22COMMENT          The truth about spas          Viability director Guy Wilkinson strips spas down to the basics with a li...
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The truth about spas


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Viability's Guy Wilkinson writes a monthly column for Hotelier Middle East Magazine. This article originally appeared in March 2010.
For more information about Viability, please visit http://www.linkedin.com/company/2347942 or http://www.viability.ae/

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The truth about spas

  1. 1. 22COMMENT The truth about spas Viability director Guy Wilkinson strips spas down to the basics with a little help from Spa Solutions director Jo Clare, who urges spa designers to work together with operators to enable profitability units, it is possible that up to 60% of the interior design firms alike have often right next to a coffee shop — hardly an region’s spas are loss-making,” says been guilty of building spas without ideal private place in which to discuss Clare. “To get a five-star rating, many taking such expert advice. personal ailments prior to a treatment. hotels just do the minimum — put a This has resulted in a litany of mis- sauna, a steam room and a couple of takes, which are only now beginning A QUICK FIX? massage rooms in a spare corner, call it to come under scrutiny from hotel Spa Solutions is frequently called in to a spa and justify it as a loss leader. owners and managers, looking to fix the problems of ill-conceived spas, “But it should never be seen as just boost revenues in the global recession. even as soon as six months after they an add-on. Anyone who invests in a For example, many hotel owners open. Interior design firms may have spa should expect a return — and it do not get a market study done and so created a wonderful aesthetic space, costs so little to plan one properly.” are unclear of their target clientele. but failed to take the practical advice In Dubai especially, hotel spas tend of an experienced therapist when it COLUMNIST EXPERT DESIGN to concentrate on serving in-house comes to finishes and fabrics. As an independent consulting firm, guests, missing out on the valuable For example, Clare had to replace with no affiliations with any product disposable income of local residents. the beautiful leather doors installed pas have become an indispens- house, equipment suppliers or opera- Also, different nationalities may in one spa, after they rapidly deterio- S able component of top hotels in recent years. This is true not only in terms of the perceived glamour and sophistication of spas, but more importantly, of compliance tors, Spa Solutions has the expertise to advise developers, from feasibility and design right through to management. need to be accommodated in different ways, affecting how the guest ‘journey’ through the spa is designed. “While rated in the humid, oily conditions. Another designer specified marble floors in the spa’s high-turnover showers, creating dangerously slip- pery conditions. with classification authorities across TAKEN AS STAND-ALONE BUSINESS UNITS, Above all, what is missing in most our region, for whom this box must be ticked to merit a five-star badge. IT IS POSSIBLE THAT UP TO 60% OF THE cases prior to the design stage is a prop- erly though-out concept for the spa. Despite this trend, less than half REGION’S SPAS ARE LOSS-MAKING “You need a clear storyline that the spas in the Middle East are in fact specifies the USPs of your spa. From profitable. That is the assertion of Jo According to Clare, creating a westerners are used to sharing open there you can build viable work- Clare, director of Spa Solutions, a con- profitable spa begins by hiring a spe- changing rooms, local national ladies ing concepts, guidelines and service sulting firm founded in Dubai in 2001, cialist. As she says, “you can’t design need a private room,” notes Clare. solutions, prior to having operational whose project portfolio includes spa a spa unless you’ve operated one.” Other design faux pas include locat- teams in place,” says Clare. hotels from Armani to The Address She, as a qualified spa therapist, ing the treatment rooms, supposedly Where this approach has not been and Marriott to Le Méridien. has done both, but says that hotel havens of peace, right next to the noisy taken, it may be too expensive to com- “Taken as stand-alone business owners, operators, architects and locker rooms, or the spa reception pletely redevelop a spa. Nevertheless, significant improvements in guest spa yields can often be achieved simply through the implementation of SOPs, KPIs and benchmarking, both for treatments and retail sales — guide- lines which many hotel chains do have for other operating departments, but not spas, according to Clare. However, a far more preferable approach is to plan properly from the outset, to prevent unnecessary and costly design changes that can easily be avoided. HME Guy Wilkinson is a director of Viability, a hospitality and property consulting firm in Dubai. For more information, e-mail: guy@viability.ae The spa reception at Natural Elements Spa at Le Méridien Dubai is a dedicated and well-thought out space. March 2010 • Hotelier Middle East www.hoteliermiddleeast.com