Marketing Wellness to the Unenlightened

Category : Operations, Spa
Date : July 22, 2015

A spa or wellness center can be a tremendous profit maker for a hotel or resort property. Indeed, various estimates put wellness tourism in or around half a trillion US dollars worldwide, more than one-seventh of all travel bucks spent. Hardly a loss leader, but I nonetheless ask: how can wellness tap into the other six-sevenths?

To spa or not to spa – that is the question I’ve asked travelers in the past, both anecdotally and through dedicated research. Without making this a numbers or methodology debate, let me just say that there is a sizeable percentage of the traveling population that has never utilized a spa or very rarely does so. While rigorously working to retain existing business (that is, those customers who actively seek out spa accommodations) is always a prudent course of action, that six-sevenths is too big to ignore.

So it’s clear, we aren’t discussing wellness travel and those people who are already well aware of the benefits of a spa. We are talking about getting consumers in the opposite camp on board. Putting on my marketing cap for a moment, I wouldn’t call people who do not regularly go to the spa ‘naïve’. Rather, consider the word ‘unenlightened’; it’s a positive word to inform those who haven’t tried a spa’s services yet (or at least your spa’s services) and just aren’t familiar with the great experience on the table.

The fact remains that a wellness center is so much more than just massages, skin-softening ointments and aromatic treatments. Wellness itself encapsulates so many different forms – physical, mental and emotional for starters – all with the overarching goal of helping people achieve their life goals. But no one will come to enjoy these broad benefits if you don’t give your spa facility a good hook or angle for the layman to latch on to. Therefore, let’s look at several ideas below to see how you might improve this amenity so that it’s more inviting to newcomers.

Purposeful Wellness
Spas are no longer just for pampering. The modern guest seeks a more comprehensive wellness experience with palpable long-term benefits, intellectual stimulation and takeaway lessons, be it nutrition, yoga, meditation, art therapy, acupuncture or mind-body therapies. Key to this is to realize that many consumers are looking for an interactive experience instead of merely a passive one where the therapist does all the work.

A good way to go about transforming a spa menu from passive to dynamic is to integrate fitness regimens, and many facilities are already taking this hybrid approach. But if you haven’t, consider partnering with a doctor, physiotherapist, kinesiologist, chiropractor, isometrics specialist or other accredited position to help you design treatments that are more functional in structure. I’m not insisting you turn your tranquil locale into a full-blown gymnasium, but some advanced rehabilitation equipment would be nice. Think of angle-centric machines built for bodily alignment and stabilization – the FreeMotion Dual Cable Cross and the Isophit as two examples I’m familiar with – and not ones made for gross muscular strength.

Along these lines, the outdoors and surrounding environments are a wellness center’s best friend. For every class that you offer, ask yourself: can this be moved outside? Morning yoga classes along the beach or midday art hikes into the woods are a good start. Crucial to this tactic is to highlight and exploit the exceptional aspects of your local area as much as possible so that your guests attain value unavailable anywhere else.

Go Local
Building on that last alfresco point, it’s become readily apparent in the hospitality industry that being ‘authentically local’ is mandatory for all properties except for the economy and road warrior sectors. This trend makes sense for businesses and consumers alike. In a world where competition is global and heavily filtered through online distribution channels, properties have to be able to distinguish themselves from their neighbors on more than just price. Guests, on the other hand, crave unique experiences that they can’t get back at home.

Think regional fragrances, seasonal treatments, artisanal district producers or anything you can offer to lend an authentically local voice to your wellness offerings. Sadly, though, simply having local infusions isn’t enough nowadays because everyone else has already caught on to this. Understanding how to market these products is what separates the cats from the kittens.

Although this is something I’d treat on a property-by-property basis, one commonly applicable thread is the notion of specialization and unity. That is to say, rather than attempt to convey the full breadth of the region’s character to the consumer, focus on just one or two highly appealing features, and then express them through a range of products. For example, suppose your area is known for exclusively growing a certain flower in addition to a dozen other marketable goods. Instead of shoehorning all thirteen in the spa menu, use just the flower (sourcing problems notwithstanding), but use it for facials, manicures, pedicures, rubs and so on.

Friends and Family
Wellness can be a solo adventure, but it can (and should!) also be a shared experience for families to come closer together, for friends to reconnect or even as a respite to enhance a meeting’s productivity. The underlying concept here is that, as humans, we are social animals and often we can improve our own well-beings and perspectives on life by interacting with others in a constructive atmosphere. This starts with romantic couples packages, but then goes into other less-touched ground: mothers and daughters packages, corporate or group offerings, prenatal and maternity treatments, or treatments for teenagers. Next, to amp up the social factor, mix these specific wellness packages with F&B…with an emphasis on the beverage!

Spa Samplers
A definite barrier to entry and intimidation factor for the unenlightened is the cost. It’s just too expensive for some to try for the first time. While one time-honored workaround for this has been to incorporate spa treatments into room packages and promotions, another tactic is required.

Picture a spa sampler in much the same way as you would for someone working the counter in the cosmetics section of a department store. These individuals often hand out free samples or mini-treatments to help sell their wares. Why can’t you do something similar?

Instead of offering, say, a full pedicure or half-hour massage for all passersby, set up a station in the lobby where members of your wellness team can demo certain products to the crowd as well as hand out free samples. You might even consider unfolding a massage table for quick, five-minute sessions or a proper chair for manicures. Whatever ‘show’ you decide to put on, ensure that you do it in a highly trafficked corridor of your property to generate the most awareness and the most interactivity.

Wellness Room Service
For some, cost is prohibitive. For others, it is the physical act of venturing into an unfamiliar space. It may be a privacy issue or related to hygiene, or the guest might just be downright lazy. Whatever the reason, a small selection of within-the-guestroom treatments will find an audience, but only if you advertise them and actively inform guests that they are available.

The Mobile Massage
Sitting is the new smoking. We’ve all heard this tossed around of late in one form or another. But what does it really mean and what can you do, as a wellness operator, to help guests alleviate their chair-related problems?

For many of us, excessive sitting is the result of too much typing and staring at a computer screen. Most of our jobs involve interacting with a screen on a regular basis and many of us unwind outside of work by surfing the web, going on social media or watching videos off a laptop. Neck protracted, shoulders rolled forward, hip joints flexed, wrists compressed – these are unnatural poses to hold our bodies in for long stretches of time.

In this screen-dominated world, our skeletons have yet to keep up with our minds – that is, the aberrant positions these keyboards, monitors and smartphones force our joints into can induce injury or chronic pain if left untreated. A ‘mobile massage’ is a catchy title for a method for recruiting businesspeople and other possible carpal tunnel candidates. But this naming can be expanded to target all over-sitters where the chief sources of consternation include the lower back, upper back, neck, shoulders and knees.

Spa Sommelier
Yes, you can’t run a successful spa without a spa manager or director of wellness programs who can handle inventory as well as work effectively with other departments. But thinking in terms of a ‘sommelier’ or other dignified curator position (such as a ‘spa concierge’) will help bring an air of sophistication to this amenity. Plus, such an individual would help personalize the spa experience by, for example, catering specific oils and cleansers to match a guest’s palate and aroma preferences. Such personalization adds to the uniqueness factor.

And that’s what it’s all about – being unique. You need not apply all of these above suggestions to your operations, but perhaps one or two pique your interest and can help convert unenlightened guests towards the path of spa and wellness!

(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in Hotel Executive on July 22, 2015)


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