Spa Suggestions – To Share Them or Not?
by Susie Ellis
As you can see from my previous posts, I was very impressed with Gwinganna Health Retreat in Australia. But there are always ways in which a spa can improve. Since I have been to many spas around the world and have garnered a certain amount of expertise, I have developed a sensitivity to what’s working and what’s not working.
I always wrestle with whether or not I should say something. Many years ago I would readily make suggestions to spa managers, therapists, owners, etc. However, I soon realized that those suggestions weren’t always welcome or appreciated. In retrospect, I realize it was presumptuous of me. I also found that it definitely interfered with my spa experience. Jotting down notes, typing things up, and scheduling meetings turned every spa experience into work. So years ago I decided that I would stop giving any feedback unless I was specifically asked. I figured that if someone did ask for my input, I knew they were open and would likely welcome a suggestion. The only problem was that almost no one asked. I think there have been only two instances when someone asked me for feedback.
These days…I am working on finding a happy medium. I don’t generally volunteer suggestions, however if something seems very obvious to me and I know think it might improve a program tremendously, I take the chance and give the feedback to the owner or manager. That’s what I did in this case. Also, I sometimes share it in my blog if the issue isn’t spa-specific because it might be able to help someone else. This seems to be working pretty well as the feedback is generally well-received. I remember when I had some suggestions (which I shared on my blog) for Miraval Living after having attended one of their first showcase events here in New York. I received an email from Steve Case the day after my blog post thanking me for my suggestions and actually asking me for more! So I am feeling that I am making a positive contribution this way and hopefully not annoying people and also not ruining every spa experience for myself.
Anyway…back to Gwinganna. What bothered me was the cars. To my mind the guest parking and some of the staff parking was too close to the action.
Spas make a great deal of effort to create a perfect environment for guests and Gwinganna is no exception. The setting is stunning with expansive views – ocean in the distance and beautiful green hills in between. Doing Qi Gong on the outlook early in the morning as the sun came up is a picture emblazoned in my mind even today as I am back in New York. Their property has a variety of buildings all sprinkled around the “campus”. There are various accommodations, a building housing the dining room, a lovely old chapel, the large spa, in another area is their beautiful gym and fitness studio, an infinity pool with that drop-dead view, etc.
What bothered me however, was that whenever I walked from one building to another, more often than not there would be a car passing by. That resulted in dust, noise and the need for me to walk to the side to move out of the way. It just altered the serenity for me each time.
There was a staff parking lot in the distance behind the tennis court, however guest cars were parked within the campus area and it seemed there were always some staff driving in and out to various buildings. My suggestion (which I did share with Tony de Leede who was very gracious and seemed appreciative) was to remove all cars from the campus – move the guest’s cars to a non-visible space and expand the staff parking lot so there was plenty of room for all staff to park away from the campus.
Now I realize this won’t be a welcome suggestion all around. It would inconvenience some people. I know. I was once on the other side of this issue when I worked at the Golden Door in California. The parking lot was quite a distance from the buildings and every time I came to work or left work, I had a very long walk to my car. Sometimes I was carrying heavy things and other times I was running a bit late (OK, maybe more than a few times)…and it was tempting to at times grab one of those few parking spaces reserved for emergencies right at the entrance to the Golden Door (and yes, it was gold…although not real gold).
But then I remember seeing Deborah Szekely, the founder of the Golden Door who is now in her 80′s, make that long walk herself. Alas, the guest experience is what is most important.
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