Turn Key Branding

Hotels are still trying to turn-key their spas. This trend will continue as more and more brands buy into proven spa brands like Bliss and The Golden Door expecting that they have finally thrown money in the right direction easing the spa nuisance. Is this strategy working? Many would say no. The exacting nature of a spa is emotional, personal, experiential and fragile. Like expecting a value brand store manager to please a bride on her wedding day in many ways the turn-key, super-size my brand model is a recipe for disaster.  Likewise refreshing a brand has proven difficult.  If the “brand” boils down to a trend, look or experience the lifespan of that brand is reduced.  Branding in the spa at the end of the day must be refined to consistent quality, knowledgable therapists and executive leadership that will settle for nothing but the absolute finest.

 Retaining Clients

While a remote destination resort can get by with offering poor spa treatments a hotel simply cannot because of the multitude of options. A business traveler, for instance, is going to quickly find a spa with superb services, better prices and a more attentive staff. The worst part is once your spa has disappointed a regular traveler they will simply never return. While they might continue to frequent your hotel, they will not return to the spa. If they find a better spa near or in a comparable hotel, you will have lost their lodging business as well.

Retail Sales

Hotel spas sell less than 5% of retail per service dollar earned. Conversely at a dayspa it is very common for an esthetics client to follow up the service with a hefty retail purchase. Spas doing it right typically sell dollar for dollar retail to service sales. That means that a spa guest receiving a $120 facial would typically purchase $120 in corresponding product. In many ways the retail sale confirms the knowledge and talents of the technician performing the treatment. The client has been properly diagnosed, treated, educated and sent off with a homecare plan. This simply doesn’t happen in a hotel spa. Not only is this a disaster for the spa’s bottom line it also let’s the client down. Spa-goers expect technicians to treat them with results in mind and likewise to prescribe additional care for at home and for their subsequent spa visit.


Oftentimes a hotel spa will have a novella of a menu of treatments: Exotic signature therapies, therapists hanging from the rafters offering massage, gemstone laying, multiple body buffing. The list is entertaining but insanely difficult to keep up with. If turnover is a problem for the facility the training issue is even more pronounced. Consequently, the guest expects the world to move during their visit and the therapist barely understands how to do each treatment let alone why the various services are therapeutic. Once again, everyone loses.

The Secrets to Hotel Spa Success

Hire a working manager. It isn’t enough to have someone within the organization manage the spa or multiple spas. Certainly the general manager of the property should have a high level overview of the spa but management of the actual spa facility should be given to an individual with both technical abilities and previous managerial experience. A licensed individual will understand the treatments offered and be able to cross train other spa employees. Most of all, a licensed leader within the spa will garner respect from those actually doing the treatments whereas a manager who is not obligated to work on the front lines will not.

Hire for potential not for experience or skills sets. It is virtually impossible to force an employee to get a work ethic, adopt a positive attitude or become entrepreneurial in thinking. However, it is relatively easy to teach someone how to apply a masque, how to answer the phone or how to present a product line.

Put your spa everywhere on your property. Have spa cuisine in your restaurant and on your in room dining menu. Combine cuisine with spa treatment options. Have a spa stay option where spa activities are built into the room price for the duration of the guest’s stay. Offer spa samples in each room’s bath area and consider enhancing your bath rooms to include a Swiss shower, steam shower or Jacuzzi. Skip the soaking bath options—guests don’t want to soak in a bath in a hotel. Offer an evening option of a massage with your bed turn down service. Sell your spa.

Build your treatments and spa style around your core market. A spa truly isn’t a build it and they will come kind of project.  Your property has a clientele already. What are they looking for when they stay at your facility? Do you know what spa services are most popular among guests currently and why? What do guests do with their spare time during a stay at your property? Do female guests often order room service in the evening when they could be enjoying a spa service? Do male guests gather round the bar to watch sports and down beers when they could first be relaxing with a massage or executive facial?

Don’t be all things to all people. Instead of offering a laundry list of treatments focus on doing a smaller number of services extremely well. There are very successful spas out there that only offer one treatment. Focus on making your classic services the best in the market. Popular workhorses like classic one hour facials and Swedish massage when done exceptionally well can carry a spa without a great deal of extra training and expense.

The Future

More and more hotel guests want at a minimum the creature comforts they would expect at home. The fluffy pillow additional thread count boost in the bedding department was a step in the right direction but unfortunately sheets alone will not fill beds. As spa-goers become savvier the “big and pretty” build a mausoleum solution to spas will also no longer work because guests will expect top quality customer service and excellent treatments. Particularly as baby boomers age and are willing to spring for specific luxuries the hotels who have their spa routine down will attract those guests willing to pay a bit more for a higher quality of experience. Most importantly the spa will become a competitive advantage, a safety net against a poor economy and an insurance policy against seasonal uncertainty. For some hotels the spa will become the product in itself with the lodging portion of the property only a convenient addition to the core offering. Learning to create a world class spa experience now is well worth the time and effort and will pay back the property for years to come.