Follow the Spa Industry Leaders: John Morris

American Spa recently caught up with John Morris, the general manager of Sundara Inn & Spa (Dells, WI), who has worked in the hospitality industry for more than 25 years. Morris began his career as a USPTA Tennis Professional and directed major tennis programs everywhere from Vermont to Florida to the Bahamas. As his career progressed, he became involved in overseeing the fitness and spa operations at various luxury resort properties, including the WaterColor Inn & Resort (Santa Rosa Beach, FL) and the Hawks Cay Resort (Duck Key, FL) and Essex Resort & Spa (Essex Junction, VT), and Grand Geneva Resort & Spa (Lake Geneva, WI).

In 2016, Morris was hired by Sundara Inn & Spa to become its spa director. In 2018, he was promoted to the position of general manager for the entire resort. The resort has undergone a large expansion over the past several years and it now has 44 overnight rooms and 27 spa treatment rooms. The spa delivers more than 70,000 spa and salon services in a calendar year. Over the past several years, Sundara has garnered several industry accolades, and is now looking to expand its brand to other regions of the U.S. 

During the past three years of adversity, what did you learn and how are you applying that knowledge to your business today?

The number-one takeaway over the past three years is to have reinforced and intensified my belief of how important it is in the daily lives of our guests to seek out serenity and tranquility. With all the turbulent times in society today, people are craving for this relaxation time. To be able to provide this in an environment of wellness is extremely gratifying.

What successes has your company had in the past three years, and what helped you create these successes?

Our successes have been predicated on the conviction that the business model of destination spas is robust and has unlimited potential. We have made the decision to build more overnight rooms, hire more therapists, and purchase new pieces of innovative equipment and add cutting-edge services.

We often learn most from challenges that we face. From what challenge have you learned the most, and what did you learn from it?

To stay strong and steadfast in our belief that the COVID-19 crisis would be transitory. Perseverance and optimism paid off for us.

What trends are you noticing in 2023, and how are you adapting to these trends?

We offer additional hot and cold water-based amenities and therapy. Lack of sleep is a crisis in America, and we offer spaces and programs to alleviate that. We offer an experience that is not overly pretentious. We want our guests to feel relaxed.

If you had the ability to oversee the whole U.S. spa community, what would you change to move more people to wellness and to ensure governments understand the essential nature of this industry?

I would focus on creating and offering more educational opportunities for men and women to be able to pursue a career in the spa industry. The current labor shortages of therapists is our industry’s greatest challenge so recruiting people to choose this as a career is vital to continue our growth.

What are the top three most important criteria you look for when securing a supplier?

  1. Efficacy of the product.
  2. Support with training and education.
  3. Making sure the cost of the products is compatible with the demographic profile of our guest population.

John Morris will be in attendance at Spatec North America, taking place from Sept. 26-29, 2023, at Eau Palm Beach (Manalapan, FL).