Hotel Spas and the Outside World


Since the proliferation of hotel spas began back in the mid-1990s, the focus has been on servicing hotel guests. Has the time come to rethink that strategy?

It makes sense that a spa in a hotel should be focused on delivering the facilities, services, and treatments that the guest’s want. Indeed, for the past 20+ years, that has been our focus. However, speak with most spa managers of most hotel spas in city locations and they’ll tell you that a big chunk of their business is clients who are not staying in the hotel. Instead, they are relying on clients who live and work nearby to sustain their business.

Similarly, take a look at the Capture Rates for city hotel spas and you’ll find that most are below 5%. That means that 95%+ of the hotel guests are not using the spa.

For most of us, when we look at those statistics, our thoughts turn to what we can do to attract more in-house guests to the spa. Perhaps we need a super duper new package? Maybe we need to spend a bit more on our in-room collateral? More tent cards, more spa brochures, and more lift posters. But maybe we’re looking at it all wrong. Maybe, we should be focusing more on catering to the needs of the outside guests.

Marketing 101

Marketing 101 tells us it’s easier to take care of existing guests than it is to go looking for new ones. In a way, it’s a little ironic that by focusing on the external market, in many cases, we are in fact doing just that. The guests in the hotel might seem to be the low hanging fruit, but – to continue the metaphor – if they’re not ripe for the picking it might just be too hard to pull them down and into the spa.

So, if it really is the external client you need to focus on, what is it about your business today that has to change?

Marketing 102

For one thing, you’ll probably need to allocate more money to marketing. Being noticed in a closed environment like a hotel is hard enough. Standing out in a wide-open marketplace is something else altogether. Now, your message needs to break through the noise of every other distraction in your client’s day to day lives. The stock standard – ie: boring – spa images we’re used to seeing in hotel brochures, probably won’t cut it.


Access will need to be re-thought. In-house guests simply need to come down the lift. External guests might require a car park. Are you able to offer them free parking? If not, it could be the deciding factor in them not coming to your spa.


You will definitely need to think about what facilities your external guests need too. A hotel guest will usually prefer to go back to their room for a shower after their massage. However, if your external guests want to wash the massage oil off, they will need shower facilities.


Treatment timing is another aspect of your spa business that may need to be reviewed. If your external guests are coming during their lunch break, for example, they won’t have time for your standard 1 hr treatment. Express Treatments are what would be required in this case. Even if your external guest is coming after work or on weekends, they may still have time stress as they need to get to and from your spa to somewhere else. Again, this might require shorter treatment options.

State of Mind

State of Mind will also differ between in-house and external guests too. This is a hard thing to measure and maybe an even harder thing to understand and respond to. But it is real. Just think about your own state of mind when you’re staying in a hotel versus when you are at home. We just have a bunch of other things to think about in our day to day lives, that maybe aren’t a concern when we’re staying in a hotel.

Don’t just go ahead and make wholesale changes though. Change, simply for the sake of change, is almost never a good idea. It may well be that you don’t really need to change much at all. Just make sure you at least ask yourself the questions though.

Love one. Love all.

Oh, and the other thing you need to keep in mind is what will be the impact on your hotel guests if you do make changes. They may only represent 10% – 20% of your overall business, but they are still important. They are also important to your host hotel too. The hotel will always want to be sure that their guests are being well catered to, even if they seem to consider the spa an external third-party operation.

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