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Insights from overseas spas on reopening

Four Seasons is currently working on an approved list of virtual / low-touch treatments for all of its spas in the post COVID-19 lockdown environment.

Says Sandie Johannessen, Four Seasons senior director of Spa, Asia Pacific: “This will include bio meditation, chakra balancing, reiki and treatments with the Hyperice Percussion Massage Tool. We may see more use of salt meditation pods, sound and light therapy, no-touch massage chairs and beds.

“Four Seasons is looking at partnering with virtual group programmes delivering educational wellness online. These classes can be supplemented with in-room delivery of things like resistance bands, essential oils and crystal sets that are sanitised after each use. This way guests don't physically have to come down into the gym if they're uncomfortable.

“I think that online classes for yoga and exercise, as well as wellness routines where people can access personal trainers, dietitians and doctor’s consultations, are here to stay. Our spa leaders are required to imbibe these new skills and develop their team members accordingly.”

Johannessen notes that the Four Seasons customer journey going forward will be centered on wellness. “For example, our Bangkok property focuses on the concept of balancing mind, body and work. Guests are invited to embark on a unique journey of self-discovery, personal growth and self-awareness.

“Using pathways of spirituality to access and open the mind, bespoke beauty treatments, massages to nurture the body and work in the form of functional fitness, we will connect the three streams together to bring positivity and new energy into each client’s life, and to introduce them to a new, better way of living.”

Changes to SOPs

As to what procedures changed significantly post COVID-19 lockdown, Rocco Bova, GM of Chablé in Mexico, reports that it is principally the frequency of cleaning. He says: ‘Hotels have always followed strict procedures in their cleaning practices, but of course we now use more gloves and face masks. In terms of actual cleanliness, it’s only the frequency that’s changed just to ensure guests feel safe and comfortable.”

Tara Moore, head of spa operations at Galgorm Spa & Golf Resort adds: “We’re currently working month to month and adjusting to the new world. What we have learned is that we need to be more agile than ever.”

She has implemented high-tech cleaning products and equipment in her spa, including the Zoono™ Z-71 Microbe Shield Surface Sanitiser & Protectant that’s used on all high touch points, and Aerofog Generators containing Everbrite™Ultra Disinfectant to sanitise all other areas thoroughly. During hours of closure, the spa uses an Ozone™ OC1500 Air Purifier for further deep sanitation of all areas.

Reena Sheeth, spa director of Jiva Spa, The Taj Mahal Mumbai, has appointed COVID Marshalls in her spa. “Their job is to maintain a checklist and ensure that it is adhered to.”

A number of overseas spas have implemented a QR Code to download all spa menus, to avoid guests having to touch printed menus. Bova also uses a chat on WhatsApp to communicate with guests.


Zoe Wall, group spa director for Asia at Anantara / MSpa has introduced a ‘Stay with peace of mind’ programme. She explains: “We created a Health & Safety committee, comprising of senior leadership and industry experts, to oversee the development and rollout of this new programme, which builds on existing health and safety regimens and focuses on reassuring guests.

“While clients seem open to returning to spas, the biggest challenge we face is spending power. Clients are far more cautious when it comes to spending money on non-essentials, given the current economic situation and global pandemic of not only COVID-19, but the aftermath of redundancies, reduced salaries etc,” says Wall.

Prior to reopening, Moore launched the ‘Your Safe Haven’ marketing campaign which proved very successful. “It demonstrates our Hygiene Commitment and we filmed the new guest journey that covers all aspects of the guest experience, from check-in, to housekeeping procedures, to social distancing measures in the spa and the measures introduced in our dining outlets.”

Bova notes that prior to COVID-19, Chablé’s market share of Mexico (his domestic market) was about 50% and now it is 99%. “We are definitely marketing to our Mexican guests. The effort of contacting all of our local partners, organising webinars to explain what measures we have taken to ensure health & safety and inviting travel agents to visit us, is paying back. We are seeing many repeat guests from Mexico and have received a few requests for wellness retreats.”

Profitability ratios

Commenting on how she is managing profitability ratios, Wall says: “Unfortunately, like most companies, it has meant redundancies and running operations on very lean manpower and offering limited low cost services in order to control costs. By no means is this ideal, but it is the only way our spa business will survive.”

Emma McGrady, director of Crown Spas Crown Hotels Australia, manages spa staffing in all areas based on demand. “We are working this way until we eventually reopen seven days a week.”

Group spa & wellness manager of Lux* Me, Lux* Le Morne, Mauritius, Kerensa Langitan, has put constraints on offerings and is creating offerings using what products are available. “At the moment, we have put a freeze on new orders of products and are doing flash sales of obsolete items. We are limiting the number of days and hours that the spa is open and have implemented optimum scheduling.”

Managing costs is obviously a necessity for spas, particularly now with reduced clients due to social distancing and hygiene & cleansing protocols, according to Bova. He continues: “We have reduced the working hours of staff and have negotiated with suppliers to review charges and fees since April. Some 25% of our staff also work from home now. Our spa menu remains the same but we have closed one section of the spa and made it into a mixed area. We also use a limited number of cabins to reduce energy costs.

“As to looking ahead to the festive season, we’re living in a strange time so forecasting is basically impossible. Each day we have reservations coming in for the next day and sometimes for the same day. We expect to have mainly Mexican guests coming to ‘celebrate quietly’ during this year’s festive season. In terms of 2021, I’m not even trying yet to think long term but rather focusing on our national market for now.”

The above spa directors and operators are participating in the Professional Beauty Group’s online World Spa & Wellness Convention (8 to 10 September 2020), which is moderated by Jean-Guy de Gabriac of Tip Touch International. To view the programme click here

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