Mr. Ferry

Spas, Health & Wellness

Why Every High-End Hotel Needs a Spa Butler

By Steven Ferry, Chairman, International Institute of Modern Butlers

The spa industry is the fourth largest leisure industry in the United States, generating $11.2 billion in annual revenues through 136 million visits at over 12,000 locations. Massage comprises 84% of all services delivered. Day spas earned the most business, being responsible for more customer visits than resort/hotel spas. Why is this?

Is it because day spas are more sumptuous or the treatments are better? The answer seems to be, "No." The difference between day spas and hotel spas lies in the service. Generally, guests tend to feel more comfortable in smaller venues where they consider they are receiving personalized service. They want to feel known and have their needs understood. They return to the favorite therapists who know their likes and dislikes. As spas become an increasing part of a hotel's revenue base, service needs to match expectations; and that improvement comes from both within the spa as well as the hotel side.

Currently, this kind of personalized service is less common in larger hotels where patrons tend to feel like one of many. The Spa Butler can help bridge this gap.

The services of the Spa Butler are not for all guests. The Spa Butler is reserved for the most discerning guests, those staying in the most expensive suites and villas. These discerning guests often return to the hotel repeatedly and expect customized and personalized service. The addition of the Spa Butler to the hotel staff can be a cogent selling point for high-end clients as the Spa Butler not only provides personalized service but can also add a level of privacy that is often sought by celebrities and other high-profile guests. The Spa Butler is trained to recognize different guests that emerge across the luxury consumer category.

In fact, Prince and Associates, a leading consulting firm to the highest end of clientele, revealed in Elite Traveler that these wealthy clients spend an average of $107,000 each on spas and spa treatments in 2005. They paid an average of $224,000 each for functions held at a hotel, resort or spa. Property "takeovers" for a day or more have become increasingly popular among these people.

Additionally, hotel guests leave feedback surveys behind them that the Spa Butler can use to connect the hotel's services with those of the spa. This is currently not happening in most high-end hotels where spa and hotel services remain separate and isolated entities: the bigger the hotel and spa, the less connection and interaction there tends to be between them. Connecting the two can provide substantial increased income for the hotels and spas. At the same time, the Spa Butler, by connecting the hotel with the spa in a personalized manner, can provide service that surpasses those offered in competing and currently more financially successful day spas.

As a result, hotel patrons will choose to use the hotel's spa more often and be more likely to become a return guest. The Spa Butler can make recommendations for Spa Gift Certificate purchases: according to the 2006 American Express Gift Card Survey, gift certificates/gift cards were one of most popular gifts, with 66% reporting they will buy a gift certificate or gift card, up from 57% in 2005 and 55% in 2004). The Spa Butler can also suggest/up sell additional treatments that would enhance the guest experience.

The Role of the Spa Butler

The principal role of the Spa Butler is first and foremost to act as a butler to the guests and a bridge between the hotel and spa. Secondly, the Spa Butler acts as the liaison between the spa employees and the high-end guests. Sufficiently trained Spa Butlers can conduct an in-depth interview with the guest prior to her/his arrival to ensure the guest is matched appropriately with the therapist and treatment. S/he can speak in great detail about the treatments and can make appropriate recommendations based on an in-depth and personal understanding of the guest. The Spa Butler will escort the guest to his/her room, bring them to the spa, and introduce them to the therapist.

While the guest is receiving her/his treatment, the Spa Butler will prepare their room for post-treatment procedures such as running a bath, ordering drinks and/or adjusting the lights in the guest suite, and arranging meals or making recommendations for them.

One of the chief roles of the Spa Butler is to train hotel spa employees on how to interact and interface with high-end hotel guests, including how to speak intelligently about the services offered in the hotel. For example, the Spa Butler will help spa employees understand the menu(s) so they can make recommendations to guests.

The goal, again, is to integrate the spa with the hotel.

The Spa Butler will be the person to ensure that all spa employees learn how to anticipate the needs of the guests rather than reacting to guest requests.

For the last few years, the trend in hotels has been for a return to personalized and customized treatment. Guests want service, it tells them that they matter and that their business is important. They are a lot more savvy and critical and interested in having their experience tailored to their preference, needs, and expectations.

As spas become a larger and more important part of a hotel's revenue base, connecting the two entities in a meaningful and personal way will only bolster the financial well-being of any hotel. Additionally, the personalized service will have guests raving about the service they've received and entice them to return.

The addition of the Spa Butler as a personal-service innovation will increase revenue while leapfrogging over other luxury brands in the minds of clients. Las Ventanas al Paraiso, a Rosewood property in Los Cabos, Baja California, is the first property to institute the concept, and is predictably enjoying excellent word-of-mouth as a result. The Spa Butler may be a new trend, but it is also making possible a new 6-star standard, especially where the Spa Butler is also the therapist. One can only wonder how long other Spa resorts will take to wake up to the possibilities.

Professor Steven Ferry was born and raised in England, where he worked in education, hospitality, and private service before moving to the USA to continue in private service. He took a break from service to establish a photographic and writing communications company that produced a wide range of educational, PR, marketing and editorial products for many major US publishers and corporations, while also writing books for the butler profession and ultimately, being drawn back into the service industry to train and consult. At the request of peers, he founded the International Institute of Modern Butlers ( in 2004 to set and raise standards for the profession. Mr. Ferry can be contacted at 813-354-2734 or Extended Bio... retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by

Receive our daily newsletter with the latest breaking news and hotel management best practices.
Hotel Business Review on Facebook
General Search:

MAY: Eco-Friendly Practices: The Value of Sustainability

Eric Ricaurte

In 2011, we visited the 10 hotels contracted in the room block for the Greenbuild conference in Toronto. As part of their award-winning sustainable event program, the conference organizers embedded green practices into the contract language for these hotels, who either had to comply with the requirements, explain their reason why they couldn’t implement them, or pay a $1,000 fine. Part of our consulting work was to gather the data and confirm some of the practices on-site. READ MORE

Susan Tinnish

Hotels brands have actively engaged in large-scale efforts to become more environmentally friendly. Individual hotels have made great strides on property. Many significant large-scale eco-initiatives s are most easily built initially into the infrastructure and design of the building and surrounding areas. Given that the adaptation of these large-scale changes into the existing asset base is expensive and disruptive, hotels seek different ways to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability and eco-friendly practices. One way to do so is to shift the focus from large-scale change to “small wins.” Small wins can help a hotel create a culture of sustainability. READ MORE

Shannon Sentman

Utility costs are the second largest operating expense for most hotels. Successfully reducing these expenses can be a huge value-add strategy for executives. Doing this effectively requires more than just a one-time investment in efficiency upgrades. It requires ongoing visibility into a building’s performance and effectively leveraging this visibility to take action. Too often, efficiency strategies center on a one-time effort to identify opportunities with little consideration for establishing ongoing practices to better manage a building’s performance ongoing. READ MORE

Joshua Zinder, AIA

Discussions of sustainability in the hospitality industry have focused mainly on strategies at the level of energy-efficient and eco-friendly adjustments to operations and maintenance. These "tweaks" can include programs to reduce water usage, updating lighting to LEDs, campaigns to increase guest participation in recycling, and similar innovative industry initiatives. Often overlooked—not only by industry experts but even by hotel operators and designers—are possibilities for hotel design and construction that can make a property truly sustainable from the get-go. READ MORE

Coming Up In The June Online Hotel Business Review

Feature Focus
Sales & Marketing: Who Owns the Guest?
Hotels and OTAs are, by necessity, joined at the hip and locked in a symbiotic relationship that is uneasy at best. Hotels require the marketing presence that OTAs offer and of course, OTAs guest’s email when it sends guest information to a hotel, effectively allowing OTAs to maintain “ownership” of the guest. Without ready access to guest need hotel product to offer their online customers. But recently, several OTAs have decided to no longer share a data, hotels are severely constrained from marketing directly to a guest which allows them to capture repeat business – the lowest cost and highest value travelers. Hotels also require this data to effectively market to previous guests, so ownership of this data will be a significant factor as hotels and OTAs move forward. Another issue is the increasing shift to mobile travel bookings. Mobile will account for more than half of all online travel bookings next year, and 78.6% of them will use their smartphone to make those reservations. As a result, hotels must have a robust mobile marketing plan in place, which means responsive design, one-click booking, and location technology. Another important mobile marketing element is a “Click-to-Call” feature. According to a recent Google survey, 68% of hotel guests report that it is extremely/very important to be able to call a hotel during the purchase phase, and 58% are very likely to call a hotel if the capability is available in a smartphone search. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.