4 key spa and wellness trends to know

The WSW Convention in London on February 24–25 is the place to be if you want to grow your spa business and remain competitive. Amanda Pauley outlines the big issues that will be debated and what you can expect to take away

Trend one: blending spa and fitness

As the spa and fitness industries continue to overlap, clients are now opting for a 360- degree approach to wellness that includes healthy eating, exercise, mindfulness and regular treatments. Kent Richards, corporate director operations at Six Senses, will be discussing this issue in the “Vitality and movement – integrating fitness into your business model” panel on Sunday, February 24.

“Fitness is an important dimension of wellness and joins spas and many other elements to form what is now a US$4 trillion global wellness industry. This has had a very positive effect on the spa world, providing great benefits for investors, employees and consumers,” says Richards. “Some spas have great fitness facilities but many need to improve them to provide more varied and personalised offerings.”

Richards and fellow panellists Thomas Klein, president and chief operating officer at Canyon Ranch, and Donna Cyrus, president at Cyrus Fit, will be focusing on the challenges surrounding mind-set, facilities and recruitment when combining the two, in a panel chaired by Mark Moloney, managing director of World Spa & Wellness and Professional Beauty. “Recruitment can be challenging as fitness trainers are often attracted to large city gyms where their job can be easier due to a much larger member base. Spas need these trainers who are responsible, caring and passionate, to use their unique environment to maximise guests’ enjoyment,” explains Richards.

Trend two: new models for change

Ira Malik, group spa director at Minor Hotels, is one of three experts chairing the “Managing a strategic turnaround” Situation Room on Monday, February 25, hosting roundtables with operators from resort spas who are dealing with this issue. The goal? To find practical solutions in an informal and interactive environment. “In business, nothing is carved in stone, so as leaders we should be willing to challenge and disrupt to keep our spas nimble. Identifying early warning signs through a combination of rigorous analytics and understanding of macro indicators is therefore critical,” says Malik.

One of the key challenges for resort spas when managing a strategic turnaround is rethinking “spa” and how it needs to integrate with the rest of the property experience. “At some properties, based on my experience, the spa can be like a ‘black box’ for the general manager,” says Malik.

“They don’t want to get involved in the spa like they do with food and beverage (F&B) for two reasons: F&B contribution to property revenue is significantly higher and spa is inherently more ‘messy’. However, this needs to change, as the return on investment and gross operating profit expectations from spa are changing.” Malik believes that spas could even learn from other industries on how to infuse “energy” into the experience, citing fast food chain McDonald’s as an example: “It introduces new items to the menu for a limited time period to create a talking point and attract guests to come and try. Why can’t our industry do this?”

David Erlich, corporate director of spas at Sandals Resorts, and Sandie Johannessen, regional director at Four Seasons, will also take part in this Situation Room.

Trend three: investment just got personal

Are you looking to drum up investment for your spa but don’t know where to start? In our “What are investors really looking for when it comes to wellness, spa and beauty investments?” session on Monday, February 25, panellists will be discussing how to attract investors in a competitive market and explaining how to measure the success of it.

“There is a lot of confusion about the measurement of success. Many investors favour return per square metre while some wellness operators prefer the holistic approach, which includes financial, ethical and qualitative benchmarks,” explains panellist Andrew Gibson from Sensei Private Equity, who was formerly director of spa at Accor Group. “I intend to challenge the methods of measuring success in the current financial models that have been based on hospitality accounting, asking, ‘Are they still relevant and fair in the measurement of wellness service providers?’”

Fellow panellists include Tim Leach, managing director of Baylor Klein, HPC Specialist Investor, and Paria Ghorashi Rafi, founder of BGX – Blow Out & Go. Collectively they will be appealing to the industry to measure wellness in a way that places value on all the services offered. “Often, I have had investors stating we have to add wellness to the business but, upon analysis, they didn’t really comprehend what ‘wellness’ means,” adds Gibson.

Trend four: the art of conversation

Neil Orvay, founder and chief executive of Evolution U, will be giving insight into “How to win friends and influence people” on Monday, February 25, sharing useful tools that delegates can apply in their spas. “The tools will be focused on how we fast track relationship building, whether with clients, suppliers, staff or investors. The aim is for you to have increased influence during your dealings with them, ultimately achieving better results,” he explains.

One of the largest challenges, Orvay believes, is perception. “As a starting point, people are generally cynical and believe that others are more interested in their own benefit than ours,” he says. “This applies equally in the spa environment; if a client feels the therapist or receptionist is only trying to generate more revenue when they recommend a package or an add-on, they probably won’t buy it. I’ll be covering the basics of generating rapport, building trust, and the psychology of influence.”

Book your ticket to the Convention here.