How spas are coping in the post lockdown environment
Taking steps to mitigate cross-infection between guests and therapists, frequent deep cleaning of premises, and dealing with guest and staff anxiety are paramount during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is according to a recent Professional Beauty webinar that featured Engela Lanie Meiring of All Wellness Spa, Ayesha Rajah of Urban Bliss Wellness Spa, and Tanya Lopes of the Saxon Spa, as panelists. The webinar was hosted by Professional Beauty’s commercial director, Phil Woods.
All Wellness Spa reopened at the beginning of July. Said Meiring: “Despite the fact that we’ve had a lot of interest from clients, we were 25% down on revenue compared to the same time last year. However, taking everything into account and the fact that July is the middle of winter, that percentage is not too bad.
“We still perform most of the services on our menu but we do them differently and limit our larger groups to six people at a time. Consequently, we can’t take in the full amount of guests that we used to. But we’ve been lucky in that we haven’t had many cancellations and we’re definitely seeing bookings picking up now that we’re in August – Women’s Month.”
Rajah noted that in terms of business, her reopening journey has been something of a rollercoaster ride. She continued: “In our first week we had a bridal package who brought in their own drink and food and literally didn’t want to leave the spa. We put them on the pool deck, observing social distancing regulations. These guests told us they found the spa experience very beneficial from an emotional wellbeing point of view and couldn’t wait to come back.
“The last two weeks have been very tough, with lots of COVID-related cancellations, where clients phone us and tell us they have are experiencing flu-like symptoms, so we ask them not to come in. However, the warmer the weather gets, the more our spa will become booked for hair removal treatments.”
Meiring reported that in terms of the anxiety guests may feel about entering the spa environment, some clients are very anxious, while others are so relaxed that they have to be reminded to wear masks and to observe the enhanced hygiene & safety protocols.
“Some guests ask therapists to wear gloves during massage treatments, while others don’t. We are quite flexible in terms of making clients feel comfortable, while taking the necessary precautions,” she explained.
Communication with consumers is key, according to Rajah. “You have to instill faith in them and keep reassuring them that your staff is fully trained, that we are using PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), and that we are observing all hygiene protocols.”
Rajah has taken steps at Urban Bliss Wellness Spa to mitigate cross-infection between staff and guests. “To this end, we book only a single client per day per room and we deep clean before and after each client. Our clients don’t even enter the spa with their own shoes – they are given a set of slippers at the door. They are asked to leave as much of their belongings as possible in the car. I do add a small COVID surcharge to cover the PPE and cleansing costs.
“Our therapists wear surgical masks and visors that are changed frequently. I personally find it very difficult to perform treatments with a visor as it keeps steaming up. We have training days where my team performs their treatments on each other so they can get used to wearing masks for a long period of time.”
Meiring implements two hours of deep cleaning and fogging to ensure everything is cleaned after clients. All her therapists wear surgical masks, as well as visors for certain treatments. Clients are encouraged to wear their masks as much as possible, including during hand and foot treatments.
“I found the government hygiene & safety regulations quite vague so I think each spa must do what they think best. In addition, I do think that at a time of crisis like now, it’s important for the industry to stand together. We need to help each other to get through this,” Meiring commented.
Regarding refreshments, no food is currently served at Urban Bliss and the coffee station is closed. However, if a client wants a cup of tea, coffee or water, they can request it from their therapist. At All Wellness Spa, Meiring also offers beverages and uses food delivery services for guests that require a meal during their spa visit.
Staff at both spas are working shifts. Rajah noted that her therapists become very demoralised when there are cancellations, so she has to constantly be aware of their wellbeing.
Speaking from the perspective of a hotel spa, Tanya Lopes, spa manager of The Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa, said: “The decision that hotel management has taken is that because we offer a luxury experience, we would rather stay shut until we can utilise all of our facilities. So, we are using this time to upgrade parts of the hotel and implementing technology upgrades in the guest rooms, which we wouldn’t have time to do operationally normally. The Saxon will only open once we are able to take on leisure travelers and serve our full offering.
“If we opened the spa now, we would only be able to offer a beauty salon experience with no hydro facilities, refreshments, etc. So for us, being on the premium side of the market, we couldn’t provide clients with the full luxury experience that our guests are used to and expect. When we do open, it will be the hotel and spa only, with the villas remaining closed for the time being. Obviously we will still have to operate within social distancing regulations and observe all protocols.”
Lopes revealed that Saxon management is hoping to be able to open in October, but that this date may be postponed depending on how the lockdown situation progresses.
She continued: “It is somewhat reassuring that on a daily basis we get a lot of calls from people wanting to come to the spa, so I think that guests just want to get back to some kind of normalcy. A lot of the calls I get are from people who want to book groups, which is not something we would be able to do because of social distancing. I’ve been in touch with other spas that have opened, and their feedback is that they’ve been quite busy. Some spas have received lots of bookings, which were then cancelled at the last minute. These sort of cancellations you can’t charge for as clients may be experiencing flu-like symptoms or feeling anxious.”
Lopes is preparing the spa and her staff for implementing all measures required for worst case scenarios, but is hoping that not all of these will be required when the spa reopens.
“We have everything prepared and are ready to go. Saxon has invested in UVC technology to sterilise the rooms. Feedback from other hotel groups indicates that this is the same as what they are doing. We’re communicating with each other to stay on par with each other.
“As a spa, we are having to relook our customer journey to adapt to the new normal, but will still maintain the standards and luxury that we are known for,” Lopes concluded. (Report by Joanna Sterkowicz)