Stephen Ayers

Opening, developing and building a successful spa resort

I have been privileged to manage luxury city, resort and spa properties over the course of my career. I have enjoyed every minute at every property, but perhaps none more so than being afforded the opportunity to develop a successful spa resort concept and manage the operation for over five years.

The first and perhaps most important thing to do was to define the identity of the spa resort, what was to be offered to the guests, who were the target clientele, standards of food and beverage and a myriad of questions that there are on opening.

With the initial decisions made, valuable feedback in hand and determining to be the best spa resort in the country, we set about implementing the ideas, and in this article I will specifically address the spa.


I appointed a spa manager to reorganise the department and an operations manager to manage the therapists, treatment room maintenance, training and in addition to control the expensive cosmetics and materials on hand.

We implemented the following:

  • A treatment list was drawn up including all treatments to be offered
  • Interviews with all therapists and allocation to specific treatments
  • Training of all therapists on treatment policies from welcoming the guest to the end of treatment
  • All therapists became employees, ensuring loyalty and time to the resort rather than home treatments
  • A minimum – maximum treatments per day was introduced, with bonuses for over achievement, and guest feedback.
  • A strict uniform policy
  • Opened a retail store to sell cosmetics used in the spa and sport and leisure goods and clothing
  • Implemented a policy of reservations to capture the maximum clientele during stays, at all times of day

It took a while and we lost some ‘star’ therapists but eventually had a spa department that was outstanding and ran like clockwork. We saved a great deal on expensive cosmetics that were now controlled, and had a cadre of excellent and loyal staff.

I instructed the reservations staff – along with the spa desk if they had time on their hands – to ring ALL arrivals and sell treatments. They would ring all the following day arrivals first and then go backward by day. This not only ensured maximum sales but was appreciated by guests.

The software we installed, coupled with training for reservations and desk staff on each specific treatment and therapist paid off well. It must not be forgotten that each guest, and couples, preferred specific treatments, and each guest preferred male of female therapists.

Add that to the long opening hours and less popular mealtimes and you have a complicated business to maximise. Treatments sold during mealtimes were offered at a reduced rate to fill the rooms, to put ‘heads on the treatment beds’. Within one year we were known for our treatments and were regularly achieving 250 treatments daily.

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