ADVICE: How to update your spa to attract more customers

Keeping your spa up to date can be a challenge, not least because the kit is not cheap. But increasingly, guests are coming to see current treatments in the best facilities as an expected part of the hotel package. But how do you do that while continuing to offer a great service? By ALISTAIR JOHNSON

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A well-run spa with state-of-the-art facilities can be a real moneyspinner for many hotels, in some instances increasing occupancy from anywhere between 10-20%. However, like many things, it is imperative that if do run, or are planning to develop spa facilities, you do it well.

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Having worked with a number of venues over the years one of the biggest considerations, which is all too often ignored, is guest expectation. How are you marketing your spa and what exactly is on offer?

Meeting expectations

It can often be the case that a hotel markets its spa as one thing, when in reality it offers something quite different. A large proportion of hotels purport to be a spa hotel when they only have a handful of treatment rooms and a swimming pool.

It is important to consider your guests’ expectations when developing, designing or updating your spa. One of the first things a venue needs to do when upgrading or developing is to identify what it is the business will be selling. There is a good chance your guests will have visited other spas in the UK, if not around the world, so it is your job and aim to not only meet, but exceed what they hope to experience during their visit.

Guests’ expectations are critical to the success of your spa and should form the basis of your strategy for designing and marketing the facilities. Presenting your spa as something it is not can be hugely damaging to your brand. The key is to develop and maintain these expectations.

Having worked with a number of 25-30 bedroom facilities, I would say a venue of this size needs to have, as a minimum:

  • Five treatment rooms
  • Changing facilities
  • Some kind of food and beverage offering
  • Relaxation areas
  • Some form of wet facility, such as a swimming pool or vitality pool
  • A steam room and a sauna

At this stage the hotel can market themselves as a spa hotel with the knowledge what is on offer will not underwhelm guests when they arrive.

Creating an experience

When people visit a spa, they are coming for the experience and the facilities available contribute to that as much as the treatments on offer.

An example is a refurbishment of a hotel spa my team and I worked on in the past. It had a lot of the elements identified, but they were tired. Before beginning the work, we first needed to identify the guest journey.

Several issues we noted including the fact that guests were using various different spaces as ‘relaxation’ areas and an old air heating system was affecting comfort levels in the treatment rooms. Staff also had a problem with a lack of storage for towels and products.

Working with the hotel we tailored the refurbishment to target these issues. We were able to reimagine some of the spaces and by configuring the reception space we were able to create a lounge and relaxation area. The hotel also offered a private membership scheme so we also overhauled and refurbished the gym facilities in order to meet guest expectations.

Tailoring to fit

If a hotel has an area it wishes to convert into a spa, it first needs to understand what it wants to put into that space.

Another project involved us working with a hotel that had an old garage on site. The team wanted to convert this building into a spa, so the main question was: “We want to add these facilities, how can we do this?” The work involved us building an extension in order to include all the desired facilities, yet this was all done to a very tight budget.

Ensuring ROI

While considering guests’ expectations is the key, as a business you also want to spend the right amount of money to ensure the best return on investment (ROI).

At the start of a project it is vital to carry out a feasibility study. It is important to know what is around your business and what your competitors are doing. When creating a new space in particular, carrying out a market analysis will allow you to align yourself with the market in terms of spend and ROI.

When considering all these aspects a holistic business plan should be formed that allows the successful development of a new, or re-development of an existing spa, which not only exceeds guests’ expectations but leaves them coming back for more.


With a background in managing the prestigious Aquae Sulis spa brand in the UK, Alistair Johnson, has gone on to develop Spa Creators, a spa consultancy service drawing on his experience to advise on the full life cycle of a spa project from design to development and delivery. He has successfully completed projects for the Five Start Ellenborough Park in Gloucestershire and The Mere Golf Resort and Spa. He is also a member of Hospitality Experts, a consortium of specialists created by hotel marketing firm Journey.

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