Spa & Hospitality: Insights on
Reopening, Resetting, Reimaging
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: Insights on Reopening, Resetting, Reimaging
Date of Discussion: June 16, 2020
Countries/Regions Represented: Antarctica, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belgium, Bermuda, Bhutan, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jersey, Kenya, Korea, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Monaco, Morocco, Netherlands, Panama, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Saint Lucia, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Turkey, Ukraine, UAE, UK, US, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe.

  • Lanserhof: In Austria, we had to close all businesses, and we have just reopened on June 14. There are only 372 COVID cases in total all over Austria. We can safely reopen our resort, Lanserhof, now.
  • The effective thing to do is social distancing and make sure the flow of patients or guests is safe. In London, where I am currently, the patients enter from one side of the business and leave from the other side. I’m sure not all of you have this opportunity given the architecture of each business, but it is definitely something to consider as a measure to take.
  • In Germany, we have not been very affected. The clinics have been able to stay open the whole time. We use a lot of aprons, face shields, disposable masks—as this is considered a clinic. All of our staff normally use FFP II masks, which is a little bit of a higher standard compared to your usual disposable mask. So far, we have been pleasantly surprised by the handling of the crisis in the resort—there was not a lot of interaction and, so far, the situation has been very stable.
  • I think you should reassure the customer before they come to the clinic or the resort that all the safety measures are in place and then help them know what to expect before they arrive. I feel this gives a lot of reassurance to people.
  • So, Germany, for example, we had maximum capacity. This is because, in Germany, the safety levels are quite high, and I am happy to say the business is as usual, whereas in Austria, we are down to 40 percent at the moment and in the UK the same.
  • Asia Pacific Spa and Wellness Coalition: I chaired the Asia Pacific Spa and Wellness Coalition, which is based in Singapore, and we’re actually just starting some quite detailed internal industry research this week. So, come next week, we should have some very important numbers.
  • But generally speaking, as it stands across the Asia Pacific region, with the exception of Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia, we are operational. Malaysia is hoping to find out next week about getting back to operation, and for Singapore, we’ll find out on Friday. In terms of Indonesia, currently, it is looking like July, early August.
  • For places like Bali, I was told that there are day spas operating at the moment.
  • The whole discussion about the use of gloves continues to be an ongoing issue. Should we use them? Should we not use them? In terms of face shields and face masks, the answer is yes. In Hong Kong, it’s compulsory to wear face shields.
  • Thailand is open. Vietnam is open. While all of these countries are open, we don’t have the international tourists back yet. As a result, we target the local tourist today. We are trying to bring back any sort of business.
  • I’m wondering about therapists and staffing. There has been a lot of concern on the part of the therapists or supervising folks with the Coronavirus.
  • Unfortunately, I think the therapist has been overlooked in most cases. It’s been more about the survival of the business. Not as much concern has been put into the rank and file workers.
  • It’s interesting in the last couple of days, I’ve had a couple of conversations about places that are open and the salaries that are being paid. There’s a lot of business owners out there that have made very bad names for themselves. The staff has worked their butts off, and they are now starting to reduce salaries. Some are reducing by 50 percent, which is a bit of a slap in the face if you ask me.
  • ISPA: We have been doing town halls on opening, and we’ve been focused on spa directors that are currently open and accepting guests. The good news is that consumer demand seems to be there.
  • Some very key lessons are being learned. Communication is critical for both your guests and your staff. We have to be sure that we’re meeting our staff where they are. Not everybody can come back to work, you know, childcare is still closed, you’re taking care of aging parents, so really listening to understand. Since many are operating at 50 percent right now, all the staff don’t have to come back. And so, they can come back in a cadence that works for them.
  • Really going back to the basics, and things are changing every single day. I think every day feels like a week, and every week feels like a month. So, we really have to stay in tune and follow our local guidelines.
  • We should know how to dispose of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). If you’re handing it out, what do you do with it when people leave—particularly if it could be infected. We need to really do our homework.
  • We are hearing that retail is flying off the shelves—and that seems to be across the board. Consumers are hungry for retail, so plan ahead and definitely stock up.
  • There is a focus on immunity boosters and supplements. And in hindsight, what everybody has wished they had done, was increased their capacity to take calls. Most were not prepared for the calls. More importantly, the length of calls, as the consumers are asking a lot more questions.
  • I think we always have been a very clean, safe, nurturing environment. Now, we have to bring our new guidelines, sanitation guidelines, to the forefront and put them on display. That’s critical. Post your policies. What’s going to be a challenge for some directors as they bring their staff in, in a cadence, you have to train them all. They all need to speak the same language. Don’t deviate from your plan. Create your plan, and then follow it.
  • ISPA toolkit has now been viewed over 150,000 times, which is unbelievable. It’s on the Global Wellness Summit website as well. We encourage you to use those checklists and marketing tools.
  • Mandarin Oriental: Actually, most of our hotels remain closed. All of our hotels in the US are closed. Most of our hotels in Europe remain closed. Across Asia, we’re opening. So, we’re open right now in China, Taiwan, Macau, and Hong Kong. We have opened the hotel and the fitness center in Kuala Lumpur but not the spa yet. And we’re open in Prague. That’s the one spa that we have opened in Europe right now. And I think the good news is, as other speakers have said, that the demand has been there. From day one where we’ve reopened, our customers were kind of waiting to come in. Customers have been very positive. Our guests have come in, and they’ve been very appreciative of being able to get their services.
  • We were one of the last spas in town to start doing facials. We were very cautious and conservative in our approach, but we were literally getting so much pressure from our guests to start doing facials that eventually we decided to begin offering facials again. Nevertheless, it was almost two weeks after the government said it was okay.
  • I think that it did send a strong message in Hong Kong that we are very cautious and very safe in our operation. That’s the most important thing right now—that we maintain the reputation that our guests trust us and that we operate in as safe a manner as possible, given the circumstances.
  • The caveat that I would say is that in all of those locations where we are open, the governments were very strong. They really cracked down early on the virus, put regulations in place, and were able to enforce those regulations. So, most of those places where spas are open, it feels relatively safe because measures have been put in place, the case counts are down, and the virus is not growing.
  • It’s still early, and we’re aware of the fact that the guests who have come back so far are really probably the first wave of guests that aren’t maybe as concerned about the virus. Really, the question is, how do we make sure we get the people back who are a little bit more sensitive and who are a little bit more concerned about the situation. How can we make sure they feel safe to come back as well?
  • We had a very good response from our employees thus far in all of the locations where we have opened. Our colleagues have been eager to return to work and very positive about getting the spas back open and coming back to work. But I have heard from other regions that there are challenges, I think, partially because the incentives are just different in different parts of the world. Some employees are hesitant to coming back to work if they feel that the virus is not under control in their region, then they might feel that it’s a safety issue to come back to work.
  • Just to mention, unfortunately, some of you might have seen in the news, there has been a resurgence of cases in Beijing. We had to re-close our spa today—for at least the next three days. And so that just raises the question about, will we start seeing a second wave in certain locations?
  • Open discussion: I want to bring up the therapist’s concerns. There are about four primary ones, one on ventilation, one on blood clots, one on people not being truthful on intake forms, and on screening. I’m in New York City. I practice between New York and New Jersey. Another one coming is the issue of people who have Coronavirus symptoms for 90 days.
  • For the therapist, in-room ventilation is our biggest concern, especially for windowless rooms. How are you going to increase air circulation in those cases? Some preliminary suggestions are leaving the treatment room door open, which leads to some other concerns.
  • The second issue is those who have had Coronavirus. There is damage to the blood vessels. This is something still being studied, but the therapists are concerned with massaging clients who disclose they have had Coronavirus. They are concerned that there will be blood clotting, which will lead to some type of cardiac situation. We’re looking at the issue of a Coronavirus liability release form and could that be crafted to protect the therapist.
  • Number three is we’ve seen Facebook posts and on certain massage group websites, especially for those states who have reopened first, that clients have come in for a massage, hair service or any type of service, and they were so desperate to get those services that they would call back the next day and say, “oh, by the way, I tested positive for Coronavirus. I was just waiting to get the test back.” And so that operation gets shut down and needs to go through a very cumbersome process that includes all kinds of sanitization, screening, etc. And everyone has to be screened in that process.
  • Overall, depending on your state regulations and how massage therapists are classified, there are additional factors. I can speak for New York and New Jersey massage therapists. They’re not categorized by their state boards as personal care. They’re classified as medical healthcare professionals, meaning that there’s a whole set of extra responsibility and weight on their license, especially in COVID.
  • Massage therapists in New York must be tested every 14 days. And for those who have been doing outcalls, New Jersey’s is banning outcall massage totally—no house calls.
  • Our resort opened on the eighth, and it was a very careful planning process. The very first thing is that we sent out a communication. It was a very beautiful video to all guests and members to let them know what procedures in terms of sanitation and cleanliness took place. After that, there was a whole week of maintenance, discarding many things, checking air conditioning and such. The week before opening was about putting all the new procedures in place in terms of spa disinfection and training, giving all instructions and safety guidelines, and what is needed to be done when there is an extra-strong cleaning week.
  • In our case, we had eight reservations at the spa at the beginning of the week. But on the Thursday of that week, there were 125 and then treatments reserved throughout the entire day. The other spa has 20 treatment rooms, and there were 30 or 40 treatments reserved.
  • What I want to share is that we cannot lose the core of hospitality we offer. Yes, we do have to keep physical distancing; however, we have added a special boosting drink that we give them to welcome them. It just made our guests feel so happy.
  • The issue of ventilation and air circulation keeps coming up, and the question is, has anybody solved for that? Has anybody figured out how to deal with that?
  • We give regular breaks for all the staff. Every two hours, we take them outdoors, and we do a mindful breathing exercise so they can oxygenate. The hotel gives them three different masks throughout the day so they can really ventilate.
  • We’re actually an accessory in the industry. We primarily provide tour operators, travel advisors, and hotels with data product communication. A lot of that stopped at the time of COVID. So, we got drawn into PPE, and we have become sort of experts at PPE. We started providing a lot of PPE products to hospitals.
  • We’re bringing products for a variety of applications to companies and medical practice. With medical practices, the grades have to be higher-level ones. What I learned is that you have to be very careful from whom you are buying products, as you need to check certifications and standards, etc.
  • You know, one thing we all need to be mindful of is the survival of the business, the industry, the finances, the numbers. It seems everyone wants to be optimistic; however, if you are limited by capacity, how do you maintain a viable business?
  • And how do you reset this industry for thriving in the future?
  • The Indian industry has been restarted in a unique way in India. We have approached the central ministry here, and we have restarted the industry with certain guidelines that are designed by the industry players and legends in India. It is the first time that all competitors and all players have come together under one platform. We helped set up one voice as the one guideline for the Indian industry.
  • So, all the players came together, and they started talking about the hygiene and safety guidelines to the public via the media, and that’s how they’ve been able to help get the businesses open again and begin generating revenue.
  • We need to realize that some of these changes we are making—things will never go back to where they were before.
  • Everybody seems to be very excited about having 40 percent of their clients, or there are some lucky ones that have full capacity. But there has to be some understanding that if I have a restaurant that seats 500 people, and I now socially distance and only serve 250 meals a day, and I’m working on a certain percentage profit, I’m out of business.
  • We have to create new income streams. We have to raise our prices. We have to work with our staff and consider outreaching as much as possible. We may need to do outcalls or, in some way, extend our brick and mortar. We need to consider what we can do via technology that could end up bringing in income.
  • As a New Yorker, I’m in the center of the litigious world, and while some of your countries probably have no lawsuits, we already have class action suits that are saying that we’re not doing the right thing.
  • We’re not mentioning the antibody test as a way of finding the truth about somebody, whether or not they have had the virus. That should be coming out much sooner than a vaccine and something that can be done in-house in 15 minutes.
  • You know, 50 percent capacity isn’t going to do it. It’s interesting about raising prices, new income streams, and virtual options. Opening to other people has been successful for some in terms of adding a new income stream. Perhaps selling more retail, for example. It’s definitely the time for creativity and innovation.
  • If any of your services can be done outdoors, that would be helpful.
  • We just had a very successful Global Wellness Day event; we did 24 hours of wellness online, live streaming on Instagram. Whereas normally, we would have done those events in person at our hotels—this year, it was all done virtually.
  • I think the good side of this story is that we have developed all kinds of skills in-house. We are proud to do an event like this, and it will make it much easier for us to do things like this in the future. We’re doing personal training online. We are doing home delivery of restaurant meals and spa products and other retail. We are doing fitness and streaming classes.
  • It’s clear that the companies that can innovate and pivot their businesses have opportunities. A tremendous amount of business can be done online. And those that were ready for it, who had the supplies, who had the infrastructure, were able to really continue to stay in business. As a result of that experience, I think some of this will change permanently.
  • My observations are that a lot of the good talk you’re hearing is great for the big corporations that have got the marketing resources, where profitability is not necessarily measured just purely in the performance of the spa, but it’s absorbed into other areas. They can be nimble and quicker because they’ve got multiple resources.
  • The interesting challenge is for the small individual businesses that don’t have all of those resources. They have impositions put on them by the authorities in terms of space, in terms of turnover, in terms of how to allocate resources, and, of course, their two biggest costs are either the lease or the property cost and the payroll costs.
  • Any kind of innovation has to be regarding how do you use your people. Can you actually do home service? Can you go out and go beyond your property and provide services? Can you bring people to you and actually use Uber and other such services to bring people to you and have incentives for them to come to your store? It’s going to be how well your relationship is with your existing customers. How are your relationships with your employees, how can you leverage that and be creative, and how to deploy those resources?
  • We also have a new generation. In our business, one of our daughters thought of putting a youth hostel on the farm for young people who don’t have much money to come and experience what we have to offer and that would add to the guests that come to the spa. We are planning this in the coming future. And we also deliver organic food to the surrounding area.
  • We are also thinking about moving into real estate and community health. We invited professionals from all areas to participate in our lives. So, we brought wellness to other sectors in society. So that has brought us some financial rewards, not that this was our motive, as it was really just to spread the word.
  • We’re researching adding consultancy, specifically, on wellness and innovation. We are forced to look at different ways of doing business. We’re looking at physical propositions and digital propositions merged into one.
  • We’re doing a lot of work on sensory research. That is going to be key to this new platform of sensory experiences. That’s not quite the internet. And that’s not quite physical either, but somewhere in between. I think this is the time to prototype innovation right now. All of these different industries within the wellness umbrella are looking to create protocols. Let’s convert these protocols into rituals.
  • Those retailers that had an online platform, and I would say second and third-tier digital initiatives, those are the ones getting attention and getting traction. Think of how to integrate physical services with virtual services. And I think that’s going to be a wonderful bridge to get us to this next phase.
  • The research is showing that one of the key things now is that companies really do need to get much closer to their customers and learn what’s important to them.
  • I think one of the things we’re definitely seeing is that, actually, it’s really difficult to predict. A lot of people are saying they’re going to behave one way or the other, but actually, they’re behaving in a very different way. They are responding to this sort of transition with a little bit of digital.
  • I’ve been working recently with a smaller boutique hotel and spa. And what they’ve done is they’ve actually turned their staff into personal influencers. So, they’ve sort of been working one-on-one with clients via using normal technology like WhatsApp or Zoom and still giving that real personal attention that people are craving because of the isolation.
  • We are very much phrasing these things as only a transition. And obviously, for long-term mental health reasons, we need people to be able to once again have physical contact. People enjoy having person-to-person interactions. That’s going to be really crucial down the line so that people don’t go further into mental health problems as a result of doing everything offline.
  • Let’s do something different for a moment as we wrap up this call. Please close your eyes and get in touch with what emotion you are feeling right now. Could we please hear from some of you on this call—in terms of one word that would describe how you are feeling right now. My word would be excited. Nancy? Creative. Others? Inspired, motivated, hopeful, optimistic, happy, driven, concerned, anxious, connected, curious, positive, ambivalent, adaptogenic, challenged, transcending, and grateful. I see others have shared your words on chat…thank you for that.

CHAT:

  • I’m from the US. I own three luxury day spas, and we are now in our fourth week of reopening, and it’s now looking very promising. Each week our service sales and retail are growing. Last week, we were down 30 percent over last year. I finally see the light.
  • International shipping is also affected. Staying supplied may be something to watch out for depending on location.
  • In Costa Rica, hotels are already open but not spas. Fitness centers are allowed to be open up to 50 percent of capacity.
  • Here in Portugal, the wellness centers and everything related to spas are closed.
  • What do the fitness centers do to prevent the spread of the virus—could you share?
  • Focus on the person-to-person exchange of health healing and wellness. Do that at a high-performance level. Be confident that you and your clients, staff and support providers are worthy. An ounce of light overcomes a ton of darkness. David Alvey, Power-Om.net.
  • Regarding safety, check out the CDC and WHO discussing media hype and actual numbers on the virus. Could help people feel better.
  • Thank you to the Global Wellness Summit team for providing this invaluable and effective platform. If you love green and sustainable solutions for hotels, do not miss to connect with me on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/giovanniberselli/
  • Treatment rooms and disinfecting air units along with PPE. Here is the website: https://scientificairmanagement.com/
  • Doctors are now speaking about COVID Long. That’s where symptoms last more than 90 days.
  • News in the UK broke an hour ago that they’ve found a drug that can reduce COVID deaths by just under a third. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/06/16/5-steroid-slashes-deaths-one-third-severe-coronavirus-patients/
  • In India, for the first time, we have formed an alliance for hygienists and safety guidelines. ipbwa.org
  • On June 18, we have a new stage of swimming pools opening everywhere with some safety restrictions.
  • Our entire spas were treated with Microshield 360, and we installed air purifiers to all air conditioner units to help with the airflow. https://microshield360.com/
  • I have a question regarding break-even for spas. The spa industry has the same issue as the airline industry. If the break-even point is at more than 70 percent fill rate, how can you be profitable while maintaining social distancing guidelines?
  • This issue of ventilation and air circulation that Kristina brought up is very interesting. Does anyone have any solutions they’ve come up with?
  • IHRSA.org has a list of fitness center/health club status. Forty of 50 states are allowed to open with some restrictions.
  • Is anyone implementing Far UV-C light in treatment rooms?
  • Here are the New York State phase 3 massage guidelines: https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/Personal_Care_Summary_Guidelines.pdf
  • A lot of facilities have added airPHX https://www.airphx.com/
  • There exists a machine from Bosch that could test people within three hours for COVID. The problem is this machine is expensive—40k, but it would be worth the investment for big institutions if a second wave comes.
  • Are any of you providing health and wellness information for your staff for them to be more resilient, deal with stress, improve their own health and immune function? I’m a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Workplace Wellness Consultant. I hear everyone focused on the physical sanitation and the spaces only. Your staff can do a LOT to improve their health and be more resistant. High stress depletes the immune system; poor nutrition depletes it (especially junk food, sugar). At the end of the day, PPE will provide good optics, but that’s not bullet-proof. You’re only looking at half the equation.
  • We are allowed to open in Brazil, 50 percent occupation. We will reopen June 21, after training new protocols, with much outside activity and 50 percent occupancy. We already have 25 confirmed guests.
  • Hotel owners and operators need to be very innovative, as there is always opportunity in any adversity. We are here to help and are already working on new hotel concepts and the future of hotel design. Get in touch at https://www.gosportsart.ch/Prova/Home.html
  • Is there not a tread for spas to become progressively smaller today anyway? No longer the big grand spaces, with low utilization rates. Instead, smaller spaces with a focus on higher utilization/occupancy/productivity rates.
  • I opened an online retail store that just launched Friday.
  • One thing to consider is bringing your fitness offerings outside; this will eliminate the indoor ventilation concern and activate outdoor space. We need to think of custom experiences, such as 1-1 mindful sessions. My company has had success in working with Directors of Spa and GMs to create a brand-aligned mindful and outdoor fitness services.
  • Personalized online services have greater reception and usage than commercialized solutions. Your clients want to connect with your
  • I understand you are busy navigating what you can do to get back to business. I encourage you to support your staff (and yourself). You can’t be effective wellness professionals if you’re not taking care of your people’s health and wellness.
  • Lots of potential for IoT digital in sustainability, IMO with building trust. Even the simple lounger terrace where hospitality can step up with the consumption of lounger utility/vacancy time.
  • Converting protocols into rituals!

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