SPOTLIGHT ON Patrick Huey, Vice President, Spa & Retail, Montage International and Chairman of the Board, ISPA

Montage International

Patrick shares his experience dealing with the challenges of the last year and how wellness and mental health are now essential as we emerge out of scarcity and relearn how to connect.

Can you give us a snapshot of what the last year has been like for you?
Patrick HueyIt’s been one of the most impactful years of my life and career. Like most people I personally faced how I was going to navigate a lockdown that we thought was only going to last a couple of weeks turning into a year. And navigating the fear I felt as friends, associates, and family all came down with the virus. I had to learn how to manage my own fear and anxieties and not allow them to cripple me. Professionally we all faced uncertainty. I was fortunate that even as we were closing down our hotels, we began the process of imagining what a reopening would look like so that gave me hope of a future and a belief that we would get through. As Chairman of ISPA, my one focus was how would we ensure that we would have an industry to come back to. In all three aspects of my life, it was improvising. We had no script on what to do or what to feel. I’m still sorting through in my mind what the last 12 months were about for me.

How have you faced the challenges of an unpredictable market and advanced sanitation requirements?
In both instances, this was about working day-by-day with the conditions that were in front of us. As spas closed, we shifted our focus to retail. We viewed retail as a way to generate revenue and keep the doors opened, but it was also a way for us to stay connected to our guests. For the additional sanitation, again, it was a way to keep the doors opened, and to keep our guests believing in and trusting us. As uncomfortable as masks and visors were and continue to be, the alternative of not operating at all was never an option. The reality is we have all had to adjust our way of thinking to accommodate a broader understanding of what is required to operate in business today.

Has wellness evolved into so much more, now that people are thinking beyond the spa into mental health and wellbeing?
Wellness at its core has become about mental health and wellbeing. What we thought of as a nice to have luxury pre-pandemic, has become essential today. The spa industry has always known this, but the consumer has shifted their thinking. Making oneself look beautiful in a salon, or having an hour and a half on a massage table suddenly have a value beyond the act of the services themselves. They represent the parts of ourselves that need human connection. There is value beyond just the physical in these acts that we once took for granted or only valued at a surface level. This is why spas are quite busy as we reopen.

How can hotels and spas prepare for an anticipated recovery in travel?
Staffing will be key. We have to have the people in place to provide service to people. And people coming back want human connection. Being deprived of a person to talk to or interact with has made that a valuable commodity in today’s world. We also need to shift our mindset. In Covid, we were in a time of scarcity. Coming out of it, we don’t want to be caught flat-footed in a world and market that will demand high levels of engagement and proficiency from our industry.