability to reach the target market. Expect that the product vendor will create or assist in creating treatments distinctive for your property and will willingly supply the amount of comprehensive on-site training necessary to give staff full knowledge of the product attributes and protocols prior to opening. After opening the product company should visit onsite at least twice a year to train treatment and front desk staff.

Because your spa will more than likely have two major product lines, beware of companies who don't exhibit a willingness to work compatibly with other product lines or who demand to be more exclusive than the other line. A good variety of products will support the depth of your treatments and promote retail sales.

Spa Management Provider

Spas are the most intricate of any hotel/resort department. There are at least 8 touch points of service per each one-hour spa guest visit. Managing a spa at exceptional and consistent guest service levels requires seasoned expertise in successful spa management. Most resort and hotel spa properties choose to maintain in-house management of their spas by relying on their own human resource and accounting support systems. It, however, is becoming more common for hotel and resort properties to outsource their spa management systems.

Whether in-house or outsourced, the spa should blend seamlessly as an extension of the resort or hotel. Particular attention should be paid to this aspect if outsourcing is the chosen option. The spa management provider should encourage and allow your spa to maintain its identity as well as uphold your company's philosophy and standards while supplying the staff training and supervision necessary to offer your guests a memorable experience and maximize your revenues.

In conclusion

Undertaking a spa development project at this time will have your property poised on the cutting edge ahead of the curve when the economy upturns. Looking for spa assistance in all the right places will achieve a quality project that will determine whether your property owns a spa that is a compelling complement to the property or just a common commodity.

Jane Segerberg is founder and president of Segerberg Spa Consulting, LLC., a multi-faceted spa consulting and management company with an industry reputation for creating spas that work –they are compelling for the property’s market, attain recognition, engage guests in memorable experiences and achieve bottom line success. Over Jane’s thirty-year history in the wellness, hospitality and spa industry, she has become recognized for providing outstanding service and keen attention to detail. For company information please view http://www.segerbergspa.com. Ms. Segerberg can be contacted at 912-222-1518 or janesegerberg@yahoo.com Extended Bio...

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