WSWC coronavirus debate: when is the right time to open spas?

It’s an important question for spas across the globe – when can these businesses safely reopen during the coronavirus pandemic?


As part of the virtual World Spa & Wellness Conference, taking place May 12–14, key industry leaders will be discussing the most best coronavirus reopening strategies for spas from across Southern Europe and how successful these might be.


The panel discussion, taking place on Thursday, May 14, at 1pm, will include: George Tavelis,  Owner Sanctum Fitness & Spa and president of the Cyprus Spa Association; Stavros Mavridris, general manager of Soul Tailors (Greece); Spiros Gaitanidis, spa director of Sani Hotel and Ikos Resorts (Greece); Julien Patty, founder and chief executive of Deep Nature (France); Nigel Franklyn, founder of The Spa Whisperer (Switzerland); and Matteo Brusaferri, general manager of Lemi Group.


The talk will be hosted by Hosted by Mark Moloney, managing director of the Professional Beauty Group, and Jean-Guy de Gabriac, founder of World Wellness Weekend and Tip Touch International (Belgium).


Book your place on the WSWC session now.


7 important elements to assess when reopening your spa:

1. Assess Government guidelines carefully

“I’m not in favour of reopening as soon as the local regulations allow it. However, I will be obliged to reopen as the Government’s subsidy of employees’ salaries will only cover the official lockdown period,” said George Tavelis, owner of Sanctum Fitness & Spa and president of the Cyprus Spa Association. “We have invested a lot in a well-trained and experienced team. It would be very difficult and costlyto start all over again. I will have to take the risk and open.”

2. You will need to adapt and innovate

“We have lived through something that happens once in multi-generations. Now is the time to combine information with inspiration,” says Nigel Franklin, founder of The Spa Whisperer. “Spas should look at their energy therapy content – sound healing and Reiki – we need to respond to the post-Covid-19 needs, and we are responsible for not taking the wellness experience down to a one-dimensional, physical transaction.”

“In Cyprus, we are fortunate to have lovely Mediterranean weather this time of the year. We will capitalise on this and create inspiring outdoor treatment areas, as well as a relaxation area,” says Tavelis. “To attract new and existing clients, we will offer free outdoor group meditation and stress management programmes on a daily basis.”

3. Create new staff regulations

“Close daily monitoring [will be essential]. This will help create safe spaces for therapists and guests alike. Swiss and other European scientists are working incredibly hard to produce fast and easy screening tests,” says Franklin. “I’m also looking at possible uniform design changes to subtly include PPE and for therapists to change uniforms more times daily.”

“The Greek Government will supply all businesses relevant to the tourism sector with adequate tests in order for the employers to test their staff on a regular basis,” says Mavridis. “We are planning to advise all of our clients to test the staff of wellness facilities twice per month.”

4. The status of saunas

“According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 60-65 degrees Celsius are enough to kill most viruses. Saunas operate at 70 to 100 degrees Celsius, which is well beyond that temperature,” says Tavelis, “However, it is important to emphasise that anyone who is not feeling 100% well in any way must not visit the sauna.”

“There is still so much we don’t know. ‘Safe to use’ is not the same as killing the virus,” says Franklyn. “The heat of a normal sauna, plus the porous wood, gives an unlikely long-term survival space for the Covid-19 virus. A new standard operating procedure (SOP) would have to be in place to make saunas by appointment only and with turn-around times for cleaning.”

5. Treatment prices may need to be increased

“We are all facing financial problems due to the pandemic. Most of the Greek hotels (around 3.000) may not even open this summer, and the ones that will are ready to face up to 90% decrease in revenues,” says Mavridis. “Our advice to clients is not to raise prices, but to offer added value services in order to attract people that will travel.”

“Raising prices is just a temporary palliative and doesn’t address the problem long-term. I feel desperately for thermal spa operators and spaces that promote large gatherings like that – but outpricing the experience serves nobody,” says Tavelis. “We will not raise our prices for now. We will observe and assess how clients behave during the first month before making any decisions.”

6. Incorporate mental health into the spa

“Clinics have always focused on result-oriented treatment experiences, but it is a wonderful opportunity for them to evolve into spaces of surrender – and offer guests a more emotionally anchoring experience,” says Franklyn. “We must manage guest anxiety in order to regain some of the feeling of wellness – and, on some level, Covid-19-related PTSD – otherwise wellness experiences will have the opposite effect.”

“According to psychologist and best-selling author Daniel Coleman, there are five components critical to emotional intelligence – self-awareness, self-regulation, social skills, empathy and motivation,” shares  Mavridis.

“All are important but at these times we have to focus on self-regulation and empathy. Self-regulation is all about expressing your emotions appropriately, and empathy is all about recognising how the others feel and respond accordingly. Both elements will definitely be included in the new SOPs to make therapists feel confident and guests feel that they really care for them.”

7. Staying positive

“The fact that ‘this too shall pass,’ and the firm belief that we can and we will overcome this crisis keep me focused,” says Tavelis. “I know that adversity makes us more creative, and tragedies in particular have a very humbling effect. We must make sure to learn some lessons from this crisis; lessons that will make us stronger, better and hopefully wiser.”

“’Hope’ is a word that has driven humanity for thousands of years,” says Mavridis. “By looking at my child in his eyes, I realise that we all have to work towards a better future for our children. That is what is giving me hope.”

“We are in control of creating our new language – of wellness, unity and humanity – of how we see each other,” says Franklyn. “We can take this opportunity, as disastrous and as sad as it is, and evolve successfully from it so that when this is done and the history of wellness is written, we are mentioned as the people who helped make the change.”

Register for the session now.

The World Spa & Wellness Conference will take place on May 12–14. Check out the full programme.