• Joanna Sterkowicz

An overseas spa director’s perspective on reopening



Jumeirah group spa director, Julanda Marais, reports that the company decided not to reopen its spas in Dubai yet due to restrictions, rather opting for alternate venues that function as a spa.


“We are using rooms at our Hotel Villas to recreate a spa treatment room for single and double treatments, and also using hotel rooms in some of our properties for the same purpose,” says Marais, a South African who was previously spa manager at Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff in Johannesburg.


She continues: “For now, we are only accepting hotel guests so as to keep things more safe. Overall, we have had great feedback from guests in the sense that they feel safer, knowing that we are conscious of controlling the guest volume by only treating hotel guests in these operations. Also, guests feel comfortable and private, since the treatment room feels like a private suite with the added benefit of having full bathroom and changing facilities. Generally, staff have been happy to return to work, although we have not been able to bring back everyone as yet.”


Jumeirah has introduced the ‘Gift of Time’ to make guests feel special by adding a complimentary 30-minute enhancement of choice onto any 60-minute treatment booked.


Marais notes that some of Jumeirah’s spas will only reopen towards the end of this year, as the group expects to see a stronger pickup of tourists coming back to Dubai in the fourth quarter of 2020.


Adapt and change


An open mind, flexible attitude and retaining a sense of optimism has helped Marais to get through the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown. “I returned to work in mid-May and although no spas were open yet in Dubai, I assisted within hotel operations in general. Therefore, I experienced first-hand that if we are willing to adapt and change, we will survive what's yet to come. The good old days of saying, ‘That’s not my job!’ are over. It’s also great to see that same mindset from our team members. I now have therapists who are fully skilled to be a spa receptionist, an opportunity they probably wouldn’t have had in the past.”


The Jumeirah spa teams are focused on trying to create a spa experience that is as close to the pre-COVID normal as possible (although it is more clinical than before), with genuine care and warm energy displayed by each team member. Marais believes they are certainly preserving the wow factor and not compromising the spa experience at all.


Digital elements


Many of Jumeirah’s digital operations components were already in place prior to the pandemic, such as digital health questionnaires, online booking capability, cashless payments etc.


Enhanced safety measures have seen spa menus removed from guest rooms and replaced with digital QR codes and spa television banners. The Spa QR code menu is also displayed elsewhere within Jumeirah properties for the guest’s ease of access.


“Our delivery of the spa treatment experience has not been compromised and we still experience a high demand for touch treatments,” comments Marais.


Profitability ratios


She is finding it challenging to maintain healthy profitability ratios in the midst of a pandemic but is keeping staff reduced at the moment, as well as operating conservatively with other expenses.


“We know that while our spa services to hotel guests is an added amenity for now, or as some would say, ‘a non-essential luxury’, return bookings will grow and there will be an overall pick up in business. For any spas about to reopen, prepare for the fact that during the initial period after opening, profit will not be shown right away. It really is like a new opening and will take time to ramp up again,” explains Marais.


Spa menus have been reduced by about 40%, as pre-COVID menus were too big and complex for the current circumstances. Massages still tend to be the first choice of guests, with sound meditation wellness treatments proving popular. Mental awareness is now more at the forefront than ever before.


Marais is one of the speakers participating in the Professional Beauty Group’s free online World Spa & Wellness Convention (8-10 September), moderated by Jean-Guy de Gabriac of Tip Touch International.


To see the full programme and speakers for the World Spa & Wellness Convention and to register, click here

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