Ms. Fenard

Spas, Health & Fitness

Defining the Size and Scope of Your Spa

By Elaine Fenard, Partner & Chief Operating Officer, Europe and U.S., Spatality

In today's world there are many reasons for including a spa in the hotel footprint. Spas are no longer built simply as a differentiator. Spa has become a revenue generator and a guest expectation, leaving many owners and investors asking the question. "How much space do I really need to secure a place in the spa market, add value to the asset and meet the needs of my guest?" Hypothetically the answer is a simple one. The minimum square footage required to build a spa complete with locker rooms is approximately 4,000 square feet.

However, we all know the simple answer is not always the best solution, so the question becomes 'what is best for the project?' There are generalizations we can use to address this simplifying the process and find a starting point.

The first task is to define what spa means to the hotel brand and its positioning. The principle objective will usually dictate the starting point. For example if the objective is to maintain a competitive edge, the first focus will be on the competitive set. Clearly understanding the competition will give you an indication of the size and scope you will need to compete. If you wish to differentiate then size will not be as much of an issue, you will need to be creative in order to differentiate. A market research study is often recommended in order to ensure you have an objective overview giving clarity to the objective as well as the potential and aligning both with the business case.

Note: If the property is to be managed by a hotel management company, it is wise to establish if there are or will be brand standards with the spa, and if so what provisions the management company has made to address this.

Generalizations can assist in the initial outline, utilizing a basic formula and information taken from industry standards to ascertain the treatment rooms to guest room's ratio...

Guest Room - Treatment Room Ratio

Hotel/resort spas range in size from 3,000 square feet to past 50,000 square feet consequently the berth for defining the 'right' size is wide and the margin of error considerable. Optimal sizes based on the profitability of the operation are ascertained by examining demand indicators to forecast revenues and drive program development. While big is not always best, generally speaking hotel spas with a larger number of treatment rooms operate more efficiently; Spas with less than four treatment spaces are difficult to run efficiently, and they are often compromised due to the lack of resources available to operate the space..

A compilation of industry information indicates the industry standards are currently as follows:

Spa services can be conducted in as little as 1500 square feet. However 4,000 square feet is the optimal size for a small spa. This provides four- eight treatment spaces and allows for the necessary support areas. The space must be efficiently programmed to flow effectively without feeling cramped and to be operationally sound in order to be productive. Thought must also be given to the FF&E in order to create an atmosphere that compliments the stature and creates pleasant surroundings. The experience in a spa of this size is almost entirely in the treatment rooms. The objective in design in a small spa is to minimize crowding in the communal spaces. Simplicity is key; a space of this size should not be heavily themed.

On the larger end of the scale 15,000- 20,000 square feet is optimal for operating efficiency in the average hotel/resort spa. The exceptions to this rule include casino properties, properties where more than one hotel is present within the complex, properties with a significant residential component, properties looking to introduce a significant wellness and or health program, and properties looking to break the mold and develop more of a resort/destination spa.

Know your market: The 2006 ISPA Consumer Report outlines that "consumers participating at different levels in the Spa World differ in their reasons for going and not going to spas." Understanding the demand for spa service and what percentage of the spa revenue will be captured from the hotel guest versus what will come from day spa usage and membership will significantly impact your ability to adequately market the spa. To date Spa has predominantly permeated hotels at the five star level, and is moving steadily and not quite so consistently into the four star level. The majority of the three star demographic continue to get their spa experiences at day spas. The top reason spa goers (both frequent users and mid level users) give for visiting a spa is to reduce stress. Both groups also indicate a lack of time as one of the reasons not to visit more often. This data suggests that finding time on a business trip would make spa palatable as an additional expense. Mid- level and periphery spa goers indicate cost is a concern, which indicates that yield management tools applied in the right manner would have significant impact in the three and four star markets.

Understanding your guest and analyzing how this will impact the spa is essential.

Once the commitment has been made and the size of the real estate that will be applied to spa has been determined, the next step is to program the spa space. The demand indicators and forecasted revenue will drive the program development.

Spa is a significant investment, and determining the scope of the project is the first step to getting it right and getting the return on the investment. If a market research and feasibility study has been completed the report will outline the program for you and it can be handed to the architect with a brief outlining the intent.

Notably the place to start in determining the program is with the treatment space. Approximately 65% of revenue will come from treatment, so you want to make sure you have adequate treatment spaces and that the break down is correct. An average of 25% must come from revenue generating space. An average of 22% of the space will be allocated to treatment space. Administration to support the treatment space will take up a further approximately 4- 6%

The entrance is the first introduction to the spa and as such it should portray a dynamic sense of arrival. It often includes a significant brand feature and retail space. This area will take 13-14%. Locker Rooms take a further 22% on average. Relaxation Areas take an average 7-10%. Optional spaces such as Salon; fitness and yoga studios, plus a spa caf'e can also be included. Circulation throughout is an average 25%

In summary taking the time to define the size and scope of the spa, paying adequate attention to the detail will in effect outline the next steps for you; setting the project up for success.

Elaine Fenard is an integral partner in Spa Strategy, one of the world's leading spa consulting and design firms. Joining in the Spa Strategy quest to create innovative and profitable spas, Elaine brought to the team more than 25 years experience in spa development and operations with one of the world's largest hotel companies and the leading international spa operations company. As an industry pioneer and recognized expert, Elaine is a frequent speaker at many conferences, and is a regular guest speaker at Cornell University. Ms. Fenard can be contacted at 303-573-8100 or Elaine@spastategy.com Extended Bio...

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