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Everyone's talking about
Pampering

Is a pampering image really such a damaging one for the spa industry, or is the link between ‘me time’ and happiness more important than ever? We canvass some industry opinions

By Elly Earls | Published in Spa Business 2012 issue 4


Since the recession in 2008, many operators have started to move away from the idea of spa ‘pampering’ experiences, feeling that presenting their services as an indulgence or a one-off treat has become increasingly inappropriate for a consumer base wracked with money worries.

Instead, a growing number of spas are offering ‘wellness’-orientated, health-focused treatments, such as healing baths and lymphatic massages. They’re beginning to focus on the scientifically-proven medical benefits of their services (see sb10/3 p54) rather than the vague promise of making clients feel better.

But are those spas that are seeking to entirely disassociate themselves with what they perceive as the frivolity of pampering actually missing a trick? For Jeremy McCarthy, director of global spa development and operations for Starwood Hotels & Resorts, who spoke on this subject at the Global Spa and Wellness Summit this June (see sb12/3 p54), without a doubt, yes.

“Happiness tends to have a bad reputation – it’s very superficial and somewhat hedonistic,” he said. “I think we wrestle with our own pampering identity and making people feel good and therefore try to focus more on wellness than pampering. But there are some real, serious, beneficial outcomes that are tied to happiness and I think this is something we should really pay attention to.”

Furthermore, for McCarthy, there are already thousands of medical institutions that offer scientifically-proven treatments much more effectively than a spa ever could. What spas do really well is provide healing that people really love. “There’s no other healing institution that people look forward to going to, that they enjoy when they’re there, or that they remember fondly afterwards the way they do with spa,” he emphasised.

Not everyone in the spa industry, however, feels the same, with a growing number of experts and operators increasingly believing that today’s cash-strapped consumers are only interested in paying for a treatment if it will improve their health in a measurable way and advocating a return to the root of the spa movement when people visited hot or cold springs solely for their therapeutic and healing properties.

But is there a middle ground between pampering for pampering’s sake and entirely science-based treatments? We ask key industry players for their take on the matter.



Michael Stusser Founder Osmosis Day Spa
Sanctuary; and Green Spa Network

 

Michael Stusser
 

The problem I have with the word pampering is what it conjures up in the mind. Indulgence equates to excess, waste and lack of conscious behaviour and is linked to the capricious behaviours of the privileged class. In some ways, it’s just the opposite of enlightenment and mindfulness, which are key components for the psychological orientation of a healthy being. Moreover, it has a strong association with babies, which, in my opinion infantilises the spa experience and demeans the professional image we are trying to create.

Pampering has a limited appeal to a small segment of the population but is a huge turn-off for the larger portion, the people who we need to make understand our industry and hopefully partake in what it has to offer.

Since 2008, the industry has been on its knees. People have become much more sophisticated about what they’re willing to pay for and accept in a treatment. They’re looking for substantial value and want to know that the time and money they’re spending in a spa is going to contribute in a measurable way to improving their quality of life – beyond feeling good for a day.

It’s time for this industry to wake up and smell the coffee. We have to change our value proposition if we’re going to move beyond a struggle for survival. I think it’s really time for us to go deeper into the roots of what created the spa movement in the first place – which is healing and wellness. We strayed away from that during the years of opulence but I don’t think it is going to serve the future of our industry to continue to go down that road.

I cringe every time I hear the word pampering but, unfortunately, it’s deeply embedded in our spa culture. Both consumers and marketers continue to use it frequently but, in my opinion, I don’t want to use it at all in our vernacular as we promote our business. We can do much better and we will have to do much better if we’re going to be able to meet people where they’re going now. It’s time we moved beyond the solipsistic idea of spa we’ve been living in and understand how to become more relevant to what’s happening with wellness globally. Our industry needs an identity change.


It’s time we moved beyond the solipsistic idea of spa we’ve been living in and understand how to become more relevant to what’s happening with wellness globally

Stusser, the founder of Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary, is also a founding member of The Green Spa Network, an association of eco-friendly spa professionals. Details: www.osmosis.com; http://greenspanetwork.org


Jeremy McCarthy Director of Global Spa Development and
Operations
Starwood Hotels & Resorts

 

Jeremy McCarthy
 

As money has become a bigger factor in consumers’ decisions, the spa industry has become concerned that if we’re perceived as a luxury or indulgence, people will stop coming. So there’s been a general feeling that if we could focus more on wellness and health, consumers would really value our services and spend money with us, even in tough times.

But if the industry moves away from pampering, we move away from what differentiates us. There are a lot of other businesses and industries focused on health, but what spas do really well is offer healing that feels good and that people look forward to experiencing. If we can emphasise that as the strength of our industry, we could solidify our place as leaders in an aspect of wellness that few people are covering.

At Starwood, we think very deeply about the psychology of the spa experience, and we think it has a lot to do with time. A lot of what happens in a spa doesn’t have so much to do with the treatment being received, it has to do with the fact that you’re being separated from technology for a while and you’re alone in a room with silence. So, even before the therapist lays their hands on the guest, there are many things that are happening that are important to the guest’s psychological wellbeing.

Moreover, there are some pretty clear scientifically established links between feeling good and being well. For example, when we’re feeling better we become more open to positive health lifestyles and behaviours. And positive emotions act as a buffer, protecting us from the harmful effects of stress (see sb12/2 p98). Of course there is a superficial side to pampering and spas don’t want to be associated with that, but what I would argue is that what people don’t like about the concept of pampering is that it seems excessive. Yet, for me, the opposite is actually true: people aren’t being pampered enough. When we go to other healing institutions in our society, such as hospitals and clinics, they don’t make us feel good, and they don’t treat us the way we want to be treated.

The biggest mistake that we make is assuming that you have to be one or the other – pampering or wellness. I think what spas do really well is both and that’s what the industry is moving towards. By sharing some of the science behind positive emotions, I’ve been trying to elevate the discussion to move people towards more of a mindful approach to wellness and pampering, and I think we’re getting there.


The biggest mistake we make is assuming that
you have to be one or the other – pampering or wellness. What spas do really well is both


McCarthy has over 20 years of experience in operating luxury resort spas and recently completed a masters degree in Applied Positive Psychology. He’s also recently authored The Psychology of Spas & Wellbeing.
Details: www.starwoodhotels.com


Mark Lyttleton-Frances General Manager The BodyHoliday

 

Mark Lyttleton-Frances
 

Pampering is very much part of the whole holistic wellness experience – if you’re looking after your health, part of that is ‘me time’ and pampering. It’s an emotional rather than a physical thing – it’s not necessarily about the quality of the treatment or therapist, it’s about that hour of being totally looked after by someone else.

I’ve seen spas, particularly in the day spa/salon world, moving away from pampering towards holistic and wellness experiences because they think that is what people are looking for. But I don’t necessarily believe that to be true. If anything, The BodyHoliday does more pampering now, and we’re actually in the process of building a new manicure-pedicure suite and bringing on a full range of organic cosmetics. Our guests are actually telling us that they want that ‘me time’, that they want to be looked after and that they want to feel good.

I’ve seen a big change since the economic meltdown. I’m finding that those in the high-income group who still have money are spending it on time, rather than material things – they’re buying something emotional, something to make them feel better. Similarly, people in the middle-income bracket are coming out here [to the resort] because they have saved up to take themselves off and use these services to refresh, relax and refocus. I’m finding there’s more of a move back towards pampering rather than away from it.

But pampering is changing and we’re seeing a big move towards organic cosmetics. People are also moving away from things like Botox and surgical facelifts to natural pampering treatments such as thalassotherapy. The pampering is still going on, and it’s going on more than it ever did, but it’s refocused.

I don’t think spas moving towards wellness and holistic therapies will lose out on any business, but I do think they will become a dime a dozen – everybody will be offering the same health and wellness programmes. However, those who continue to offer pampering will find themselves capturing both ends of the market.

We did 108,000 treatments last year, so I think anyone out there who is giving salons or spas a hard time about pampering because it’s seen to be frivolous and for the wealthy got it wrong. Pampering is more for everyman than it ever has been before.


We did 108,000 treatments last year, so I think anyone giving spas a hard time about pampering because it’s seen to be frivolous and for the wealthy got it wrong

Lyttleton-Frances has been in the hospitality industry for over 20 years and currently runs St Lucia’s The BodyHoliday resort.
Details: www.thebodyholiday.com


Jennifer Haack Corporate Director of Spa Development Rosewood Hotels & Resorts

 

Jennifer Haack
 

The distinction between pampering and wellness is about how the two things are perceived. Pampering is often seen as something indulgent or selfish while wellness is defined as being in good physical condition and mental health.

Indeed, sometimes spas offer exactly the same services but use different words. For example, at one point soaking in a bath with candlelight and flowers could have seen as pampering, while the inclusion of aromatherapy and mineral-rich ingredients could have seen it packaged as a ‘luxe’ treatment to improve wellbeing. Now, however, we’re trying to create baths that are built around wellness. One example of a radical bath that is driven by healing is by Voya – the Irish company that hand harvests seaweed products (see sb12/3 p78) uses them in a bath treatment to ease aches and nourish the body.

For me, it’s really about stating the distinction between pampering and wellness, and seeing pampering as a discipline to achieve wellness or good health. Engaging in services that nurture, heal and feed the body is pampering but it’s an investment in oneself and the end result is wellness.

But although it’s a matter of semantics for me, for others, it’s a deciding factor – pampering is the first thing off their list as it’s become synonymous with something you can live without. People need to be re-educated about the word pampering. If we tie it together with wellness, people would begin to see it as something that isn’t disposable.

We’re trying to do this at Sense [Rosewood’s spa brand]. We source skincare and equipment charged with precious gems, representing luxury, but use these in tandem with biotechnology and science. For example, we’re using tables infused with amethyst or quartz which have been designed to help restore vitality and eliminate toxins. Indeed, we market our services as ‘a balance of science, nature, wellness and beauty, choreographed to achieve an improved state of wellbeing.’ As an industry, we’re trying to change our language to use words such as science, heal and wellness, rather than diluted words like revitalise and relax.

We also need to become more universal as we have to appeal to two separate groups of people. There are those who think only about pampering and we want to re-educate them so they see a visit to the spa as improving their state of being; and there are the people who we want to bring in who are looking for wellness but might not choose to come in because they think that what we’re doing is superficial.

My hope is that we grasp both with the same straw; the goal is to find a way to join the concepts and create awareness that pampering is, by nature, an opportunity to improve wellness. This can be achieved through the choreography of our services, careful selection of products and expert training and attention to detail. Our responsibility to the people who come in is awesome; we need to constantly be connected to the potential outcome of pampering: wellness.


Haack, has been with Rosewood for six years and oversees its nine Sense spas. She has four pending projects in the Middle East and more than five in development in Asia.
Details: www.rosewoodhotels.com
FEATURED SUPPLIERS

Book4Time unveils enhanced day and resort pass functionality
With an increasing number of luxury hotels and resorts offering day and resort passes to drive staycation business, Book4Time, a leader in innovative spa and wellness solutions, is thrilled to announce the launch of Day & Resort Passes on its award-winning platform. [more...]

The sound of success: three ways music can boost spa revenue according to Myndstream’s Freddie Moross
At Myndstream, we understand the power of music elevates the spa experience. But did you know it can also be a powerful revenue generator? [more...]
+ More featured suppliers  
COMPANY PROFILES
TAC | The Assistant Company

Founded in 2001, TAC is an owner-managed company with more than 110 employees and four locations: in [more...]
Comfort Zone

Comfort Zone’s comprehensive face and body range allows clients to experience memorable facials and [more...]
+ More profiles  
CATALOGUE GALLERY
 

+ More catalogues  

DIRECTORY
+ More directory  
DIARY

 

23-24 May 2024

European Health Prevention Day

Large Hall of the Chamber of Commerce (Erbprinzenpalais), Wiesbaden, Germany
30-30 May 2024

Forum HOTel&SPA

Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris, France
+ More diary  
 
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©Cybertrek 2024
Uniting the world of spa & wellness
Get Spa Business and Spa Business insider digital magazines FREE
Sign up here ▸
News   Products   Magazine   Subscribe
Everyone's talking about
Pampering

Is a pampering image really such a damaging one for the spa industry, or is the link between ‘me time’ and happiness more important than ever? We canvass some industry opinions

By Elly Earls | Published in Spa Business 2012 issue 4


Since the recession in 2008, many operators have started to move away from the idea of spa ‘pampering’ experiences, feeling that presenting their services as an indulgence or a one-off treat has become increasingly inappropriate for a consumer base wracked with money worries.

Instead, a growing number of spas are offering ‘wellness’-orientated, health-focused treatments, such as healing baths and lymphatic massages. They’re beginning to focus on the scientifically-proven medical benefits of their services (see sb10/3 p54) rather than the vague promise of making clients feel better.

But are those spas that are seeking to entirely disassociate themselves with what they perceive as the frivolity of pampering actually missing a trick? For Jeremy McCarthy, director of global spa development and operations for Starwood Hotels & Resorts, who spoke on this subject at the Global Spa and Wellness Summit this June (see sb12/3 p54), without a doubt, yes.

“Happiness tends to have a bad reputation – it’s very superficial and somewhat hedonistic,” he said. “I think we wrestle with our own pampering identity and making people feel good and therefore try to focus more on wellness than pampering. But there are some real, serious, beneficial outcomes that are tied to happiness and I think this is something we should really pay attention to.”

Furthermore, for McCarthy, there are already thousands of medical institutions that offer scientifically-proven treatments much more effectively than a spa ever could. What spas do really well is provide healing that people really love. “There’s no other healing institution that people look forward to going to, that they enjoy when they’re there, or that they remember fondly afterwards the way they do with spa,” he emphasised.

Not everyone in the spa industry, however, feels the same, with a growing number of experts and operators increasingly believing that today’s cash-strapped consumers are only interested in paying for a treatment if it will improve their health in a measurable way and advocating a return to the root of the spa movement when people visited hot or cold springs solely for their therapeutic and healing properties.

But is there a middle ground between pampering for pampering’s sake and entirely science-based treatments? We ask key industry players for their take on the matter.



Michael Stusser Founder Osmosis Day Spa
Sanctuary; and Green Spa Network

 

Michael Stusser
 

The problem I have with the word pampering is what it conjures up in the mind. Indulgence equates to excess, waste and lack of conscious behaviour and is linked to the capricious behaviours of the privileged class. In some ways, it’s just the opposite of enlightenment and mindfulness, which are key components for the psychological orientation of a healthy being. Moreover, it has a strong association with babies, which, in my opinion infantilises the spa experience and demeans the professional image we are trying to create.

Pampering has a limited appeal to a small segment of the population but is a huge turn-off for the larger portion, the people who we need to make understand our industry and hopefully partake in what it has to offer.

Since 2008, the industry has been on its knees. People have become much more sophisticated about what they’re willing to pay for and accept in a treatment. They’re looking for substantial value and want to know that the time and money they’re spending in a spa is going to contribute in a measurable way to improving their quality of life – beyond feeling good for a day.

It’s time for this industry to wake up and smell the coffee. We have to change our value proposition if we’re going to move beyond a struggle for survival. I think it’s really time for us to go deeper into the roots of what created the spa movement in the first place – which is healing and wellness. We strayed away from that during the years of opulence but I don’t think it is going to serve the future of our industry to continue to go down that road.

I cringe every time I hear the word pampering but, unfortunately, it’s deeply embedded in our spa culture. Both consumers and marketers continue to use it frequently but, in my opinion, I don’t want to use it at all in our vernacular as we promote our business. We can do much better and we will have to do much better if we’re going to be able to meet people where they’re going now. It’s time we moved beyond the solipsistic idea of spa we’ve been living in and understand how to become more relevant to what’s happening with wellness globally. Our industry needs an identity change.


It’s time we moved beyond the solipsistic idea of spa we’ve been living in and understand how to become more relevant to what’s happening with wellness globally

Stusser, the founder of Osmosis Day Spa Sanctuary, is also a founding member of The Green Spa Network, an association of eco-friendly spa professionals. Details: www.osmosis.com; http://greenspanetwork.org


Jeremy McCarthy Director of Global Spa Development and
Operations
Starwood Hotels & Resorts

 

Jeremy McCarthy
 

As money has become a bigger factor in consumers’ decisions, the spa industry has become concerned that if we’re perceived as a luxury or indulgence, people will stop coming. So there’s been a general feeling that if we could focus more on wellness and health, consumers would really value our services and spend money with us, even in tough times.

But if the industry moves away from pampering, we move away from what differentiates us. There are a lot of other businesses and industries focused on health, but what spas do really well is offer healing that feels good and that people look forward to experiencing. If we can emphasise that as the strength of our industry, we could solidify our place as leaders in an aspect of wellness that few people are covering.

At Starwood, we think very deeply about the psychology of the spa experience, and we think it has a lot to do with time. A lot of what happens in a spa doesn’t have so much to do with the treatment being received, it has to do with the fact that you’re being separated from technology for a while and you’re alone in a room with silence. So, even before the therapist lays their hands on the guest, there are many things that are happening that are important to the guest’s psychological wellbeing.

Moreover, there are some pretty clear scientifically established links between feeling good and being well. For example, when we’re feeling better we become more open to positive health lifestyles and behaviours. And positive emotions act as a buffer, protecting us from the harmful effects of stress (see sb12/2 p98). Of course there is a superficial side to pampering and spas don’t want to be associated with that, but what I would argue is that what people don’t like about the concept of pampering is that it seems excessive. Yet, for me, the opposite is actually true: people aren’t being pampered enough. When we go to other healing institutions in our society, such as hospitals and clinics, they don’t make us feel good, and they don’t treat us the way we want to be treated.

The biggest mistake that we make is assuming that you have to be one or the other – pampering or wellness. I think what spas do really well is both and that’s what the industry is moving towards. By sharing some of the science behind positive emotions, I’ve been trying to elevate the discussion to move people towards more of a mindful approach to wellness and pampering, and I think we’re getting there.


The biggest mistake we make is assuming that
you have to be one or the other – pampering or wellness. What spas do really well is both


McCarthy has over 20 years of experience in operating luxury resort spas and recently completed a masters degree in Applied Positive Psychology. He’s also recently authored The Psychology of Spas & Wellbeing.
Details: www.starwoodhotels.com


Mark Lyttleton-Frances General Manager The BodyHoliday

 

Mark Lyttleton-Frances
 

Pampering is very much part of the whole holistic wellness experience – if you’re looking after your health, part of that is ‘me time’ and pampering. It’s an emotional rather than a physical thing – it’s not necessarily about the quality of the treatment or therapist, it’s about that hour of being totally looked after by someone else.

I’ve seen spas, particularly in the day spa/salon world, moving away from pampering towards holistic and wellness experiences because they think that is what people are looking for. But I don’t necessarily believe that to be true. If anything, The BodyHoliday does more pampering now, and we’re actually in the process of building a new manicure-pedicure suite and bringing on a full range of organic cosmetics. Our guests are actually telling us that they want that ‘me time’, that they want to be looked after and that they want to feel good.

I’ve seen a big change since the economic meltdown. I’m finding that those in the high-income group who still have money are spending it on time, rather than material things – they’re buying something emotional, something to make them feel better. Similarly, people in the middle-income bracket are coming out here [to the resort] because they have saved up to take themselves off and use these services to refresh, relax and refocus. I’m finding there’s more of a move back towards pampering rather than away from it.

But pampering is changing and we’re seeing a big move towards organic cosmetics. People are also moving away from things like Botox and surgical facelifts to natural pampering treatments such as thalassotherapy. The pampering is still going on, and it’s going on more than it ever did, but it’s refocused.

I don’t think spas moving towards wellness and holistic therapies will lose out on any business, but I do think they will become a dime a dozen – everybody will be offering the same health and wellness programmes. However, those who continue to offer pampering will find themselves capturing both ends of the market.

We did 108,000 treatments last year, so I think anyone out there who is giving salons or spas a hard time about pampering because it’s seen to be frivolous and for the wealthy got it wrong. Pampering is more for everyman than it ever has been before.


We did 108,000 treatments last year, so I think anyone giving spas a hard time about pampering because it’s seen to be frivolous and for the wealthy got it wrong

Lyttleton-Frances has been in the hospitality industry for over 20 years and currently runs St Lucia’s The BodyHoliday resort.
Details: www.thebodyholiday.com


Jennifer Haack Corporate Director of Spa Development Rosewood Hotels & Resorts

 

Jennifer Haack
 

The distinction between pampering and wellness is about how the two things are perceived. Pampering is often seen as something indulgent or selfish while wellness is defined as being in good physical condition and mental health.

Indeed, sometimes spas offer exactly the same services but use different words. For example, at one point soaking in a bath with candlelight and flowers could have seen as pampering, while the inclusion of aromatherapy and mineral-rich ingredients could have seen it packaged as a ‘luxe’ treatment to improve wellbeing. Now, however, we’re trying to create baths that are built around wellness. One example of a radical bath that is driven by healing is by Voya – the Irish company that hand harvests seaweed products (see sb12/3 p78) uses them in a bath treatment to ease aches and nourish the body.

For me, it’s really about stating the distinction between pampering and wellness, and seeing pampering as a discipline to achieve wellness or good health. Engaging in services that nurture, heal and feed the body is pampering but it’s an investment in oneself and the end result is wellness.

But although it’s a matter of semantics for me, for others, it’s a deciding factor – pampering is the first thing off their list as it’s become synonymous with something you can live without. People need to be re-educated about the word pampering. If we tie it together with wellness, people would begin to see it as something that isn’t disposable.

We’re trying to do this at Sense [Rosewood’s spa brand]. We source skincare and equipment charged with precious gems, representing luxury, but use these in tandem with biotechnology and science. For example, we’re using tables infused with amethyst or quartz which have been designed to help restore vitality and eliminate toxins. Indeed, we market our services as ‘a balance of science, nature, wellness and beauty, choreographed to achieve an improved state of wellbeing.’ As an industry, we’re trying to change our language to use words such as science, heal and wellness, rather than diluted words like revitalise and relax.

We also need to become more universal as we have to appeal to two separate groups of people. There are those who think only about pampering and we want to re-educate them so they see a visit to the spa as improving their state of being; and there are the people who we want to bring in who are looking for wellness but might not choose to come in because they think that what we’re doing is superficial.

My hope is that we grasp both with the same straw; the goal is to find a way to join the concepts and create awareness that pampering is, by nature, an opportunity to improve wellness. This can be achieved through the choreography of our services, careful selection of products and expert training and attention to detail. Our responsibility to the people who come in is awesome; we need to constantly be connected to the potential outcome of pampering: wellness.


Haack, has been with Rosewood for six years and oversees its nine Sense spas. She has four pending projects in the Middle East and more than five in development in Asia.
Details: www.rosewoodhotels.com
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FEATURED SUPPLIERS

Book4Time unveils enhanced day and resort pass functionality
With an increasing number of luxury hotels and resorts offering day and resort passes to drive staycation business, Book4Time, a leader in innovative spa and wellness solutions, is thrilled to announce the launch of Day & Resort Passes on its award-winning platform. [more...]

The sound of success: three ways music can boost spa revenue according to Myndstream’s Freddie Moross
At Myndstream, we understand the power of music elevates the spa experience. But did you know it can also be a powerful revenue generator? [more...]
+ More featured suppliers  
COMPANY PROFILES
TAC | The Assistant Company

Founded in 2001, TAC is an owner-managed company with more than 110 employees and four locations: in [more...]
+ More profiles  
CATALOGUE GALLERY
+ More catalogues  

DIRECTORY
+ More directory  
DIARY

 

23-24 May 2024

European Health Prevention Day

Large Hall of the Chamber of Commerce (Erbprinzenpalais), Wiesbaden, Germany
30-30 May 2024

Forum HOTel&SPA

Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris, France
+ More diary  
 


ADVERTISE . CONTACT US

Leisure Media
Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385

©Cybertrek 2024

ABOUT LEISURE MEDIA
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