Ms. Walzak

Spas, Health & Wellness

New Trends in Hospitality: Spa Rooms

By Dawn Walzak, First Vice President, Tishman Hotel Corporation

In the blink of an eye fast forward to 2005 where a requirement of this ever-changing playing field is evolving your hotel to be able to catch the cresting wave of a trend and gain the favorable exposure that comes with these opportunities. The times are changing so quickly that even the most open-minded and adaptable hospitality executives are challenged to stay one step ahead of the competition. An example of this is the rapidly emerging entrance of spas into all markets of hotels. The next generation of spa services within the hotel industry is the new phenomenon of spa accommodations. Seen in high-end hotels in Asia and Europe over the last two years, spa-style accommodations are now gaining popularity in the United States. The Westin New York at Times Square is one of the first business hotels in the country to offer such accommodations with the hotel's new Spa Inspired Guestrooms.

To accommodate a growing demand for in-room treatments during peak spa hours, the two-year-old Westin at Times Square began to conceptualize the idea of creating rooms specifically designed for spa-goers. Evolving through its development, the idea took on a life of its own and in the true spirit of teamwork and entrepreneurialism, the 23rd floor of the Westin New York at Times Square was transformed into a spa retreat. The 13 Spa Inspired Guestrooms were created with input from everyone at the hotel. From the general manager to the spa manager and even hotel guests who stayed in "test" rooms and provided valuable feedback on everything from the amenities in the rooms to the price they would pay for the upgrade.

The goal of the Spa Inspired Guestroom is to create a tranquil, sensory ambience of wellness and comfort. This feeling is achieved from the moment the elevator doors open where guests are greeted by water features, bamboo and calming colors. Guests quickly realize that the 23rd floor offers something very different. Once inside the Spa Inspired Guestrooms an aromatherapy air diffusers fills the room with mood-enhancing scents and the bathroom is illuminated by a flickering candle.

Guests can relax in an electronic Shiatsu massage chair while listening to a soothing CD or reading one of the health and fitness magazines available. The mini-bar and in-room dining menu has also been enhanced with healthy alternatives. With in-room spa treatments available, travelers feel as though they have escaped to a sanctuary which creates a truly unique guest experience. As the February 25, 2005 issue of USA Today, which featured the Westin New York at Times Square Spa Inspired Guestrooms, said, "It's all about you: Spa Treatment is Everywhere - Pampering Gets Serious."

Westin Club King RoomWestin Club King RoomWhile the Spa Inspired Guestroom concept is still very new, it is answering the needs that today's travelers are requesting - a true experience. This is a request that the hospitality industry cannot ignore. Many hoteliers do not want to hear that it is not about just the guestroom as travelers feel that most brands are equal when it comes to accommodations. Travelers today are time starved and as marketers we must begin to cater specifically to the traveler that fits within your hotels demographics. If you are marketing to a Baby Boomer, the services, amenities and training standards should be different than if marketing to a high power female executive who travels constantly and has children at home. No longer does one size fit all.

A growing concern all hoteliers have is the increased operating expenses these additional items and concepts will create. The hospitality industry has become big business and there are many 'masters' to answer to including shareholders and owners therefore each of these emerging trends needs to be analyzed and reviewed to see if they should be implemented in your properties. While these concerns should not be ignored, perhaps there is a middle ground such as a trimmed down version of a branding initiative.

What's next? Westin is unveiling the WestinWORKOUT Room this month, taking the whole workout regime to new heights. Every hotel in the brand will have two of these guestrooms featuring permanent workout equipment (a treadmill or stationary bike) in the rooms along with other fitness items. The paradigm is shifting. With brands like Westin creating in-room experiences catering to a client's lifestyle, brand loyalty will become more about how a brand fits into that lifestyle.

The hospitality industry is beginning to seek guidance from very wise people who are not traditional hoteliers to help with business strategies. These executives are bringing a whole new energy and competitiveness to the forefront when it comes to branding. We are constantly hearing the word 'branding' yet few truly understand it in-depth. An excellent guide to the changes in the 21st Century is the book by Scott Bedbury, 'A New Brand World'. The book is full of wisdom and an easy read. One you will want to keep and use as a reference.

The amazing part of this story is that a small group of creative individuals can actually change our industry in a nano-second. Just think of the industry before the "war of the beds" began with the emergence of Westin's Heavenly Bed. Westin's decision to launch the Heavenly Bed five years ago was monumental. It was an apparition that changed the hospitality industry in one fell swoop. Yet many competitors are just now launching a bed product. The future executives in the hospitality industry will have to be able to react faster than those five years ago. Companies not poised to be proactive and react quickly to changes and emerging markets risk their entire future. The next few years are going to be incredibly exciting times to many, but very scary times to others.

My advice is that if you are not incredibly passionate about your job or company, it is time for a change. It is unfair to stay with an organization if your level of commitment doesn't match those of your zealous coworkers who immensely enjoy the business game.

Three cheers for the entrepreneurs and rule breakers... I hope that you enjoyed my first column and that you learned something, laughed a little and that it made you think.

Dawn Walzak, CHME is First VP of Tishman Hotel Corporation. Ms. Walzak oversees the marketing and sales functions,and the performance of select Tishman owned and/or managed hotels. She supervises corporate projects involving electronic marketing, training, research and market analysis. Ms. Walzak has held management positions with Westin and Hyatt. She was named one of Travel Weekly's "Forty under Forty". Ms. Walzak holds a Bachelor of Science and a Masters Magna Cum Laude in Hospitality Management from Florida International University. Ms. Walzak can be contacted at 407-934-1755 or dwalzak@tishman.com Extended Bio...

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