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GMs need better understanding of spa operations

Inviting the GM and his wife to enjoy a ritual could be the key to improved relationships for hotel spas

Efforts need to be made to improve communications between hotel spa managers and their property’s general manager, according to industry experts.

“Many GMs see the spa as just an added necessity, not as a key selling point, which it is today” said Jason Sloane, spa director at the Amara day spa at the Park Hyatt Dubai.
“Some GMs don’t really care what goes on in the spa. As far as they’re concerned, the spa is never going to be as big as F&B or rooms.”

With many hotel chains in the region choosing to outsource the running of their spa to a third party specialist and GMs often only too happy to leave wellness philosophies to the professionals, spa and hotel can find themselves pulling in different directions, according to Sloane.

“We [at the Park Hyatt] are lucky that our GM does take an interest in Amara, but as a rule, general managers only start to show an interest when the spa starts to show a profit.”

One hotel company that is now taking a more active interest in its spa operations is Marriott. Although traditionally Marriott has not been concerned with setting up its own spa operations, having selected to outsource to operators such as Mandara and Six Senses, the company has now decided to roll out its own spa concept, Quan.

Key to this concept are pre- and post-treatment relaxation areas, but convincing owning companies of the importance of such added luxuries can sometimes pose a serious challenge, according to Rhett Pickering, director of spa operations and development for Marriott.

“It’s a hard sell because you have to explain to the hotel owner that you want to have huge communal areas that don’t actually directly generate revenue, and that you want to put expensive relaxation beds into these areas,” he explained.

“But this type of thing is so integral to the spa experience. Hotels nowadays are pumping so much money into their F&B; they need to do the same with their spas.”

Pickering said that spa benchmarking is necessary to help hotel ownership and general managers to understand the profitability of spa concepts.

“There is RevPAR [revenue per available room] data, which can be used for measuring the profitability of hotels, but this isn’t a useful measurement to apply to the spa,” said Pickering.

“There are moves at the moment to develop a similar type of standardised benchmarking for spas soon, however — hoteliers and spa managers are working together in co-operation with the Asia Pacific Spa and Wellness Council to create a ranking system for spas.”

In the meantime, he suggests spa managers should take a more unconventional approach to teaching sceptical GMs about the working of the spa: targeting their better half.

“Many GMs have never experienced spa treatments themselves. I have more chance of introducing a spa concept if the wife of a GM is interested in spas,” he said.

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