How SA spa managers are dealing with the lockdown

As South Africa’s 3-week national lockdown took effect on 27 March in a bid to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, spa managers around the country had to put special measures in place for the duration.

Says Amani Spa & Wellness Group Operations Manager, Julie van Rooyen: “This is without a doubt a very tough time but I do believe that things will turn around and we will get back to business-as-usual at some point. It might still be a while, but there will always be a need for wellness, human touch, aesthetics and hospitality in our society.

“During this time we are made aware – probably more so than ever before – of the importance of connections, wellbeing and self-care, which is at the heart of what our industry is all about. We are forced to think outside the box, be creative, compassionate, patient and composed – all great elements for building a strong character. The key to survival in these uncertain times is to focus on the positive and push yourself to think of new possibilities.”

Van Rooyen notes that Amani is using this time to review its your treatment menu and has also introduced a new line of Amani Products, namely hand sanitiser sprays and gels in various sizes.

She continues: “We are also reviewing our Stock Par Levels based on the last six months’ sales and scrutinising which product houses / products have been the most productive and adjusting par levels and suppliers accordingly. This time is also being used for a deeper analysis of all business aspects – sharing KPIs with the manager of each property and getting them to dissect and interpret the results in preparation for re-opening strategies.”

In terms of reaching out to its client base, Amani is continuing its communication via social media platforms and is upgrading its website

“Our communications are focused around positivity, wellness and self-care, rather than being Amani-specific offerings,” explains Van Rooyen.

She emphasises that Amani has always prided itself on a high level of hygiene and client care, a policy that will continue with the added reassurance of including more visible hygiene steps, such as introducing hand sanitiser products throughout the spas for guest use.

“We are conducting staff training at this time, a lot of which is focused on positive thinking and gratitude. Most of this is done via email or WhatsApp groups. Furthermore, we are working on creating video content for treatment protocol training and refreshers with some of our staff.

“As staff motivation is important during difficult times, we have set up various WhatsApp groups and continuously engage on these. This is not only work-related but also sharing information received from WHO (World Health Organisation), positive messages, funny memes etc. We really are conscious about looking out for positive messages and mindset for our teams, while senior management gets stuck in with the operational and business side-effects of all of this,” concludes Van Rooyen.

What the Saxon Spa is implementing

According to Tanya Lopes, manager of The Saxon Spa, a finalist in the Professional Beauty Awards Best Hotel Spa category, the team is currently planning a marketing campaign on what guests can do to look after themselves during the lockdown.

“These will vary from DIY facials to relaxation exercises to home juices that boost antioxidants and the immune system,” continues Lopes. “We were due to start our financial year end in July so I am working on finalising the annual budget. Saxon Spa was also scheduled to launch a new brochure in May. This is probably going to be delayed but I will be finalising the brochure during this time and the new treatments we plan to launch. We are also using this time to update on certain admin issues.

“This is a very uncertain time for our industry. I think that when this is over we will need to continue to demonstrate very high sanitisation processes to our guests to show that we still exercise caution, as a way of restoring confidence in our guests.”

Regarding training, Lopes says that most of the Saxon Spa’s suppliers have come to the party and offered links to webinars, which are available for training purposes.

“The two challenges that we face is that this requires good data connection, which a lot of our team members don’t have” comments Lopes. “They only have basic data available on their mobile phones for messaging purposes. The other challenge is that a lot of our teams are moms who don’t have additional support at the moment and will obviously need to support their family needs at this time. So, from management’s side, we are not enforcing the webinars at the moment but have made them available should the team want.

“We are however staying in contact through our WhatsApp groups, offering each other mental support, encouragement and motivation. Some of our ladies have been sharing prayers with each other, which they use to encourage each other through these trying times. I have specifically asked my team to be ambassadors in their communities and share the information on the importance of the lockdown – how the COVID-19 virus spreads and how to sanitise in their homes. They can potentially make a big impact on their direct communities I believe.”

“In broad industry terms, going forward the thing to remember is that the COVID-19 situation is unfortunately out of our control and we can only really start picking up the pieces once this tsunami is over. I think that right now, as business owners, we must be responsible for educating our teams on how important it is to exercise the lockdown guidelines set by government. The quicker we all abide, hopefully the quicker we can get over this.”

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