Hotels with spas needed to shift carefully during the pandemic, finding corners to cut without taking too much away from the promise of a serene customer experience. What they found, according to data, is that cutbacks in staff and some amenities were blessings in disguise, producing efficiencies and greater personalization of the guest experience.
Reduced services and social-distancing regulations allowed for vast savings in spa operations that helped pad the bottom line, even in the face of reduced revenue.
“Savings came from reduced hours that were implemented by the spa, allowing us to schedule only one person per day,” said Catherine Davalle, Spa Director at Acqualina Spa by ESPA, at the Acqualina Resort in Miami. This measure obviated the need for several receptionists or spa attendants to cover longer opening hours.
“Cost savings also happened due to our amenities—such as toothbrushes, combs, hair brushes and razors—now being on-demand rather than freely available,” Davalle added. “Previously, in the lockers, we had boxes [of amenities]. Now, we are telling guests what amenities are available, on request.”
Also, Davalle said, “In the relaxation lounge, we previously had an amenity bar offering tea and our signature cookies. Now, because of Covid, we offer a tea service on demand.”
Such efforts seem to be paying off. According to HotStats data, in May 2020, in the thick of the pandemic, spa profit on a per-available-room basis at full-service properties in the Americas was -$0.31. Fast forward to a year later and that metric jumped to $0.89—a 387% improvement.
At luxury hotels in the region, the same key performance indicator soared in May 2021, reaching $4.42 after declining to -$1.46 in May 2020.
Meanwhile, the changes made last year to reduce costs have allowed spas to make improvements and find efficiencies.
“We have saved on amenities by approximately 30% and we have taken this saving to implement new standards, which will have a greater impact on our guests’ experience,” said Davalle.
For example, she said, “We are now providing pool amenities—such as chilled grapes, frozen lemonade and cool, small hand towels—providing touches to delight guests.” The spa also added a new treatment, a Himalayan Salt Stone back massage, in which guests take the stones with them to use at home.
Going forward, she continued, “We are keeping the reduced hours as we are still not fully staffed to cover all areas during longer hours, and making the amenities on demand is allowing us to spend money in other areas, such as pool amenities, to improve the guest experience.”
Other properties are reversing course from savings realized during the pandemic, addressing a need that, arguably, is vital to profitability: customer service.
“When we reopened our spa, we removed our healthy snacks to discourage communal eating—which was a short-term cost savings—and we discontinued group fitness classes,” said Derek Hofmann, Senior Director of Spa at Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort.
But, he added, “We have begun to resume these offerings as they are important service touch points for our guests. Returning to normal with offerings like these represent an increased cost to our immediate post-pandemic operation; however, we feel they are important service elements to enhance our spa patrons' overall experience, that justify the relatively small profitability erosion.”
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