High quality services and professional knowledge are forever the key factors for the success of a spa. By Annie Fung, Assistant Vice President, Spa Wellness & Medical – Onboard Revenue & Guest Experience, Genting Corporate Services (HK) Limited
High-tech treatments are becoming more and more common in the beauty industry. As early as several decades ago, in the initial stages of spa development, there was already a range of high-tech programs apart from pampering manual treatments, such as programs utilizing electricity current, high frequency, micro-current etc. In the past 10 years, due to the rapid development of technology and a lot of R&D funding and resources, the beauty and spa industry has seen the emergence of a wider and more creative variety of high-tech programs, and even medical-beauty treatments.
I believe that high-tech is an irresistible trend in the industry and will definitely continue to flourish. The reasons are obvious: guests have higher expectations for the treatment results; more guests are becoming savvy as information spreads so quickly; and the spa operators want higher revenue.
However, it is not an easy thing to harmonize high-tech with spa. On the one hand, not all spa staff can master the equipment properly and on the other hand, high-tech itself is at variance with the essence of spa as a pampering of the mind and soul. In the past decade, the word “spa” has already been misused. If we now blindly fill it with high-tech programs, spa will lose its own identity and spa guests will also be misled.
I have had an interesting experience in this regard. When I visited a beauty device booth in an exhibition, the salesman kept telling me how good the device is. It has several functions such as slimming, lifting and whitening. I asked him some questions about the theory behind the machine and even what electrical current it uses. How does the current work on the fat, on skin cells and help the skin to become whiter. All I heard in reply were the selling points of the final outcome of the machine and the price per unit. I was really shocked. How can we apply the unknown “current” on a guest’s muscles and skin without a proper knowledge of it? This is the most basic thing. How can I betray my guests’ trust in such a manner?
Today’s guests are highly knowledgeable. They expect immediate treatment effects or even some magic results beyond imagination. They hope that one slimming session can help them lose five to ten inches or that one facial can help them remove 50% of wrinkles. As a result, more and more high-tech equipment have been developed: lasers, intense pulsed lights, bioelectricity, Thermage radiofrequency therapy, CoolSculpting body-contouring techniques, HIFU high-intensity focused ultrasound therapy, Picoway wrinkle removal treatments etc. However, many of the techniques listed above are within the medical scope which are not permitted to be applied in ordinary spas.
Guests simply believe that high-tech can bring youth back to them, so they are willing to pay more for it than for hand treatments. From the perspective of the operators, high-tech equipment treatments means quicker investment return, small space occupancy, lower labor costs and therefore a guarantee of impressive profit and guests re-visits.
High-tech treatments also bring practical benefits to spa staff and therapists. Since such treatments have immediate and long-term effects, and the therapists feel more confident in the sales and delivery of the treatments. In addition, with a higher pricing, the high-tech treatments help the therapists get higher commissions per session.
But as spa people, we should never forget that the essence of spa is not merely improving appearance but the nourishing of the mind and spirit. While we are immersed in the high-tech breakthroughs, perhaps the guests fail to get the deserved satisfaction from the spa procedures. Moreover, high-tech equipment may on the contrary influence guests’ mental and spiritual condition. In the past ten years of rapid high-tech development, the spa’s role as a place for pampering and spiritual connection hasn’t been enhanced accordingly.
Many staff in China’s spa industry today still lack basic training and even ignore the significance of manual massage techniques. People begin to worry that this tendency will hinder the development of the whole spa industry. We need to think, while the technology keeps moving forward, how spa staff can also improve the mastery of basic spa knowledge.
As I have been actively involved in the spa business for the past 20 years, I have concretely seen how the whole industry develops step by step. In terms of construction and design, today’s spas are much different than in the past. They are bigger in scale and offer more options and programs. However, when guests open up the spa menu, can they find one treatment that truly benefits their body, mind and soul? A good spa will deliver treatments that tell the concept, style and culture of the spa, and achieve a remarkable balance between effect and satisfaction of the body and mind. They bring perfect comfort and relaxation instead of transient feelings of freshness.
The wisdom of “return to the original state” also applies to the spa business. We should give up empty and showy treatments and centralize resources on the training of therapists so that they can perfectly master the techniques of the most essential treatments. The spa menu should give direct, easy-to-understand introductions that explain the goal and effect of the treatments. Instead of feeling nervous about carrying out complicated showy treatments, therapists should pay more attention to acquiring a solid mastery of the essential treatments. This will help to create a better foundation of the industry’s professionalism and let guests truly understand the concept and essence of spa.
Also, I think we need to make a clear differentiation of beauty, spa, and medical beauty so that each of the three can keep its own characteristics and professionalism and the three can continue to develop healthily in balance.
There is another phenomenon I have observed: more and more hotels have outsourced spa operations. Since the whole industry faces a recruitment challenge, with insufficient investment given to staff training, there remains a certain risk in the spa operations. The hotels are just shifting such risks to the outsourced operators. But by doing so, the hotels lose a chance to build and develop their own spa brands. Meanwhile, hotels usually won’t give much marketing support to the outsourced spa operators. As a result, though some short-term benefits may be derived, in the long-run, we see many cases of failure in such cooperations.
Each type of fragmentation and organization has its own advantages and disadvantages. Their business pattern reflects client demand in the industry such as pricing and facilities. For the clients who are looking for a convenient place for service, an urban spa might be a good choice. Those who enjoy wet facilities before or after treatment might prefer a hotel spa. And cruise spa-goers seek to escape from the city and the land.
At Dream Cruises, each spa treatment based on the healthy life and wellbeing concept has been developed in a professional manner and features internationally certified beauty techniques and progressive therapies in order to bring guests a total rejuvenation of body and mind.
Embraced by endless sky and sea, guests choose their favorite treatment and enjoy pampering from highly professional therapists, be it a soothing foot bathing or a full-body aroma massage. They can further relax themselves in yoga sessions or enjoy a healthy lunch and afternoon tea. Afterwards, it’s time to explore the diverse activities onboard. During a 6-day-5-night itinerary, we offer a natural rebirth package for those seeking detoxing and wellbeing. Professional health consultants are responsible for the diet plan of the guests, complemented by fitness and beauty treatments. Popular treatments include Quartz Crystal Bed Massage 1.5 hours/HKD980, Himalaya Salt Stone Massage 1.5hours/HKD980, and the traditional Foot Reflexology Massage 60 mins / HKD 230. We will soon launch Tourmaline Thermal Heal 1.5 Hours / HKD 980.
Spa innovation doesn’t merely mean high-tech equipment or effective products, but is also decided by treatment details and service quality. High quality services and professional knowledge are forever the key factors for the success of a spa in the face of fierce competition.
Spa is by no means a superficial business swaying in the breeze. It has deep roots and we need to return to its nature and essence. Fostering a solid team for operations and management through sufficient training is the core competitive factor.