Winning strategies for designing, managing and promoting the SPA

In this article we present our review of the recently published book written by Matteo Brusaferri, General Manager of Lemi, an Italian company famous for the production of beds, armchairs and multifunctional treatment rooms for the Beauty and SPA sector.

With “The perfect room for a successful SPA” (published by Bruno Editore), the author, who has more than ten years’ experience in the wellness sector, wanted to create a handbook for all those who manage SPAs and wellness centres and provide reference data for those who decide to invest in this sector for the first time.

Starting with a general analysis, Brusaferri states that “The spa market is growing steadily and represents an increasingly important sector of the tourism industry. According to recent market studies, the wellness tourism sector has recorded an annual growth rate of 6.5% from 2015 to 2019 and 7.5% immediately after the pandemic. It is not difficult to predict that this positive trend will continue in the coming years”.

However, the book also highlights how, behind this positive growth, lie some challenges that can significantly affect the operators in the sector and the profitability of their investments. For example, whether we are talking about large hotel chains or small local entrepreneurs, it is clear that not all of them enjoy the same advantages and can face critical issues with the same strength.

Assuming that all investors in the sector want to have SPAs with functional, state-of-the-art environments that are organised in such a way as to guarantee the highest rate of work and therefore profit, many aspects that contribute to the success of a SPA must be carefully evaluated when considering investment.

The figures speak for themselves. – explains Brusaferri – The SPA market is characterised by constant growth over the years, which makes us understand how much the consumer’s attention is increasingly focused on the concept of personal wellness. In a market like this, full of increasingly fierce competitors able to offer innovative services and extraordinary experiences, the correct management of the SPA becomes crucial, and with it the perception that its clients have of it and all its components”.

What are the rules for a successful SPA

Perception of quality, hospitality, comfort, excellent service and appropriate communication are among the cornerstones of a successful SPA.

In the opening of the book, the author asks two questions that we have all asked ourselves at one time or another: “How is it possible that some SPAs sell out every season, while others do not? What is their secret?”.

There is a reason for this and Brusaferri, with the support of specialists in the sector, is putting together a jigsaw puzzle of experience that points the way to the best strategies for designing, managing and promoting the SPA/Wellness sector in a profitable way.

The Spa and Wellness sector is becoming increasingly competitive and requires a high level of competence and professionalism.

If we look at the mistakes made in the design phase, – explains Brusaferri –there is often a tendency not to rely on true professionals and to adopt a ‘do-it-yourself’ approach under the illusion of saving costs. SPAs are such complex satellites, made up of different ‘assemblies’ and human resources specialised in different levels of sophistication, that it is necessary to bring together different people at the design stage, including those who will work in the spa areas”.

Another major weakness identified in the book is the training of staff, who must be professionally qualified, certified and trained in all current European regulations. Other important steps are the concept study, proper planning, realistic cost estimation, resource management and a financial plan in line with the objectives set.

The author asked Régis Boudon-Doris to intervene with an in-depth discussion (reported in Chapter 2 of the book) on precisely these latter issues. Régis has been working in the wellness sector for 30 years and is a founding partner of bbspa_Group, a major SPA consulting company.

Budget & SPA, the result of a triangulation

When we talk about the budget for a spa, we must be aware that a “successful project” is a spa that becomes a profitable business unit based on 3 fundamental aspects, explains Regis Boudon-Doris.

An equation consisting of three pieces of data:

  1. Percentage of investment profitability
  2. Incidence of the percentage of profitability of the investment on turnover
  3. Ability of the SPA concept/business model to generate turnover

Considering and combining these three parameters helps to define the project’s potential budget.

Budget & allocation to make the SPA concept/business model perform

When we define the SPA concept/business model, we combine it from the outset with two fundamental elements: the menu of services with its price list and the forecast calculation of revenues and operating costs. In this way, we know from the outset where the revenue comes from and what the margins will be. It is important to always establish a link between expenditure and revenue for the areas for which you want to develop the operational budget.

Budget & Layout of the facility to make the SPA concept/business model work

When allocating a budget to an area, you must always keep the customer experience in mind“, stresses Regis Boudon-Doris.
It is a delicate subject, but one that can have a major impact on the success of the project. It is a psychological aspect linked to the ‘first impression’ the client gets of the facility. This is why, for example, the budget for the reception and changing rooms must be increased in comparison with other areas that are more profitable, just as the ‘entrances’ to each area must also benefit from an increased budget, in order to win over your clients right away and ensure that their SPA experience develops in the best possible way.One situation that I unfortunately find often in SPAs is the lack of style and design in the pre- and post-treatment waiting areas – says Regis – These areas too often fail to represent what should be a place where an intimate wellness and pampering experience begins“.

Budget e Look & Feel of the SPA

Regis’ suggestion here is: ‘When you’re making budget decisions about design, don’t stop at the look, but always go for the substance ”.
The keywords are consistency and efficiency. Consistency with the SPA concept, because design choices have a huge impact on the ‘customer experience’ you want to create. On the other hand, care must be taken not to overestimate aesthetic choices, because the spa is not a showcase, but a “war machine” that must achieve by any means necessary maximum efficiency: it must guarantee the services and treatments to the client in the best possible environment, not only from an aesthetic point of view, but also in terms of safety, hygiene and practicality for clients and operators. It is important to prioritise the value perceived by the client during their SPA experience, rather than their own taste or that of their architects.

Budget and professional technologies

When making budget choices about professional technologies, demand facts and guarantees, not words and talk” says Regis.
When choosing saunas and hammams, massage beds and relaxation furniture, always remember that these choices will stay with you for years to come, and that the vaunted savings of one day will be paid for every day for years to come. You must always bear in mind, in each of your economic choices, the weight it will have in your daily life, in that of your future clients and the operators/collaborators who will accompany you”.
A very important tip: “Check every offer you receive, ask for the most detailed and exhaustive data sheets possible, read the contractual conditions down to the last line and always ask those who supply you with technology about maintenance contracts for the coming years”.

technology about maintenance contracts for the coming years”.

Budget & SPA Management

Every choice made during the project process will have a systematic impact on the opening and day-to-day operation of the SPA. Consequently, the guidelines must be twofold: maintain the integrity and wholeness of your SPA concept/business model and, when economic choices have to be made, systematically focus on the positive and negative repercussions that these choices will have on the management of the SPA tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, but essentially for years to come.“.
One last piece of advice from Régis Boudon-Doris: “Make your decisions looking at the horizon and not at the tip of your toes”.

The author
Matteo Brusaferri – holds the position of General Manager at Lemi, an Italian company renowned for the production of beds, armchairs and multifunctional treatment rooms for the beauty and SPA sector. With over a decade of experience in the wellness sector, Matteo has a deep understanding of the global industry landscape. In addition to his corporate position, he has established himself as an influential figure in the SPA environment, making a significant contribution through conferences, training programmes and keynote speeches at popular events. His personal mission extends far beyond his corporate leadership role, contributing significantly to the evolution and advancement of the wellness industry.