On July 17th, 2012, Hilton Worldwide published their Blue Paper, a report on emerging global spa trends. This report summaries input from Hilton’s spa team, industry experts and 6000+ survey respondents in Australia, China, Great Britain and USA. This document, which I thank Hilton for posting publicly, coincides with the launch of eforea: spa at Hilton, a new concept coalescing aspects of the spa experience from different parts of the world to better appeal to today’s global traveler. You can find the full document here, of which I would like to highlight and reinforce several of their key findings.
One of the first insights mentioned is that, whether a guest intends to use it or not, having a spa on property is wholly indicative of luxury. At an initial glance, this may seem like a regurgitation of the status quo, as a spa is already a benchmark for most upscale properties. But, it’s nevertheless a solid affirmation of high quality, which you should display in big, bold letters on print and web marketing materials.
Reading through this report several times, I kept noticing the same words popping up – ‘personal’, ‘targeted’, ‘savvy’ and ‘easy’ to name a few. It doesn’t take a 2012 report to know that consumers across multiple demographics are harnessing the power of the Internet to learn about spa therapies and comparison shop. This is nothing new. However, this research-laden behavior translates into customers becoming increasingly value-conscious.
The most appropriate terminology for this is ‘enlightened’, which describes guests’ heightened appreciation for specific ingredients and proven results, particularly true for the Gen-X and Millennial demographics. Guests want spa treatments that are both effective and easy to recognize for their specific needs. Hence, targeted treatments for savvy clientele.
Don’t discard loyalty though. Yes, people are now adventure-seekers and willing to try new things, now more so than they have been in the past. But people are still quite harried, meaning that if a consumer finds something that works, he or she will stick with it. This becomes especially important when dealing with branded product lines and franchised spa services akin to the creation of eforea: spa at Hilton. A good takeaway here is to be consistent in your services and product offerings, whether you operate as part of a chain or as an independent.
With buzzwords replete throughout this document, what I found most noteworthy is that simply having a spa often isn’t good enough. Rather, a hotel needs a spa that tailors its experiences to each individual customer. For the savvy, results-oriented guest, your products have to be top notch. Spa staff members must be thoroughly trained on the immediate benefits, long-term revitalizing effects and environment impacts of any given treatment, all while still providing the expected pampering and relaxation.
And then some more quick insights. Business travelers do indeed use the spa, but they have limited time to de-stress. Men, another under-catered niche, lean more towards maintenance procedures with a proven track record than towards indulgence and excessive treatments. Resort guests on a predesigned wellness retreat want a fully immerse experience. The point is, each customer is unique and therefore, your spa menu must offer an array of products and services to appease a range of clientele.
But the Blue Paper also elucidates that you shouldn’t stretch the menu too far. The savvy breed of modern consumers is seeking a refined menu instead of a full menu. This is the same idea behind how many restaurants are perceived. Would you go to a pizzeria for sushi or for pizza? Would you visit a charcuterie for their salad selection? Likewise, would you go to a hydrotherapy spa for an orange peel and lemon verbena body scrub or a water-based treatment with sea minerals infused? Obvious examples with rhetorical answers, but the argument stands.
Just as you’d be suspect of the sushi coming out of a pizzeria, so too would you be skeptical of citrus and spice treatments at a hydrotherapy spa. Nowadays, specificity is a reassurance of quality. You can’t do everything right, but if you focus on a narrow selection, the implication is that the few services proffered will all be better as a result.
Specificity, however, does not entail simplicity. It’s a fine balance between stretching your spa menu too thin and offering enough to satisfy your differing constituencies.
What I’d suggest is to choice a theme then own that theme. Offer a diverse array of spa products and treatments, but orient all of them to fit your chosen theme. For instance, if you devote your spa to supporting the local community and using only regional product, then obviously all your spa offerings should include descriptive names and ingredients to highlight this commitment. Moreover, when deciding upon a theme, your local terrain is the best starting point. Desert, ocean, beach, forest, farmland, mountainous valley or tropical island; use the quirks of your natural surroundings to your advantage.
The last item worth noting is the report’s profiling of the wants and needs of the Chinese traveler. This emerging segment will undoubtedly be a real influencer for global spa trends in the near future, but the findings don’t suggest any overriding anomalies with their European or North American counterparts. From those surveyed, Chinese travelers are value-conscious and discerning like everyone else with access to the internet. They are perhaps slightly keener than other groups to use the spa if prompted about the services beforehand. And, much like guests from other parts of the world, they want to have at least some semblance of familiarity in their treatment options.
But, that’s just what I noticed. What about you? What did you learn from this report?
(Published in eHotelier on July 30, 2012)