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Spas generate new traffic from business customers

As economic stability returns to many countries, luxuries such as spas are enjoying new-found interest

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The economic downturn has forced many providers of optional services to re-evaluate not only their product selection, but also their service delivery; hotel spas are an excellent example. Travel has been curtailed in many industries, so revenues are down. Not only that, but people who may have utilised spa services in previous years currently think twice about spending money on something deemed unnecessary, so the hotel spa business has taken a double hit. PKF Consulting USA recently published a study that indicates many hotel spas are experiencing difficulty because of these factors, but that is not true across the board.

Some hotel spas are not only holding their own, they are actually thriving. Starwood Hotels, for example, is expanding its spa offerings, particularly in the Asian and Indian markets, while Westin Hotels are due to open six spas in 2012 in the Middle East and Asian markets. These in-house, signature spas, will focus on the hotel’s clientele, but will also be open to guests staying at other hotels. They plan to offer a full range of spa services, including massages, facials, manicures and pedicures, hot rock massage and Ayurvedic massage, among many others. Clean, fresh spas with inviting facilities and attentive staff have always sold well, but their use has been particularly strong in the Asian, Indian and Middle Eastern markets, making these locales a logical choice for profitable expansion.

The focus on business travellers may be an excellent choice, as this has typically been an untapped source of revenue for the spa business. While most companies will not pay for spa treatments for their employees, there are some that will. In addition, spas can appeal to the business traveller who does not have to pay for food and lodging out of his or her own funds and therefore can more easily afford a spa treatment whilst travelling. Being on the road is often stressful and many business travellers attend a whole host of meetings or are involved in stressful negotiations while they are away from home and spa treatments, even for men, are being advertised as a way to remain focused on the job at hand by giving oneself some downtime.

Starwood Hotels’ in-house research indicates that eight out of ten guests consider themselves likely to use at least one spa service when travelling, while the general public has an approximate usage rate of 54 percent. In addition, the Starwood figures included men, a typically underserved, but growing percentage of spa users.

Not all hotels are to participate in the spa expansion; most will be placed in high-traffic hotels in major metropolitan centres, such as the Westin Abu Dhabi and China’s Westin Wuhan Wuchang Hotel. Sheraton Hotels plan spa expansions at the Sheraton Guangzhou Hotel, the Beijing Dongcheng Hotel, and the Sheraton Qinqyuan Resort, among others. However, for travellers in those cities, the expanded spa services may well mean the difference in hotel selection and as the Starwood survey shows, once a guest is at a hotel, he or she is very likely to make use of its spa’s services.

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