Hotel Spas – State of the Nation – Part II


Last week, in Hotel Spas – State of the Nation – Part I, we explored some of statistics that suggest the hotel spa industry is at a bit of a crossroad. This week, I want to discuss what that means for the industry in general. Also, I’ll share a few possible directions that hotel spas could take moving forward.

Same Same…But Different

Every spa manager or owner that I speak to believes that their spa is unique. Truly different from all the other hotel spas. But what do our customers see?

There’s an easy way to find out, Just type in the word ‘spa’ into your favourite search engine, then click on the Images tab. What you will find is a lot of images that all look very similar. And these are not usually stock photos. These are photos that these spas are producing themselves. They are paying professional photographers thousands of dollars to take a unique photo of their spa – that looks just like all the other spa’s photos.

Here’s another way to check just how well we are doing in differentiating ourselves, in our customer’s minds. Take a look at any of the spa magazines or websites that cover hotel spas. Have a look at the images for each one. As mentioned above, they all look very similar. But also read the words. Look at how spas describe their benefits and features. Once again, you’ll find there’s a lot of Same Same.

So as far as our customers are concerned, there’s not really much difference. Why would they choose one spa over the other? What’s compelling? It’s time for hotel spas to take a long hard look in the mirror at all aspects of our business and see ourselves as our customers see us.

The Circle of Life

It’s important that we don’t beat ourselves up over this. The current state of the hotel spa business may not be great, but it’s also not that different from many other businesses. Indeed, all businesses essentially follow the same cycle of Idea – Growth – Maturity – Decline – and then either Rebirth or Death. What separates those companies that survive and flourish over time, is the Rebirth phase. Somewhere between Decline and Death they find a way to innovate and adapt to the changing market conditions. And this is what’s really exciting about the hotel spa business today. We are right around that Rebirth stage of our business life cycle. If we can innovate and adapt, we will then grow from where we are today to an even bigger and more impactful industry. If we don’t, we run the risk of dying off. That is the opportunity. And that is exciting!

So, the challenge before us is one of innovation. What can we do differently? What new ideas and concepts can we come up with to get us off this path of decline? Here’s a few suggestions…

The Third Place

Starbucks is not just a place to drink coffee. The vision of Starbucks was to be the place you go between home and work. The Third Place. A place to get some work done, or to have a discussion with friends or colleagues or to eat some food or even, if you really want, to drink some coffee. Hotel spas have a great opportunity to become a Third Place too. At the very least, a place between the hotel room and outside. But I believe the opportunity is bigger than that. I see no reason why spas in general can’t rival Starbucks for the title of the Third Place.

Spas no longer need to be a passive place. Instead, they can be a place to do some work, answer some emails, make some calls, meet some colleagues, have some food, learn something new, be entertained. And yes, if they really want, have a massage. The opportunities are endless, if we just release our minds from the constraints that we have imposed upon ourselves because this is a spa – and a spa is this.

Organizational Face of Wellness

A gentleman who has become a good friend of mine is Professor Gerry Bodeker. Prof. Gerry once said to me that spas have the opportunity to be the Organizational Face of Wellness. At the time, I had no idea what he was talking about. I later found out what Gerry meant was that we have an opportunity to be the door to the Wonderful World of Wellness. We can be the guide for our clients to discover and benefit from some wonderful new techniques – or sometimes ancient techniques that have been rediscovered – of wellness, of health and of relaxation.

People don’t necessarily trust the little shop or clinic or the day spa on the street, but we are a hotel spa. They trust us. So, we have the opportunity to lead them. It is definitely a feasible route for us to take. So far, however, we haven’t really even begun to exploit this opportunity.

Spa +

We all know that time is the most valuable asset for most people today. So, instead of your hotel spa being a place for pampering, think about it more in terms of a functional service centre. You can drop your car off for a wash and vacuum and have a coffee and donut while you wait. So why not allow your guests to drop their body off for a bit of servicing and get some other things done at the same time?

Let’s say a guest wants to get his shoes shined in the evening, ready for the next day. But the first thing he does instead when he walks back into the hotel after a day of meetings is stop in the bar for a couple of drinks. By the time he gets back to his room to take his shoes off, housekeeping has already gone for the day so he can’t get his shoe-shine. How can you give him what he wants?

What if you could create a space where the busy corporate traveller could come back in after a tough day pounding the pavement, slip his shoes off and sit back with an ice-cold beer, while getting a relaxing foot & leg massage. Then when it’s over, he gets his shoes back looking brand new, having just had a thorough polish? You’ve now solved his pressing shoe shine problem. Better still, you’ve also helped solve another problem – relaxing after a tough day. And in solving these problems you’ve created another service that this guest will gladly pay for.

If you run with this idea of the spa as a functional service centre, there is almost no limit to the possible services to include.


What we need to do moving forward is think differently. What we are doing right now just doesn’t seem to be working anymore. At least not like it used to. Imagine if the concept of a spa didn’t exist at all. Imagine there was no such thing as a spa. Now, imagine you are a hotel owner or General Manager and you have this available space. You want to find a way to generate more revenue for your hotel or to better service your guests. What would you put in there? Remember, spas don’t exist. What would you put in that space today? Would it be a spa as we know it today? Based on the numbers we shared in Part I of this article, probably not.

Maybe if we can imagine if a world without spa, we can then reimagine spa for the next generation.

We are truly at an inflection point. And that represents an incredible opportunity.

As Theodore Roosevelt once said …

Do something now. If not you, who? If not here, where? If not now, when?