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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 (www.modernbutlers.com) in 2004 to set and raise standards for the profession. Mr. Ferry can be contacted at 813-354-2734 or stevenferry@modernbutlers.com Extended Bio...

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