How spas deal with inappropriate guest behaviour

Training, education and empowerment essential for reducing harassment say experts

Panellists onstage at the Hotelier Spa and Wellness Forum
Panellists onstage at the Hotelier Spa and Wellness Forum

Spa experts from leading properties in the UAE acknowledged the challenge of inappropriate behaviour from guests.

Speaking at the Hotelier Middle East Spa and Wellness Forum, during an open panel, members of the audience brought up the topic, with some questioning why hotels and high-end spas were held to different standards, when compared to smaller standalone massage centres.

Paul Hawco, director of Talise Spa Operations, Jumeirah Group said the rules on cross gender treatments are very clear. He commented: “I’m part of a government operation so we abide by the rules. We lobby people and speak to the authorities and try to get better understanding because the original

document from 1978 is very vague. We continue trying with our government relations to speak to them, and I think some things could be updated.”
Rotana Hotel Management Corporation’s corporate director of spa operations Aoibheanna Bonner also pointed out the need to provide a safe working environment for therapists. She said: “It’s important for us to create an environment that is comfortable for the colleagues that our working for us to, and create an environment where they are treated as professionals.”

Speaking from the audience, Katherine Peacock-Edwards, spa manager at Park Haytt Abu Dhabi Hotel & Villas also called for spreading more awareness and educating guests as well as therapists on what is acceptable behaviour.

“It comes down to education because you come across situations where a guest expects extra services and it becomes an issue because it degrades them as a therapist and a professional. So I do think it’s also education to the public and the therapists, and allowing therapists to be strong and have a voice.

Grosvenor House & Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort and Spa complex director of spas Galina Antoniouk added: “When it comes to educating the public, you can’t educate everybody. Training the staff is the most important thing. In the beginning, when people face this situation, it will make them very uncomfortable, but as a spa manager, it’s important to give them the training so they feel confident and protected. Therapists should feel strong enough to say no, leave the room, and call the spa manager. Most of the time the guest will feel embarrassed and will pay and leave.”

 

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