Ms. Segerberg

Spas, Health & Wellness

Top Five Characteristics of Financially Successful Spas

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

Spas are almost a rite of passage for hotels and resorts. Is your spa not only a rite of passage but also a financially successful asset to your property? A successful spa attracts guests to your resort/hotel, receives high acclaim from guests, contributes to overall guest satisfaction and desire to retire, adds revenue dollars to the overall property and strengthens occupancy rates.

As you can imagine, this article is about numbers and how to raise them. There is one number that we first want to consider and that is the number five. According to Miller's Magic Number, the number seven (or between five and nine) is the number of items which can be held in short term memory at any one time. To ensure that the following characteristics are remembered, the five most important keys to financial success have been selected.

Successful spas are characterized by the following memorable five:

1) The Spa Concept Strongly Defines its Distinguishing Factors

There is no doubt about it; a successful spa exudes a sense of place, a certain feeling, an experience. A simply stated yet strong concept provides the focus necessary to be a leader, to be recognized and create brand loyalty. The concept is the seed from which to build a strong story and additional distinguishing factors for the spa.

The concept guides the spa's architectural program, d'ecor, the service program, the menu of services and special signature features. A strong concept is not developed by copying bits and pieces of existing spa menus or by copying another spa's philosophy. There should be a synergistic match between the spa's concept and the core business and DNA of the resort or hotel property. It also addresses the future needs, wants and desires of a very savvy spa clientele.

The time spent to build a spa concept around "One big thing" as Jim Collins describes so well in Good to Great ensures the spa's future sustainability and creates a rally call. ("Fuel your passion", 'Our energy makes you feel fantastic", "Return to your senses", "Meet the new you")

It also prevents guests from feeling, seeing and experiencing a hodgepodge of everyone else's creative ideas with no clear purpose or message about what the experience will actually produce.

Once you have completed the concept creation, ask yourself these questions: "Is my story unique with a deeper purpose?" - - "Can I state the concept in 10 words or less?" - - "Will the concept orchestrate the guest experience?" - - "Will my concept create an experience with meaning, and will my guests pay to enjoy it again?"

2) In-House Marketing Supports the Spa Story

There is nothing worse than having a guest realize that your property has a spa at check out or half way through their stay and too late to get the appointments that they want. It sounds crazy, given the dollars spent on spa build outs and PR efforts, but it often happens: The property forgets to make its in-house guests aware of the spa's existence.

Take a walk through your property and look for visual clues of the spa.

  1. Is the spa's brochure visible or available at the front desk, concierge desk and/or lobby?

  2. Check for concise signage to the spa throughout the property. Often the spa is in a more remote area of the hotel/resort in order to be removed from the hustle and bustle of the resort. Is signage complete? If a guest approaches the path to the spa from another area of the property will he/she be made aware of and led to the spa? Does your elevator button indicate which level the spa is on?

  3. Visit a guest room - is there a spa button on the phone? Is the spa's information available in the room? There are lots of decisions and choices to be made from a spa menu and it is more appealing to be able to review the spa's menu while relaxing in the room. Is the in room grooming line inspired by the spa? The containers themselves or a tent card can invite guests to the spa. (As a side note, a "spa" grooming product adds credibility to the product which generates more retail sell through.)

  4. Now take a walk through your property's collateral materials. Does your golf, tennis, dining and property collateral highlight the spa?

  5. Finally, walk through your service touch points. Is your reservations staff knowledgeable about the spa and trained to mention or describe the spa during the reservations process? Does the reservations staff suggest booking the spa appointments at the time of reservation? At the point of the reservation confirmation, whether by email, mail or fax, is the guest reminded about the spa and invited to book before arrival in order to enjoy the appointment times most convenient for their schedule? At guest check in, is the desk staff prepared to suggest a visit to the spa and answer questions about the spa? Has the concierge had first-hand experience in a variety of spa treatments and is he/she trained and prepared to describe them enthusiastically? Are the bellmen aware of the spa and had a tour of the spa in order to describe it to guests and direct guests to it? Are your activity areas; i.e. pool staff, golf staff, tennis staff, etc. knowledgeable about the spa? During the dining experience, are healthy gourmet choices available?

All of the above involves management's attention to detail, staff training, and creative energy resulting in guests' usage of the many pleasurable spa experiences that are offered.

3) Retail Sales Contributes to Profitability and the Spa's "Higher Purpose"

One of the most overlooked means to increase a spa's profitability and overall success is through retail. Why retail? The two major answers are: it has a higher profit margin and it extends the life and memory of the service - even after the guest goes home.

Spa retail sales supports spa revenue, representing an average of 18 to 25 percent of spa revenue. With one employee dedicated to each spa treatment guest, the net treatment profit margin can run lower than that of retail. Retail can be enjoyed by many people at one time and has the highly successful advantage of a captured audience of like-minded people who enjoy an "edge" to their retail shopping experience.

It is easy to understand retail's financial support, but what about the spa's purpose? Today's hotel/resort spa experiences are crowded into a one hour treatment, half day or sometimes two to three day stays. Historically the spa visit required two weeks of rest and relaxation while enjoying the arts or nature, daily taking of treatments, bathing in warm spring waters and enjoying good company and food. Spa retail can extend the modern day spa's treatment into home lifestyle, thus supporting the spa's long term purpose. As the International Spa Association's (ISPA) book Retail Management for Spas so succinctly puts it, "Spas aren't just giving a hungry man a fish. They are giving the man the fish (treatment), teaching him how to fish (education) and then selling him the fishing pole (retail) to fish with!" It gives the guest the opportunity to improve themselves on a continuum and remember and give thanks to the spa while doing so.

Ensure that your spa has a well-planned and dedicated retail space and training program that educates the staff on the benefits of growing the business, the importance of experiencing and understanding the products, as well as feeling comfortable with helping the spa customer extend the service with take-home product.

4) Management Embraces Consistency

Inconsistency takes the "service" out of spa services. It makes guests feel undervalued, unappreciated and frustrated. The spa service path is a series of very highly specialized and interconnected service touch points. When the system of standards and interconnected events breaks down, the guest is the first to be affected. A standard operating system, by way of keeping service levels optimum, ensures guest confidence in their spa experience. Every spa should have a set of very specialized operating procedures designed to deliver the promised guest experience. Staff is trained on the procedures and the spa director and staff re-visit the SOP's with regularity to evaluate the procedures ability to deliver the appropriate experience.

A second area of consistency is in staffing levels. Nothing is more frustrating to a guest than not being able to book a spa appointment while on property. Are spas totally sold out on a daily basis? No! More often than not, there is no available resource (staff) to perform the treatment. The result is an unhappy guest, loss of revenue and loss of loyalty. Know the season's business swings and plan, plan, plan. Be realistic about the amount of staff needed. Constantly look for new a dedicated staff to fill slots. Use the spa software technology to know the daily rhythms and utilization.

Consistency in both standards and staffing allow guest to enjoy services when they choose and to have an exceptional experience every time.

5) Technology Builds Guest Connection

Spas, by nature, are already guest centric. Spa guests value their relationship with their therapist or technician and it makes sense to support the guest's personal connection with the spa and the staff. Automated technology allows the opportunity to provide a unique experience for each guest currently and in the future. It allows the spa to obtain and manage information before arrival and during their visit. The spa can automatically see the guest's preference and can create cost effective and personalized promotions and offer customized, insightful suggestions for the guest's treatment experience.

Knowing the spa customer allows the spa to plan better for the services and products to be offered in the spa's program and it allows the guest to be positively influenced by how they feel "understood" at your spa. The spa guest feels acknowledged rather than anonymous.

Review the capabilities of your current or future spa software for the opportunities to gather and record information that can be very helpful.

Financial success in the spa means that more guests are enjoying the spa's experiences and, isn't that why we are in the hospitality business in the first place?

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 Ms. Segerberg can be contacted at 912-222-1518 or Extended Bio... retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by

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