I am constantly asked why the Spas at prestigious hotels like the Ritz-Carlton, the Four Seasons, Sofitel, etc…are very average (if not entirely mediocre) and why it is that their financial results range from poor to horrible. Very simply put, these companies know their hotel business and do an excellent job at managing and operating the hotel services, including the Food and Beverage part of their business; but when it comes to Spas they do not have a clue as to where to start!
As these large hotel chains are corporate-minded, they proceed to seek out experts in the field, which sounds good; but in order to identify who is knowledgeable and who is blowing smoke, you have to have a minimum of knowledge yourself…which they do not have. So they end up hiring B.S. artists who know how to play the corporate game and make them believe that they are experts! We have had in our training seminars some of the so-called top Spa directors from these companies. As a rule, since these seminars are custom designed to help these people do a better job in their position, we have them take a general knowledge test of about 50 questions. To this day not one got more than 23% on this test! Hardly what you would call an expert level!
In general, a lot of these people come from F&B, sometimes from the front office staff, and sometimes from the fitness industry; yet none of these fields have anything to do with what a Spa in a hotel should be! Their technical knowledge is at best textbook knowledge. In some cases, the candidate invests in schooling at an esthetics or a massage school in order to feature a professional license on their resume. However, many times they have never really practiced and therefore bring to the table only a vague idea of what these services are all about. As a result, they often carry into their jobs mostly erroneous notions of treatments and managerial skills which can be best described as Mom and Pop level, needless to say totally inadequate. Most of the time they will join an association such as ISPA thinking that the association will give them the clout of expertise that it pretends to have; and, there again, it is the blind leading the blind. These types of associations are mostly self-admiration societies who are happy to refer to the same ill-informed people to set the example and to provide guidance. ISPA claims to be the Voice of the Industry? There are some 300,000 workers in the Spa Industry in the U.S. and there are only 3000 members of the association? Not so impressive; only 1%!
The leitmotiv of my lectures worldwide is: DO NOT COPY OTHERS AND PARTICULARLY THE LARGE HOTEL CHAINS, SINCE ALL YOU WILL BE DOING IS COPYING MISTAKES.