Feedback from several South African spas indicates that business for the first part of the year has been encouraging, taking into account the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and poor economy.
From January to April this year, Jiva Spa at TAJ Cape Town reached 60% of the turnover achieved in 2019/2020.
“This is a great feat in itself if you consider that we are a hotel spa and that our hotel is trading at an average 15% occupancy, compared to 85% average in 2018/19/20,” says Jiva Spa manager, Francisco Garcia. “While business in January was not good at all, February, March and April were great months considering the state of the hospitality business.
“I’ve noticed that guests are wanting massive value for money and great special packages, while also looking to regain a bit of normality within the abnormal situation in which we are living.”
Retail sales have definitely been slower than in previous years but Garcia is pushing his team and making it a priority. “We haven’t dropped massively so it’s not been a huge concern yet.”
The most popular treatments in 2021 have been specials with ‘massive value for money’ and massages. Nearly all clientele has been local, with 35% made up of hotel guests.
Garcia says that since re-opening on 1 October last year, the spa has operated with its entire core team of six spa therapists and one supervisor. He continues: “We have, however, taken on more responsibilities and duties as the entire department is run by ourselves, from spa bookings to treatments, reception, check in and check out, housekeeping, hygiene and disinfecting etc. In addition, we also look after the gymnasium, swimming pool and all the changing areas linked to those facilities.
“We are all suffering with salary cuts and reduced hours, so we have had to adjust, as well our marketing strategies, to the climate we are living in, while always protecting our integrity as a business and the brand perception.”
Ayesha Rajah of Urban Bliss Wellness Day Spa in Johannesburg has found business in 2021 extremely erratic. “At times we are very busy while at others, business is really slow, she says. “Consequently, we can’t identify patterns in the week, nor can we make predictions of how busy we will get, although weekends are generally busy. We saw a good spike on Valentine’s Day, with lots of couples’ massages booked. Business was also great on Mother’s Day, which shows that people really want to spoil their loved ones.”
Rajah is already noticing that clients are becoming anxious about a third wave of the pandemic and who are alarmed by the increasing number of COVID infections reported by government daily. “The fear factor has set in,” she continues. “Some clients are now asking me the same safety/ sanitisation questions that they asked when we first re-opened last year.”
In terms of retail sales, Urban Bliss has experienced a drop in sales and finds that clients are using products sparingly.
Nicola Kuhn, manager of Heavenly Spa by Westin in Cape Town, feels the spa is in a fortunate position as even prior to the pandemic, most of its clientele was local, being a business and conferencing hotel.
“Business at the spa was previously always about 80% local and now that figure has shifted to 90%. Our Heavenly Signature Massage has definitely been the most popular treatment this year – between January and April, we averaged between 350 and 380 massages a month.
“If you look at the number of overall treatments performed this year, there was actual growth from January to March, with a very slight drop in April. Retail, on the other hand, is definitely lower than previous years. We’ve noticed a definite change in client spend in that whereas clients would be willing to spend R1,500 in the past on a single product, they will now use that amount of money to buy three products. This shift in retail is not brand related.”
Kuhn feels very blessed in that the entire spa staff complement was able to return, when Heavenly re-opened on 1 December 2020.
“At the moment we are only operating from Wednesdays to Sundays, but do hope in time to go back to a full week. Based on demand, we usually have between four and seven therapists on duty during the week, while on weekends, our full complement of nine therapists. The fact that our therapists really want to work and give guests an amazing experience is why we have such good repeat business. We have a wonderful, supportive clientele and our memberships have actually grown this year.”
Lina Phetla, spa manager at Valley Lodge & Spa in the Magaliesberg, reports that since re-opening on 9 October last year, business has been really good.
“It’s almost as if people were waiting for us to re-open,” she states. “During weekends we are operating at 70% capacity in terms of staff, but because it’s much lower during the week, we are developing staff to multi-task. I have noticed a decline in business in May, apart from Mother’s Day. I think it is because the weather is cold and also people are fearing the third wave of the pandemic.”
Phetla notes that 60% of guests over the weekend are hotel guests, while during the week, 90% of guests are from outside the hotel. (Report by Joanna Sterkowicz)