It’s always a treat to be able to attend a spa conference outside of the U.S. There are fresh viewpoints, new spas to discover, and emerging trends to observe. There’s just nothing like being present to witness actual dialogue and the exchange of ideas – sometimes quite different than my own.
One example is the French woman who dominated the microphone during question and answer periods and minced no words in voicing her opinion that the French have led the spa industry for centuries and don’t need to be taught anything from foreigners. Another example is the gentleman from Austria who was embarassed by, and felt strongly that the number one problem for the European spa industry is the lack of gracious hospitality. Interesting perspectives.
There were approximately 20 presentations and 30 speakers. Here are a few tidbits, which resonated with me:
1. Marion Schneider, from Toskana World
in Germany, spoke about the importance of teaching your staff English – or at least enough English so that they are comfortable conversing with guests. As she so clearly said….”if you don’t teach your staff English, they will hide.” I had never really thought of it that way, however I think she makes a good point. The language barrier isn’t just an issue when it comes to not being able to understand the guest’s needs, but it is a further impediment because the therapist feels intimidated and therefore is shy about interacting with guests at all.
2. Kevin Turnbull, from SpaFinder EMEA
in the UK, used Bill Clinton’s successful campaign slogan as a reference point – he suggested that instead of the line, “It’s the economy stupid,” our industry adopt the line “It’s the customer stupid.” We do have a tendency to spend a lot of time discussing industry issues, when in fact we should be paying more attention to the consumer and their likes and dislikes. Kevin also made a good point that when it comes to the European spa industry, “we are going from wellness to wellness.” The roots are wellness, and we are back there again.
3. Raoul Sudre, from Aspen Spa Management in Florida
, gave several talks. My favorite one was his presentaiton on spa trends (of course). Raoul has been in the spa industry 50 years and I respect his perspective on trends as a result!
It isn’t just about the amount of time he has been in the spa arena (half a century!)…after all there are many others who have been in the spa industry that long: Deborah Szekely (Rancho La Puerta and Golden Door), Enid and Mel Zuckerman (Canyon Ranch), Sheila Cluff (The Oaks), and Dorthy Purdue (Champneys) come to mind. However, Raoul has a broader global view because unlike the others mentioned here, he did not focus primarily on one or two properties during his career. Rather, Raoul traveled all over the world for decades and has consulted and developed spas in more countries than probably anyone else.
A few trends he predicts:
- Greater customization
- No more locker rooms
- Adjusting spa design as people become more claustrophobic.
- Change in terminology….i.e. the word spa will always have something else attached to it. Examples: Yoga Spa, Sexual Health Spa, Boot Camp Spa, Medical Wellness Spa, etc.
- Energy medicine
- Spa and fitness separating (I disagree with him on this one)
- Spa packages are coming back “in” – but now they are packages including hydro and thermal treatments rather than facials and massage and such.
4. Christopher Norton, GM of Four Seasons George V in Paris, and his spa manager Verena Fox, gave a memorable presentation about their spa’s continued increase in revenue despite the challenging economic climate. They were very transparent with their numbers – which everyone appreciated. (Even the French woman who had been dominating the Q & A had something positive to say about their presentation!) Here is a recap of their yearly revenue in Euros:
2007-1.9 service, 258,000 retail, 5.6% profit
2008 2.2 service, 414,000 retail, 18% profit
2009 (year-to-date): on track to beat both service and retail and currently showing 19% profit!
Then the very astute Verena shared some secrets of how she made this magic happen: more sales training, more up-sell training, more day guests, inviting journalists for free treatments, offering free makeup sessions for clientele, encouraging men as guests (because they spend more money than women) and…..(this was a new one for me) training on how to wrap packages!
Oui, oui, ou la la!