Spa Design for Dummies – Showers, Baths and more…


There’s no shortage of opinions when it comes to Spa Design. For many hotel spas today, certainly those at the higher end of the market, including a shower inside the treatment room has almost become a minimum standard. If it’s a double room, you’ll usually find a bathtub too. Often times that tub will even be a Jacuzzi bath. So, if you’re in the process of planning out your new hotel spa, you need to include these things too, right? Maybe not.

I should start by saying I’m a big fan of the all-inclusive treatment room. The one that has a toilet, shower, closet, lounge, etc. inside the room itself. Once inside, your customer should not need to leave the room for anything. The guest stays put while the staff come and go as required. It all ties in with my thesis of the Customer First Culture. But there are a few practicalities to consider also. Space, Utilization and ROI are the first few that come immediately to mind.


Space might not seem like such a big deal and often it isn’t. But just a few weeks ago I was inspecting a newly built spa in a 4.5 star, big name brand hotel, and it so clearly was.

The treatment rooms were small. They were too small really. Less than 2 metres wide and a smidge over 3 metres long. By the way, my ‘less than’ and ‘smidge’ scale are based on the length of my stride. I don’t bother to take a tape measure with me on these inspections. A few long strides usually gives me a pretty close measurement. Anyway, by the time they put a reasonable size treatment bed (approx. 200cm long x 70cm wide) into these rooms, that doesn’t leave a lot for circulation space. It’s going to feel pretty cramped. And here’s the kicker…they had included a shower and toilet in the room layout too.

Without that shower and toilet in the room, they would’ve had a 3m x 3m pace. Still not great, but much more comfortable than what they have now.


But they need a shower and toilet inside the room, don’t they? Actually, probably not.

Think about how much these facilities will really be used in this particular type of spa. The vast majority of spa customers will be staying in the hotel. A standard 1 hour full-body massage will almost certainly be the top selling treatment here. Any hotel guest who wants to shower after their treatment, would probably prefer to go back to their room to do so. That’s where they have their own bath/shower products (if they do bring their own, as many women tend to do when traveling) and their fresh clothes to change into. And they probably also have a perception that the shower in their room is cleaner than in the spa.

So, chances are the shower in this treatment room just won’t be used very much. And for the toilet, well, that’s even more of a no-brainer. If your client is only going to be in the room for an hour, it’s not really a must have.

SIDE BAR: I’ve heard some spa managers who said they’ve surveyed their guests and they say they want to have a shower and toilet in the treatment room. Of course they do! I also like to stay in a hotel with 100 cable TV channels – even though I don’t watch the TV anyway. But I still want the option. The choice. But we’re asking the wrong question. It’s not about what the customers would like to see or have, it’s about what they will actually use. The better question is, ‘If we did not have a shower in the treatment room, would you still visit the spa?’.


What’s the Return on Investment (ROI) of putting a shower in the treatment room? You can go ahead and Google it if you want a precise formula for calculating ROI. But in simple terms, all we’re talking about here is the amount of profit made from the shower divided by how much it costs to buy, build and install the shower. The profit for your shower is determined by how much your customers pay to use it, less the expenses of running it – mainly utilities and some cleaning costs.

Hang on a minute! We don’t charge guests to have a shower. So, we don’t actually have any revenue at all from the shower. Only costs.

And there it is. Of course you can’t charge a customer to have a shower. That’s ridiculous. Therefore, no revenue, only costs and a negative ROI. And the same applies to baths too. Even Jacuzzi bath tubs in most cases. These things are now just expected to be provided for at the spa for free.

Why Bother?

So, if we’re not making any money on our showers and baths and guests are not really using them and if they’re taking about valuable space…why do we keep putting them in?

To be fair, if you have body scrubs and/or wraps on your treatment menu, you absolutely should have a shower inside the treatment room. The last thing you want is to make your clients put their robe on over the top of all that goopy goodness, squelch on down the corridor in their slippers to rinse off and come back to the treatment room to continue the treatment. But ask yourself, how many of these treatments are you really going to be doing. Chances are you might need only one room to have a shower, not all of them.


Even though I said nobody will pay just to have a shower or sit in a bath, there actually is a way to make some money from these facilities.

With the bath, it could be as simple as adding some essential oils or flowers and make it a Herbal Soak. That might be worth an extra $15 on the package price for a 10 minute soak in the tub. And if you were to add a small steam generator to the shower, you could maybe do the same there. A small steam unit would cost you less than $1,000 in most countries. You may also need to spend a bit more on making sure the shower door has a good seal and that the ceiling is either tiled or stainless steel or similar (coz the steam will rise and condense on that ceiling). But if you could now charge an extra $25 for a 15 minute Exotic Herbal Steam, you might just find you can get a positive ROI on those facilities after all.