In 2010, spas began to become seen as revenue generators that could contribute to anything between two and five per cent of a hotel’s revenue. In 2011, with the previous year’s observations firmly in place, hotels started to seriously tap the spa segment by introducing spa, making spas the focus of weekend deals, adding new therapies and targeting new segments. With the new, more precise measure of a spa’s revenue RevPATH (revenue per available treatment hour), spa managers were given a whole host of new key result areas.
The industry is said to have grown by 25 to 30 per cent between 2010 and 2011. But with growth has come the type of challenges that any budding success story has, such as a lack of trained personnel, staff attrition affecting uniformity of treatments, a need for grading to differentiate various categories of spa, high competition and low business periods. Together, this has resulted in a lack of confidence among investors.
A lack of trained talent and consistency in therapies is the biggest challenge, although many spas are dealing with this by offering training to staff upon joining. This cookie-cutter approach ensures that the recipe for treatment is consistent and remains affected by high turnover. “All massage movements should be exactly the same for all our therapists so that if one therapist is absent from work we do not lose a client,” says Zehra Merchant, owner of Bambooo Tree All Day Spaa, a standalone facility in Mumbai.
To ensure consistency, training is centralised in spa chains. Corporate-level trainers are seen as the best solution.
Spas are now increasingly competitive. Like other hotel services, each brand has devised its own audit process as audits are seen as the best way to maintain standards. “Mandara Spa has an external auditor visit us once a year, and refresher training is conducted once we have been assessed,” says Jayanti Gomes, spa manager at the Radisson Blu Resort & Spa, Alibaug.
Manish Patwardhan, founder and CEO of Spa Consultants and president of Indian Spa and Wellness Association (ISWA) suggests that spas “opt for distinct audits for components such as facilities, inventory, services, and training to maximise efficiency.”
The airline formula
Spas are following the airline formula of increasing revenue efficiency by making every seat count. The first step in tackling low business periods is to analyse which periods yield low results. “I have broken down how our spa is to perform by the week, by the day and also by the hour. Looking at use is important if you want your spa to deliver,” says Stefan Radstorm, general manager at the newly opened Grand Hyatt Goa.
Spas have already begun targeting new segments to fill in low periods during the week. Some have targeted teens while others are reaching out to niches, or specific issues that are common within their target market. For example, The Westin Hyderabad Mindspace offers massages that are said to alleviate jet lag. The newly opened mid-market Spree Hotel in Pune offers hand and neck massages to alleviate aches and pains associated with keyboards and heavy computer use.
Bambooo Tree All Day Spaa offers different categories of massages to women that promise to ease PMS woes and pregnancy swelling, aches and pains. The Radisson Blu New Delhi Paschim Vihar offers teen facials.
The right fit
Patwardhan says that customisation would go a long way in obtaining loyal niche markets. Another segment that is finding its way into spas is men, which was previously a smaller segment compared to women. Having targeted treatments — and also naming them appropriately — helps. For instance, The Westin offers a “Men’s facial re-hydrator”, which promises to soothe razor burn.
Interestingly, it is not just the right treatments but also the right duration that will result in increased demand, and consequently revenue. A survey by the industry’s trade group in the United States, the International Spa Association showed that 86 per cent of its member spas were offering more 30-minute options than the traditional 60-minute or 90-minute services. This is especially the case with city spas or ones that occupy business hotels since most local clients are likely to be strapped for time and will prefer “instant rejuvenation”.
Spas in the spotlight
Hotels spas are evolving from being no more than a facility to an integral part of the experience. “We meet guests, speak to them about the spa and give them guided tours. We also offer seasonal promotions to sell the spa,” says Gomes.
Similarly, The Westin Hyderabad Mindspace organises what it calls a “holistic engagement session with the spa manager”. This lets them show guests more of their spa.
Hoteliers are also exploring spas as brands they can transport. Ista Hyderabad has started offsite and onsite yoga wellness sessions at corporate houses, which also gave them access to the corporate market within the companies they are servicing.
In-room massages are also a part of this thought-process and although many spa managers say that the ambience and facilities of a spa make the experience complete, the concept is catching on.
“In the coming months, we will focus more on in-room spa treatments for the guest’s comfort,” says Shalin Jose, spa manager at The Westin Hyderabad Mindspace. So far, their Balinese, Swedish and signature massages are on offer for in-room treatments.
The coming months are also likely to see many hotels push spa memberships as owners and management taste their potential and will want to see continued results. “One of the ways to increase spa revenue is definitely by selling membership. In Goa, holidaymakers are only here for two to three months. But the hotel is surrounded by villas where memberships may work,” says Radstorm.
Especially for resorts, marketing one’s destination spa potential is likely to catch on in 2012. “We are working on converting our facility into a destination spa. It is a big step but our team is putting in endless hours of planning so the execution is right,” Gomes says.
Radstorm says that pushing hotel spas in leisure destinations can give the destination itself a whole new tourism component. “Our ambition is to market Goa as a spa destination,” he says.
Like Westin’s Heavenly Spa, which is a brand in itself, the facility at the Grand Hyatt Goa, the Shaman Spa, is to launch separately and have its own identity and branding. Radstorm says that this helps build a following for the spa. Branding is the way that most high-end spas are opting to separate themselves from the rest.
The way ahead
Patwardhan says that spas can employ even more measures to take the industry ahead. “Spas can integrate wellness and holistic treatments, and more communication within the industry will allow learning. We also need to create basic standards for education and quality,” he says. ISWA has been holding seminars to promote such practices among its members and is also lobbying for some classification criteria to be implemented.
Merchant says that governance is also key to helping spas grow from nascent to thriving. “Guidelines should be enforced as to the opening of spas,” she says.