Roundtable: Spa & Wellness

Three spa and wellness professionals share their views on trends, common design mistakes and shifting consumer expectations

Ziad Danab (divisional manager at Delta Fitness), Julanda Marais (regional director of Talise spa) and Vyara Tosheva (wellness manager at The Retreat Palm Dubai MGallery)
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Ziad Danab (divisional manager at Delta Fitness), Julanda Marais (regional director of Talise spa) and Vyara Tosheva (wellness manager at The Retreat Palm Dubai MGallery)

What are some current trends in the spa and wellness field?

Ziad Danab: With the need to offer more training opportunities with minimal operating costs. Hotels are looking to virtual or digital methods to further expand their fitness proposition. As hotels increase the average square m of gym space, the ability to diversify their training offering is greater than ever, moving away from the basic mix of equipment to a more contemporary layout satisfying the needs of the most discerning exerciser.

Julanda Marais: Integrating experiences with many touch points to make guests feel healthier and happier. An overall wellness travel experience is becoming common, ranging from the airport spaces, on board the airplane and into hotels. Mental wellness is hitting areas ranging from workplaces to travel and hospitality. We will not only have access to workout spaces, but also have access to spaces that tap into the emotional zone. Taking care of the emotional and spiritual self just as much as the physical self is essential.

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Vyara Tosheva: Wellness is one of the fastest growing sectors in the travel industry in the UAE. Wellness and wellbeing are no longer words only used by a particular niche of individuals, the market is certainly more informed, people are researching how to be a part of the growing trend and are no longer intimidated. Nowadays hotels are eager to offer more than a simple spa therapy or healthy meals but they take a holistic approach on body, mind and soul. A holistic wellbeing experience embraces a 360О approach to wellness, from the check-in experience and spa treatments, to consultations and dining. At The Retreat Palm Dubai MGallery, we offer immersive experiences, encouraging lifelong memories that are all inspired from the philosophy of wellbeing and personal transformation.

Rayya Wellness Center

How much space should be dedicated to spa and wellness venues in hotels?

Danab: Average hotel gyms are between 50-100m2. However, whilst the number of keys is an important factor, other factors such as external commercial opportunities, target audience demographics, and current customer base should be considered to achieve a balanced environment allowing 80-120m2, although this could increase significantly if operating a local membership model.

Marais: It’s difficult to provide an exact number since I believe it should be cross-functional and incorporated into the overall design. We should focus on creating multi-use, dynamic spaces to deliver a diverse range of experiences and activities that enhance wellbeing, with the Spa being one of them. Maximise your square metres since space is luxury and can be especially very pricy in urban locations.

Tosheva: It is important to define who we attract - leisure, business or wellness travellers and to consider the space available for wellness facilities too.  For example in a 60 -70 room inventory, the minimum required space is 60 – 80 m2 in order to accommodate basic facilities such as sauna, steam rooms, jacuzzi, ice fountain, etc.  If there are plans to have additional relaxation facilities and small indoor pool for instance, the space may go up to 130m2. If beauty and spa therapy rooms are needed that may require additional 20-30m2. To maximise the effect of wellness retreats and other wellness solutions, the environment beyond the wellness centre’s doors  should support and prolong the feelgood effect. The entire ground floor is designed to be used in a relaxed way.

Hydrotherapy pools at SPA

How are clients’ expectations shifting in terms of wellness facilities?

Danab: It used to be the case that if a hotel offered a gym – it was a bonus, now it’s an expectation, with the product mix and design determining the level of guest satisfaction. As gym membership penetration rates continue to increase, hotels have to offer environments that allow exercisers the ability to maintain their current programme.

Marais: Having a location relevant design that appeals to multi markets and multi purposes and driving higher utilisation of our spaces by engaging day spa usage. This will not only create a sense of community for the hotel guests, but will also ultimately boost the top and bottom line. Guests want to pick and choose their wellness activity and manufacture their experiences, with us being the facilitators.

Tosheva: I believe guests are looking for smart spa design, especially when talking about developing wellbeing concepts. The customer will expect clean, less cluttered spaces, more space to breathe and to be and simply let go. Modern yet simplistic, sustainable, accessible. More guests appreciate the natural environment with less toxic materials such as wood, natural stones and crystals to enhance experience.

Fitness equipment

What are some common design mistakes that hotels make?

Danab: Whilst two out of three travellers look for a gym when travelling, less than 50% will use the facility with lack of variety in equipment and small space being the primary reasons. Other mistakes are when hotels allow the local market to influence the design and not the primary hotel customer base. Making the gym look like a meeting room with equipment, instead of a purposeful, inspiring professionally laid out environment is important.

Marais: To design the spa without the contribution of the person or company that will be operating it. Also, oversized wet areas, poorly planned crossover of guests and staff and not considering the ease of access for hotel guests and local guests. Lighting also plays a big role in creating different ambiances and is often overseen as a detail.

Tosheva: I believe hotels have to have a long-term vision when designing their spa space and know the dynamic of the place and the concept of the hotel. BOH and FOH has to be synergised and offer seamless and smooth journey to both the internal (being the employees) and external customers, so there is no direct exposure of guests to the employee areas and employees are always given their space in pantries and work area to create their recipes . The other factor that is usually not considered is the experience flow in terms of meet and greet at the front desk, going through the journey of therapy and relaxation and finishing with the retail area as the final point in the customer journey.

Quartz bed room

What KPIs define a successful wellness space?

Marais: Utilisation rates of treatment rooms and of therapists. From an investor’s perspective, the treatment revenue per square m is also essential. Average treatment rate, revenue per available treatment hour and number of treatments sold per day will also define a successful wellness space.

Tosheva: Successful wellness space KPIs are far beyond the financial KPIs such as treatment rate, occupancy, therapist utilisation and revenues. This is definitely crucial, however, what we do with this data and how we analyse it to make the space even more consumer friendly is important. In terms of design the key is in simplicity of the flow, designing the energy flow in a circle that allows free spaces and less distractions on the way. In terms of ROI the utilisation of the spaces that are integrated into the whole plan to make sense of balancing the revenue generation vs. nonrevenue generation.

Life fitness

What are some trends that you can forecast for the next year?

Danab: Virtual/digital training will continue to develop, especially for international hotels looking for 24-hour fitness opportunities. In-room fitness is another strategy that’s been deliberated for many years and with the current market it is finding traction. Better use of space and additional training opportunities, exercisers want more than treadmills, although these products remain the most used pieces.

Marais: Within this industry, it is important to understand and decide which trends are worth embracing and which should be left untouched. Most wellness trends become a big part of our lifestyle. Balancing our connection with the digital world remains a hot topic. Anxiety is rising due to our busy lifestyles, therefore the importance of mental wellness continues to grow. Getting back to basics in many aspects is also on the rise.

Tosheva: Wellness is no longer an addition to hotel spaces but a necessity. This is a vital place for every guest to relax, recharge, be mindful, plan their food journal, and follow a fitness routine. Customers are getting more demanding in terms of those spaces and this is influencing their booking decisions. A few trends include meditation sessions and spaces specifically designed  for this within the hotel (both outdoors and indoors), organic facials and body treatments and finally,  having a nutritionist or wellness chef that works together with the hotel kitchen is a necessity with today’s demanding travellers on different types of diets.

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