American Spa recently caught up with Taylor Fields, corporate director of spa, wellness, and retail at PCH Hotels & Resorts, which is a hospitality management company based in Alabama. The spas within the portfolio include Marriott Shoals Hotel & Spa (Muscle Shoals, AL), Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa (Birmingham, AL), Renaissance Montgomery Hotel & Spa (Montgomery, AL), Marriott Grand National (Opelika, AL), Renaissance Mobile Battle House Hotel & Spa (Mobile, AL), and Autograph Grand Golf Resort & Spa (Point Clear, AL). In his role, Fields is responsible for the retail outlets throughout the locations, fitness centers, wellness activation across property, groups, and associates.

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

  • New Customers, Record Demand - The properties and spas are seeing a new customer. Millennials and Gen Z are now the largest devotees of wellness, and they are willing to pay for it. There are still baby boomers who are consumers of luxury and spa; however, their demand isn’t as high as the new generation of customers. The pandemic taught more people to take care of themselves and to maintain a life-work balance. We are seeing record demand for spa and wellness services. Also, more travelers are opting for unique and indulgent offerings in the spas when traveling.
  • Efficiencies - Many efficiencies came out of the pandemic. The hotel strategy is no longer to “sell out,” especially if staffing levels do not support a sold-out property. The new strategy is to sell rooms at an optimal rate. The same doesn’t always apply in the spa, but charging based on the demand and the number of appointments available during a demand period is a strategy. Before the pandemic, product costs and wages were rising. In addition, our spa pricing was elevated along with inflation and dynamic/weekend pricing. We switched to using a QR code instead of printed spa menus, saving some locations $20,000-plus a year in printing costs. We quit publishing pricing, allowing our operations fluidity and flexibility in shifting with demand. Our spas have eliminated 80-minute services on weekends and only offer 50- and 110-minute durations. We are seeing a high number of customers opting for the longer and more expensive spa offerings.
  • Trust, Respect, Integrity, Collaboration, Innovation, Accountability, Execution - These are the seven core values in which PCH Hotels & Resorts embeds into all initiatives, training, and operates on these fundamentals—and people see and feel it! Many companies have mission statements and core values on a poster or website that are never mentioned. We talk about these core values and have them embedded into our on-going training and development of our associates. When we have an issue with an associate, it is usually a core value problem that can be addressed, giving clarity to the manager on how to fix a problem. I am thrilled to share that 98 percent of all spa providers returned to work after a brief state-mandated closure of spas. Our company was able to bounce back and capitalize on post-pandemic demand unlike many others who were not able to support their workforce.
  • Flexibility & Caring for People - There were challenges with recruiting and talent acquisition pre-pandemic and challenges still exist post-pandemic. Though the challenges might be different, it is important that we do not lose sight of a changing workforce and blame everything on a pandemic. We have learned to become more flexible and creative to surpass previous years’ performances. I have seen many rosters convert from primarily full-time associates to a roster triple in size with part-time associates, especially in the spa. We have learned to be more intentional and take a personal interest in our teams. People are looking for a sense of belonging and well-being in their “work family.” We have a new generation in the work force and need to understand that these are not all outcomes from a pandemic.

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

  • PCH 2022 was a record year for our properties and expecting 2023 to be another record year!
    • Record Revenues/Profits
    • Record Associate Engagement
    • Spa Intent to Recommend Scores all 9+ out of 10
    • Marriott’s Autograph Collection “Hotel of the Year”
    • JW Marriott J. Award for Outstanding Guest Experience in All Hotels
    • Food & Beverage Award for Outstanding F&B in All Hotels
    • Alabama Magazine’s “Best of Bama” Best Fine Dining in Alabama
    • Spas of America 2022 Top Spas (5 Locations)   

Success is not defined as a specific number or metric. We take into consideration being an employer of choice and treating people in a unique way. We inspire each associate to show up and do their job to the best of their ability. If someone is truly doing their best job, what more can you ask? We do not think in terms of how much we can get out of an associate. Rather, we like to create an environment where the associate can reach their full potential, of course, with expectations and standards built around how we operate with excellent outcomes. We must remember that behind every number is a person, and a number on a financial statement only represents a specific point in time. Many times, operators will try and follow a budget, but the budget does not determine success or failure. The budget doesn’t represent the ceiling for the spa performance during a given time. The company aspires to be optimal, and we measure the performance delivered to guests, associates and ownership groups with various metrics and key performance indicators.

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

In any challenge, I look for the silver lining and learning that can come out of any difficult time. Without problems, we would not grow as leaders and operators. Just as we look to guest problems as an opportunity to WOW, we must look to our personal challenges to overcome and WOW ourselves.

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

  • Fitness - The return to in-person fitness is surpassing pre-pandemic levels at gyms worldwide. We have deployed Peloton bikes at most locations. The traveler is loyal to their fitness regimen content and craves access to that preferred regimen when traveling. We receive numerous requests, especially from high-profile clients, to have fitness amenities delivered to their guest rooms.
  • Touchless Treatments - These treatments continue to be present and innovative in our industry. While most customers want hands-on treatments, there are efficiencies in offering express/touchless treatments in the fitness or spa relaxation areas. These are treatments that we are slowly launching and testing at our properties. Many of the augmented massage products coming down the pipeline will open doors for efficiencies in being able to offer express and on-demand massage services. Also, from an associate wellness perspective, an associate could be able to receive a massage service without any overhead labor costs from our company. My goal would be to provide a housekeeper with a weekly massage, having such a labor-intensive job! PCH Hotels & Resorts is working on a project to expand wellness/recovery options to associates in the back-of-house areas.
  • Longer Service Durations - Customers are booking longer, more expensive spa services that offer a longer, more indulgent escape. The longer services provide multi-layered efficiencies that truly impact the bottom line: lowered/less laundry and linen used, fewer gaps in the provider schedule, less crowding in relaxation facilities, and more provider time to focus on a guest, enhancing a transformational spa experience.
  • Wellness Travel - Wellness travel is increasing globally and showing the most growth in the U.S. While wellness is not the primary reason for travel, customers are utilizing and being consumers of wellness when experiencing many hotels and resorts. I encourage properties to take a deep dive and get to know your customers. What is the primary purpose of travel? Most hotels and resorts are not wellness destinations but can still feature certain attributes that guests can experience when visiting. PCH Hotels & Resorts is curating wellness rooms with a plan to launch at three of the managed resort properties. These rooms will include sleep experience, air purification, and spa amenities for each guest to curate their desired in-room wellness and sleep experience.
  • Wellness Retreats - We have hosted several wellness retreats, all of which have sold out. This was the first test for us to determine the demand for wellness at our locations. Clearly, we had opportunities to capitalize on. With the sense of community lacking during a pandemic era, people are looking to get back into a communal setting, and we see this with gyms, wellness retreats, and wellness social clubs.

If you had the ability to oversee the entire 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?

Awareness - There are so many who may hear the word “wellness” but not understand the personal journey and customization that goes into one’s wellness or wellbeing. Long gone are the days where people go to the fitness center or follow a diet to look a certain way. Sure, that is a big motivator for many people, but there are other net-outcomes that go along with these wellness choices. I always recommend starting small and building toward what “wellness” means to you! The great news is everyone has the choice on what type of lifestyle they get to live. Many make a shift once something traumatic happens, and I always think about “pay now or pay later.” I want to be ahead of the curve. I want to be the old person that is still traveling and running errands like someone in their youth. Spa and wellness are becoming readily available at all price-points, communities/areas. We will only continue to see this broaden. You are seeing fast-food restaurants have healthier options, low price-point massage services and community events. Social media has accelerated this for many people who may not have been exposed years ago.

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

Partnership, Training, and Creative Solutions. One size does not fit all spas. We truly look for vendor partners who can enter a mutual partnership with the location’s spa leader to be successful. While there are efficiencies in virtual training, that cannot become the norm for spa providers in a hands-on environment.

If there is anything else you wish to add that might be helpful for our readers, please do so.

I always find it inspiring when I hear a guest give feedback saying it was the best experience ever, knowing many of these customers have been to spas and resorts all over the world. This confirms that it is not the building, it is our people delivering hospitality with heart and soul.