Investing in the wellness sector is trendy today. For the business to be profitable, it is important to make precise entrepreneurial and management choices. It is essential to be supported by professionals capable of setting up effective and long-lasting “tailor-made” solutions.
In this article we will try to answer a question that all investors in the sector ask themselves: how to manage a successful spa?
By now, many have realised: it is not enough to create a spa for it to work!
Indeed, running a spa is not simple and does not automatically generate profit: the investments needed to build it are significant and the start-up period is complex. It is therefore clear that every Wellness & spa business idea must be analysed to verify its feasibility, sustainability and create a realistic, measurable, and effective implementation plan for it to be successful.
The Spa/Wellness market is mainly addressed to a target with needs for excellence “experiences”. Satisfying this clientele and building their loyalty, to work towards the continuity and quality of the spa experience, means creating an environment of great professional, technical and technological as well as architectural value. It is not enough to offer cutting-edge treatments in an inviting and relaxing environment: for the spa to prove to be a good investment it must be perfectly aligned with its target clientele, through the conception and creation of a dedicated and specific Spa Concept and Business Model, in strong connection with the area.
In light of these considerations, before making final choices, it is necessary to rely on specialists in the field, both for planning and management.
Is there an effective management model?
It is impossible to define a standard model for managing a spa, each project must be approached in a specific way: Hotel with Spa, Urban spa, Thermal spa, Destination spa, etc. For all of them, the main objective is to offer a valuable service that justifies the investment by making it profitable.
What will the spas of the future look like?
The spas of the future will have to combine customer appreciation and satisfaction, quality of procedures, data analysis, and the use of science and technology with important values and elements capable of giving strength, heart, and soul to the project. This will only be feasible by investing in the selection and continuous training of personnel to ensure perfect spa management.
To explore these topics, we asked Piergiorgio Aldrighetti, Wellness&Spa Project Manager at bbspa_Group, a few questions.
Does managing a SPA relying on experience and intuition expose you to business risks?
There is a school of thought that still considers ‘do-it-yourself’ as a solution for spa management. Generally, this choice leads to standardising services to balance the cost/revenue ratio and to identifying the spa as a ‘service’ offered to customers. One characteristic I often notice in these contexts is a great difficulty in working in teams. However, this approach does not pay off over time, because if we want the investment to be profitable, we need to think from the outset about identifying the core business and instilling the experiential value, both to customers and to the SPA team.
Spa management is a precise and measurable science, from the creation of the concept/business model, through implementation, to opening and management operations. The concatenation of right choices makes it possible to create a system that leads to success. A pragmatic creativity is needed, as ideas must be concrete and be generated from certain data and numbers: those of the business plan. We still see many realities whose objective is to balance costs/revenues, relegating the spa to a service centre instead of a revenue centre.
The SPA must be a profit centre, participating with other hospitality assets to complete the experience, working in synergy, and enhancing each other. Too often I see investments that, instead of creating new wellness hubs, produce duplicates based on market trends that are often outdated and running out of steam. So analysis, research & development and experience are essential, but they must also be combined and supported by intuition, the spark that generates a new ‘vision’ that sets Wellness & Spa services with an innovative spirit.
What characterises the spas of today and tomorrow
Today, most investors in wellness & spa projects embrace a new paradigm: every guest wants to have a unique, exciting experience, wants to commit, and invest in achieving tangible results. They have “discovered” (Covid teaches) that the steps they take today for their own well-being lay the foundation for tomorrow’s life.
The SPA must therefore be a place that educates people to focus attention on themselves; they are and will increasingly be places where time slows down, designed, and set to make people feel good through methodologies and tools that dialogue with physical and mental health, prevention, beauty, and self-care. We will have service standards and technological innovation that promote inner and outer wellbeing as pillars on which the immersive experiences of the future must be built.
We absolutely must consider that new generations, who are entering this world, are increasingly prepared and projected towards advanced technologies, with methods validated by science. Hence spas as places dedicated to wellness, which must naturally dialogue with people to lead them to deepen their singular quest for ‘being well’, with highly effective tools and targeted operating methodologies. The acronym SPA leads to ancient knowledge about water and its benefits: the spas of the future will have to focus more and more on thermal resources, thalasso and generally exploiting the countless qualities of water.
What are the 10 main characteristics of a successful spa?
- Design: spaces must be designed according to the experience you want to propose/serve and be consistent with the concept/business model.
- Customer path: the concatenation of the wellness areas must be rational and well designed (it is necessary to be well acquainted with the typical features of the different areas of a spa, with particular attention to the layout of the spaces, organisational aspects, departments, human resources, and operating standards)..
- Tailor made: the menu of services and treatments must imply a close link with the heritage of the place where we are going to insert the project, to characterise it and offer future guests a unique experience.
- Operating standards: these are reference models to which every member of the spa team must refer. They are the guarantee that customer experience will be perfectly consistent with the concept/business model and will maintain the quality standard of the guest experience.
- Holistic approach: important for the client and practitioners, as a coherent connection of experiences It unites body, mind, and spirit, generating harmony in the person. It requires experiential spaces of various kinds related to mindfulness and virtual reality.
- Specific programmes and menus: these are the doors through which the host can steer towards a long-lived future. Epigenetics and biohacking, to scientifically reprogram one’s DNA through new lifestyle habits, cannot be missing.
- Training: right from the selection of the team, through pre-opening and actual management activities, an individual and group training plan must be planned, for a path of growth; a regular team building and know-how fortification event.
- Team Building: different from staff training, it is the soul that brings the concept to life. The team must be involved in the knowledge and evaluation of the guests’ experiences within the spa. It is important to plan activities/courses to increase and maintain cohesion and effective collaboration among human resources.
- Communication: the choice of a good, specialised communication agency is the first real support in presenting your spa to the world in a correct and successful way.
- Partnerships: be they aesthetic and medical or other, they can be a good booster to make the spa positioning attractive
Urban Spa, Hotel Spa, Thermal Spa: what changes in management
Every spa has its own specific characteristic, regardless of where it is located, and it is essential to identify the factors that make it unique and build the concept on those. We are increasingly talking about major investments because the sector requires research and a lot of work to identify the exact project.
Urban spa: management is linked to a local and leasure type of clientele, so the study must start from this catchment area and arrive at a definition of services that can satisfy both. It is a place that allows strong loyalty as it promotes relaxation in a context that is usually close by, invites socialisation, care and is a stimulus to stop the hectic time of a city, so as to change the mind set towards the rhythms to be sustained. The management of human resources tends to be easier because they are usually places that are open all year round, however the offer must be articulated with spot events, also related to the place, to attract more and more guests.
Hotel SPA: most of these places are frequented on average for a few days. All the more reason why the ‘wow’ effect of the concept must be designed to stimulate a positive memory of the experience. Staff retention tends to be more complex, especially for certain locations, but with some fine-tuning in the work manuals the workflow can be made smooth. The offer must appeal to a guest staying for a short time, through pre-sales of programmes or services.
Thermal SPA: they do not differ much from the previous two types in terms of characteristics and management. The difference lies in where they are located. They have the ‘plus’ of thermal cures that are the trend of the future. The SPA stay must be rediscovered and valorised for its curative medical peculiarities that bring tangible results on people’s lives and well-being. Unfortunately, they are often penalised by sloppy management.
Direct management of the spa or do I rely on specialised companies?
Direct management has advantages and disadvantages.
- One must possess managerial and operational entrepreneurial skills.
- No less important is the aspect related to the willingness to undertake a path with specific characteristics, which leads back to the upper point.
- If the volume of business generating the investment does not permit the entry of a specialised partner for outsourced management, direct management is desirable.
- Staff is chosen independently.
- The cosmetic brand, any advanced beauty equipment and other items are of one’s own choice.
- Even if the will is there, if skills and knowledge of the sector are lacking, it is difficult to achieve a satisfactory result.
- The high investment also generates costs that have to be supported by specific strategies to achieve a certain turnover that allows the system to maintain itself and generate revenue.
- The choice of personnel and the building of a spa team are not so obvious.
- The cosmetic brand must be chosen consistently with various aspects such as concept and positioning, and these capabilities are not always there.
At the same time, relying on external companies has considerable pros but also cons:
- When the investment generates an adequate turnover, the best choice is to rely on a specialised company and implement outsourced management.
- Every choice related to human resources management is supported by structured know-how.
- If a specialised partner is to be involved, it is best to do so from the design stage. In this way, the investment will immediately converge towards guaranteed success.
- The partner must be chosen carefully because you will not be able to do what you want, but every choice must be managed in the pre-contractual phase.