The Role of Spa Design in Spa Performance
By Jane Segerberg, Founder & President, Segerberg Spa Consulting, LLC
As we build spas for the future or re-invigorate current spa facilities and re-purpose spaces, the process and results have to make sense for investors. There is a new grading system for value, both from the spa guests’ perspective and from our spa owner clients’ perspective. Given the importance of value and the intricacies of spa design, the process becomes not just about an investment in the number of treatment rooms or upgraded finishes but how the spa can operate at its best and how we can elevate service levels.
The underpinning of all spas, regardless of the concept, is an atmosphere of well being. According to surveys conducted for The International Spa Association, the number one reason guests go to spas is to “relax and reduce stress”, and the results have not wavered over the years. Guests should begin to feel better the moment they arrive and leave feeling greatly improved.
Design the Concept
We add the concept’s sense of place and brand identity to the sense of wellbeing and develop a long lasting design by having a thorough understanding of the current or potential market and the owner’s vision for the spa. Most importantly, the spa’s design must be functional and flexible and at the same time enhance the spa’s treatment program and above all, the guest experience.
The planning begins with questions such as, “What would attract guests to this spa?”, “Would guests feel at home with their expectations?”, and “What or who is this spa?”. The spa’s concept is the heart and soul or very essence of the spa and the experiences it offers. Just as we dress as who we are and our personalities shine through in our actions and decisions, so does the spa’s concept. In order for the spa’s message and market to be clear, the concept needs to be concise and easily translated into space programming, interior design features, the treatments program and marketing approaches. This is a tall order and a most important one.
Prior to the design phase, we start with owner and property GM meetings to gain a clear idea of their vision for the spa and property. Sometimes owners and GM’s can paint a clear visual picture of their vision and at times others are influenced by what they have seen and need help in translating their ideas into a clear concept. We want to avoid a smorgasbord of ideas that either worked or didn’t work in other spas. The final and most revealing question we ask ownership and management is “What guest comments would you want to hear as guests describe their spa experience and the spa to other guests?”
All ideas are tested for their fit into the spa’s concept and ultimately the functional design and layout of the spa’s space and treatment programs. Before we move into the design phase of the project we thoroughly complete our Concept Development Goals and Requirements. The concept lays out the major outline for the fully calculated spa design. All subsequent decisions for the spa must answer the question, “Does it fit the concept?”.
Guest Flow Design
To relax, spa guests need to be comfortable. Guests cannot realize relaxing moments without comfortable experiences. To achieve an atmosphere of wellbeing and relaxation, guests need to be able to move through the spa’s touchpoints smoothly without long walks, searches, or waiting. Each touchpoint from Entrance, Check In, Changing, Pre Treatment Relaxation and Therapist Greeting to Treatment, Post Treatment Relaxation, Changing and Check Out Departure should naturally flow from one space to the next.
Along the guest journey, authentic adaptations and experiences of local culture or the spa’s theme are incorporated to define the sense of place and complement the guest experience. Signature features such as The Spa at the Sanctuary at Kiawah’s garden lights and plantings in the relaxation room bring the southern garden inside along with recessed focal points filled with sea grasses in each treatment room. Skana, the spa at the Lodge at Turning Stone features Oneida artwork along with the Oneida people’s love of nature through curved walls (nature does not have right angles), nature’s colors and leaf shaped whirlpools. The Spa at The Essex in Vermont not only features the woods and metals of Vermont but also special spaces to highlight Vermonter’s natural style of hospitality with gathering rooms where guests can spend time with family and friends. The social spa-ing trend continues as people find that the spa visit is a wonderful experience to share. The renovation of the Sonnenalp Spa in Vail has a wonderful gathering place around its grand fireplace alcove. During the spa’s renovation, we planned the spa’s space circulation around the dynamic fireplace feature so guests could gather and enjoy their spa visit together or meet new friends staying at the Sonnenalp where “gemutlichkeit” (warmth and friendliness) reigns supreme.
It’s a tall order to ensure ease of guest flow, particularly within hotel walls because the spaces given to spas usually have their own restraints to work around. It takes many approaches and drawing adjustments to finally arrive at a flow that creates a comfortable and relaxing guest experience.
Flexible Space Design
Because spa programs are dynamic and evolving continuously, we also ensure flexibility for the future in the design. Particularly in the treatment area, we suggest a variety of rooms that make investment sense; from multi-purpose dry rooms to rooms with showers that can handle any dry treatment along with body treatments, to rooms that open into a tub area for a more in depth treatment or can comfortably handle a dry treatment with the tub out of sight.
Retail space flows off the spa reception lobby so seasonal retail features can be prominent. Retail brings the spa experience home with the guests and generates more business for the spa. In addition, its volume increase doesn’t create more wage expenditures such as treatments create. Creating a higher volume of retail sales is a must for bringing more revenue to the bottom line.
Staff Flow Design
Most important today than ever before, guests want high value and their grading system just got harder. The essence of the spa experience is the enjoyment and comfort of being cared for by spa staff who can deliver superior and timely service. Long after the glow of the massage or the facial has faded, guests will remember how they were treated.
Economically, spas are working smarter with tighter reins on staffing levels. So too, must the facility work smarter. The back of house (BOH) often receives less attention in a planning process. Work on BOH design and placement should be a primary focus. We can make the spa’s hospitality better by strategically planning BOH spaces so staff can comfortably and effectively perform their jobs. Spa attendants, spa reception staff and the spa’s service providers all influence the guest experience touch points. Staff should be able to quickly access what they need to service the guest so guests at each touch point don’t wait or are cut short of service. Employees are the main amenity of the spa. When we plan their spaces well and treat their work spaces with dignity, we have a happier staff and that means better service to guests. Efficiency and flow of BOH spaces is high on the list of benefits for the spa’s owner.
All owners want to make good investment decisions for their spa. As we step up to deliver better investment value and higher valued service levels, the spa’s design is key. Focusing on a clear concept, flexibility for dynamic treatment programs, ease of guest flow and strategically designed back of house spaces will deliver successful spa performance.
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 http://www.segerbergspa.com. Ms. Segerberg can be contacted at 912-222-1518 or [email protected] Extended Bio...
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