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The Reemergence of Resort Spas: Fostering Well-Being Through Well-Doing

By Rachel Rothman, Head of Hotels Research & Data Analytics for CBRE
10 May 2021
5 min read
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2019 saw the continued convergence of wellness and hospitality with lifestyle brands such as Equinox opening hotels, and wellness innovators such as Peloton and Headspace forming partnerships with big box hospitality and boutique resorts alike. Fast forward just a few short months, and the main question remains, what will hospitality wellness experiences look like in the COVID era?

Self-care is more important than ever and Spa leaders are eager to return to the mission of fostering well-being through well-doing, safely, and in a manner that instills both trust and confidence.

Humans are resilient. Businesses innovate. We will get through this together. The following are some of the themes and creative strategies playing out in the industry today.

Safety Is The New Luxury

Thinking beyond the CDC or medical guidelines to enhance, not detract, from the guest experience will be a necessity for resort spas to thrive in a post-COVID world, but the most important question is how?

“Clients want to have a level of comfort when they travel; however, they still want an experience they will enjoy, especially in a spa setting,” said Stacy Fischer-Rosenthal, President, Fischer Travel Enterprises and advisory board member to many of the world’s preeminent brands including Aman Resorts, Four Seasons, Six Senses, and Park Hyatt.

“Trip planning has now become a fine balance between outlining safety protocols and anticipating which destinations and experiences our clients will still enjoy. For example, many of our clients now prefer having their spa treatment in the comfort of their own accommodation, a controlled environment, as opposed to visiting the hotel spa facility,” continued Fischer-Rosenthal.

Communal spa amenities have long served to complement spa services. Spas need to be sensitive to not limiting the guest experience, and instead focus on adding additional value to maximize profits while enhancing safety protocols. For example, consider pairing reduced times at two distinct guest favorites, the thermal pools and the beach cabana.

Stay true to your DNA.
Invest heavily in analyzing guest data, customer acquisition costs and distribution channels, on-site spend, visitation patterns, and how guests choose to spend discretionary dollars at your resort.

Transparency, authenticity, and fulfilling your guest promises are all key to attracting and retaining loyal guests and associates. Properties that seek to backfill waning demand with guests outside of their core competencies will likely struggle.

Roger Allen, CEO of The Resources for Leisure Assets (RLA), a recognized global advisor specializing in hospitality, leisure, health-related tourism, underscores the importance of “Understanding demand drivers, your unique selling points, and ultimately what your guests will pay for, will maximize profits by targeting your most aligned, and profitable guests.”

PPE – as in Personalized. Proactive. Engagement:
The pandemic is accelerating the convergence among spas, resorts, physician services, mental health, fitness, mindfulness, retail, e-commerce, nutrition and even senior living often overlapping. Given the on-going pandemic and economic pressures, we expect creative partnerships and the reinvention of guest services to proliferate. A few timely, relevant, trends and services include:

The emergence of spa and resort-centric subscription boxes as well as tailor-made, esthetician designed treatments for delivery at-home or in-suite options.

A refinement of what experiential travel means – from external experiences to interior shifts – including premium remote mindfulness offerings such as industry legend, Kelly Morris’, The Infinity Call or Kino MacGregor’s live classes, which already have loyal followings.

An emphasis on touchless therapies for in-house guests is likely. Sienna Creasy, Group Spa Director at Playa Hotels & Resorts expects sound healing, vibrational healing with singing bowls, and embodiment practices such as yoga to be popular wellness options in the months to come.

Increased collaboration between resorts and reputable medical spas – where long-standing medical-grade protocols have led to a rapid rebound in demand. “In cases where the labor costs may be prohibitive for hotels and resorts that accommodate weekend wedding parties or more seasonal occupancy patterns, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them contract with local medical-spas that are equipped, and trained, to meet periodic surges in demand,” noted, Doreen Schuett, BSN, RN, and Head Cosmetic Nurse at Signature Medical Spa in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“The convergence between wellness resorts and senior living continues to build momentum,” according to Nancy Griffin, Principal of Contento Marketing, a strategic marketing firm for hospitality and wellness brands, and the host of the, “Glowing Older” podcast. Instead of traveling for a resort wellness experience, guests can now move to one.

“Phygital” will continue to gain momentum
The concept, which is a hybrid of a physical and digital experience, allows hospitality as a whole to reduce costs without having to forego an overarching guest experience.

With labor costs reaching as much as 60% of a spa’s operating costs, technology allows spas to limit wait times and customize treatments based on guests’ needs. Allowing guests to view, reserve and customize their services from home, well in advance of travel, limits cancellations, and facilitates scheduling, forecasting, and managing the supply chain. With advanced bookings, guests arrive onsite with a “fresh wallet” and eager to make the most of their time.

According to Ilana Alberico, Co-founder of ISM Spa, which operates high-end spas in luxury markets throughout the United States and the Caribbean, future success is about three key attributes: personalize, customize, automate. Spa Space, in partnership with ISM, is developing a proprietary software solution to match guests’ individualized health needs to specific medically-proven treatments and licensed, qualified therapists, with the intent of increasing the perceived value of services among cautionary spenders.