Spa & Hospitality: What Does the Future Look Like?
Collaboration Takeaways

The Global Wellness Collaborations bring industry leaders together in meaningful dialogue to share ideas and best practices for navigating the COVID-19 crisis around a specific industry segment.

Topic: Spa & Hospitality: What Does the Future Look Like?
Date of Discussion:  April 21, 2020
Countries/Regions Represented: Brazil, Canada, China, Cyprus, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, St. Lucia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, UAE, UK and US.

Live poll results with 72 percent participation:

  • We are enhancing the suites in hotels, five-star hotels and resorts. We are building a small spa facility within a suite, which is working very well for us.
  • In our area of the West Indies, we rely 100 percent on flights from three principal markets: US, Canada and the United Kingdom. They make up about 95 percent of arrivals. All air and boat traffic has now ceased to the island. We have now been closed for about a month.
  • If I’m totally honest, I’m not quite sure at the moment how we’re going to reopen. We’re in a situation where, obviously, our island government has to be willing to accept potential carriers. Then, we have to accept people coming in from those various markets. We only have about seven coronavirus cases on the island at the moment.
  • When the airlines reopen, it will be with considerably less capacity than they had before. The airlines are under a lot of economic pressure. I suspect when they open, it will be to more profitable routes such as London, LA, New York, etc. Well before they turn their eye to starting operations and getting back on board to fly here, there’s a myriad of complications to restarting tourism here.
  • Thailand being a massive travel destination for a lot of people, about 95 percent of all the hotels across the whole country are closed. Our network of travel within the countries has been curtailed or completely shut off.
  • Our places are kind of spread out. We have shifts of people who have passed the quarantine period for 30 days. They stay on-site for 30 days, and they take care of the existing guests that are there. We then rotate them out and bring in a new group of people. In the meantime, of course, we had to go through a lot of cost-cutting to manage the expected six months of reduced cash flow.
  • To shut an entire resort or hotel down and then restart it is a massive undertaking because some people may not want to come back to work. The whole estate, basically, if it’s not being maintained continuously, can become a huge problem. So, we decided to maintain a partial opening and then use a lot of the people for different areas to fix, clean and develop the backend services. We also gave the opportunity for some of our staff to experience being a guest.
  • Fortunately, we are one of the 5 percent that has decided to remain partially open, but we can’t accept new guests. The government in Thailand hasn’t allowed any hotels to accept new guests. Maybe next month, the hotels will be able to partially begin to open.
  • We’re obviously right now in a state where most of our locations around the world are closed, but we do have a couple of them open. Our hotel in China is doing really well. Just to give an example, we had about 170 hotels closed a month ago in China. Now the number is 15.
  • Once some restrictions were lifted in China, we had 70 walk-ins for the restaurant the first day, which we never had before. As plans move forward for all our hotels, we also see that they’re going to open and, obviously, at different times.
  • I would love to brainstorm about how we can communicate and connect with things such as love, compassion, kindness and consciousness. Before, everything was about experiences, health, wellness and sustainability, which are pillars, but now we’re also seeing that people will want to connect, and people want to feel free.
  • We’re at a time where we are attempting to save cash right now because we’re losing a lot of money, and we’re in a bad position. We are also brainstorming and trying to figure out next steps of where the future is going and what changes are needed for the industry.
  • We have to look at the future because if we don’t, we’re not going to be prepared for it. We will be more holistic and look more closely at those pillars of wellness.
  • We have learned from COVID-19 that guests will want science-based evidence.
  • Mental health will be our focus because we’re going to come out of something that is really shaking people to the core. We will have to look at mental and physical exercise.
  • Switzerland has been closed for over a month. We are in our normal closed season because we’re seasonal destinations.
  • The physical disconnect that everyone is experiencing is definitely bringing about some new challenges for spas because of massages and healing by touch.
  • We will need to support the process of healing. We need to offer therapy for support. We will need to focus on love and compassion within the work when we do our treatments.
  • The human touch has a strong healing power. I think that a lot of people are doing virtual yoga, but when they do come back to the wellness centers, I think they’re going to want more of the actual contact.
  • Our therapists will be looking for better hygiene controls and standards. We have to be prepared for bacterial infections, and we know how easy it is for these to spread, so we need better controls in our centers. The temperature of the water we work with should be addressed as well as hygiene controls and which laws are needed to implement better standards.
  • I think that day spas are going to become very important because people are looking at how they can strengthen their immune systems, not just wait to get sick. They know the value of having a strong immune system right now.
  • I feel regular use of our centers will be important, even though we’re a hotel and definitely a resort destination, people travel to us for the experience. We already have a lot of people that use our centers and live locally. There’s a need for them to do that regularly now because people are looking at ways of prevention, prevention of illness, and strengthening the immune system.
  • In Dubai, there are some spas in hotels that are actually using some of the hotel’s suites to create personal spa rooms where you’re limiting contact with other people in the hotel or spa.
  • From another conversation about some hotels in the UK, they are doing a kind of B&B service where everything will be in your room. While you leave your home and check into a place with a beautiful view of the seaside or mountain, you are actually still confined to your room; however, you will be brought a beautiful fresh breakfast in the morning, etc.
  • We are creating masks and PPE for therapists.
  • There are two reasons for wearing a mask. One is to ensure that you don’t infect other people. And the other reason is not to be infected yourself.
  • When we’re in a spa situation, there needs to be some guarantee for guests that they won’t be infected from staff and for staff that they won’t be infected from guests.
  • So, we produced the masks from fabrics we had in stock, and now I’m looking at what treatments one can put on fabrics to make them antiviral.
  • The real problem is it’s not sustainable in terms of our normal values because the normal fabrics that we use, which are natural fabrics, actually absorb water, and that is the way that the virus can penetrate. So, if we want to up the standard, then we need to use polyester, which is not great.
  • I’m also extremely concerned in the big scheme of things about the mountain of non-biodegradable polyester that all these medical gowns are going to create and what’s happening to the gloves and the masks as well as the disposable ones and where they’re being thrown. That is going to actually pollute for the future.
  • The question will really be more around what happens to the other consumers, the ones that are more concerned? And what can we, in hospitality, do to understand their preferences in terms of procedures and also from a technology perspective.
  • We’re doubling down right now on things around the entire experience. As in checking into the hotel, things around mobile keys, things around mobile payments, so that there is less touch.
  • On the touch side of things, having these procedures such as washing their hands right in front of the guests and having protective equipment for the therapist, which protects the guests and the therapist, I think a lot of these things may be optional or perhaps standard.
  • I’m a spa-goer and a big traveler. So, I’ve lived all over the world and travel all the time. I’m going to talk as a client. I’ve lived in China, and whenever I had a massage or had a manicure/pedicure, they always wore a mask. I never thought much about it, but I think it’s going to be the future globally.
  • Living here in New York, I think about how lax I’ve always been. I never thought anything about going to Chinatown and having massages or to Korean Town or going to a big hotel spa in the city that has all sorts of services. I won’t be doing that even with a mask. I mean, not till we find testing.
  • Since we don’t know what the future holds until we find a way to test, I can see hotels opening up before the spas open up. Let me tell you, I love spas. I love massages, and I’m going to be very wary of that until I know that we’re in a safer zone than we are right now.
  • I don’t know what the spa and gyms around the country are going to do because I don’t see people running back to get in the gym. No matter how much you go around cleaning the equipment off, it just takes one person who is infected to infect others.
  • We are likely going to have to look into treatments that don’t require touching, except on equipment that can be cleansed. We should probably expect more virtual reality during treatments.
  • Maybe one way that spas can be creative is to bring the outdoors in and using the outdoors as a location for certain services. Often spas only offer treatments within their four walls. There’s going to be a huge demand when this is all over for vacations into nature.
  • There’s a perception by many that if you are in nature, for example, out taking a walk and social distancing, you feel safer than if you’re inside.
  • It seems like a good idea to build menus around outdoor activities, whether it’s yoga outside or some other activity or treatment. That will result in less focus on what is offered inside.
  • Some hotels are actually open around the world, more than people think there are. They are keeping a low profile. In some cases, they have groups of people who flew in just in time to isolate, and in other instances, they have full-time residents.
  • Sometimes they have people who got stuck. For instance, there’s one hotel that is already open now, in which you can dine and basically do your own treatment or fitness anywhere, but you’ll never come into contact with anybody else.
  • There’s another hotel that has been open throughout. This one’s in the USA. After a checkout, the room is left for 48 hours before anybody goes into it. The entire area is sprayed and the bathroom sits for a further 24 hours to assure hygiene.
  • I’ve come across a hotel that will be reopening in the next couple of weeks. This hotel is going to turn its unused bedrooms into private dining venues so that everybody has their own private restaurant. Why not do the same for spas?
  • I want to bring up some studies. There are important findings by JAMA, and the internal medicine journal has a study on the mental health impact of COVID. They point out that there will be a tremendous amount of alienation that this will bring into our society. That is, of course, the antithesis of what we in the wellness industry propose.
  • I suggest that we all look for ways to put the message out there that prevention, which is the core message of this industry, is the business that we’re really in.
  • It’s all about content. If you look now on LinkedIn, people are doing virtual retreats on all of these subject matters.
  • In my country, we are seeing that there’s a bit more social distancing. People in nail services are getting asked to do hair services, and the therapists are wearing masks, but people seem to be using the services somewhat like normal.
  • I think our spa family is resilient and super confident that if we join together, we’ll definitely come out stronger.
  • There will be new standardizations and guidelines. The spa-goer, the consumer, and also the spa operator must have confidence that we’re set on the right path.
  • In South Africa, when hotels start to reopen, we do not know if the spas and the gyms will be allowed to open at the same time as the hotels.
  • In Slovenian, we are at the moment operating three spas for patients with an urgent need for rehabilitation. They are sending patients directly from the hospitals to our spas.
  • We have prepared strict medical procedures, and it obviously has been working, since we have no infections in patients or staff.
  • In two weeks, we will start opening beauty salons within our spas and services for daily ambulatory rehabilitation.
  • We are also working on hotel standards, and they will be ready soon.
  • The European Spas Association is sending out a call for evidence-based data regarding balneotherapy and its effect on the immune system.
  • The two releases are here:
  • We are also working with the European Waterpark Association for plans regarding reopening.

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