Spa Talk With Benjamin Donat

Benjamin Donat has been in the spa and hospitality industry for 15 years. He started out in Germany before coming to the U.S. to oversee top luxury spas, including the role of spa director at Fairmont Spa Austin at Fairmont Austin (TX) where he opened the spa after a 19-month closure, and spa director at St. Regis Spa at The St. Regis Deer Valley (Park City, UT). He most recently was named spa director at Eau Spa at Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa (Manalapan, FL), where he will work to refresh the wellness programming at the spa and continue to enhance its service, treatments, and experiences. Learn more about Donat, his path to where he is today, and his thoughts on the future of spa and wellness.

Photo credit: Benjamin Donat

What was the path that led you into the spa industry?   

I studied sports science in college and was looking for a career path after college. After graduating, I did a road trip through Austria and visited luxury hotels and spas in the area when I fell in love with the feeling that a spa can give. I ultimately became an opening spa director in Germany for a five-star hotel.

What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of being in the spa industry?   

Finding the right person for the job can be challenging, as well as igniting the passion for spa in people. Seeing people that I mentor for months or years succeed is one of the best feelings out there. It is also rewarding to see a guest situation turn from disaster to happy tears.

What has surprised you most about working in the spa industry?   

The difference between countries has surprised me the most. We have guests traveling the world, but a spa visit in Europe has completely different expectations than in the U.S. or Asia. Mixing those expectations helps elevate a spa to a whole new level.

What is your proudest accomplishment?   

I wrote and published two fitness books in English and German and published them myself.

Where do you think the industry is heading?    

The industry is headed toward being more tech-driven without losing the human touch. Guests are much more curious to try new and exciting things, but nothing beats a good hands-on massage or facial.

What’s your favorite skincare ingredient?   

I like a good CBD cream.

What positions have you worked in that you feel have been most influential to your career?   

I try to be a sponge for knowledge in every position I am in, but my most influential was probably my first position in the U.S. after coming over from Germany. Starting from the ground up again, I had amazing directors at MGM Grand (Las Vegas) and Aria (Las Vegas) who showed me the American way.

If you could work in any other profession in the world, what would it be?   

In my spare time, I do woodworking. It helps take my mind off spa issues and I like the creative part of it.

Spa at Eau Palm Beach
Eau Spa at Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa boasts 42,000-square-feet of space with a playful and relaxing vibe. (Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa)

How would you sum up your personal philosophy?   

Everyone needs to be treated fairly, but that does not mean everyone needs to be treated the same. Get to know your team and get the best out of them.

Was there a time you had to make a decision in your career that ended up changing your destiny?

Every job change comes with decisions that will shape your life in a new direction. Taking the chance and coming to the U.S. with two suitcases was the biggest and scariest decision I have made but, in the end, has become the most rewarding decision, as well. The spa industry in America is amazing with so many great leaders, and I feel very lucky and honored to be part of it.

How do you like to spend your time away from work?   

I have a 17-month-old toddler, so we spend time together when I come home. No matter what the day looked like, all stress is gone seeing his smile when I walk through the door.

Eau Palm Beach Spa Rainforest
As spa director, Donat is responsible for overseeing the spa facilities and refreshing the wellness programming. (Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa)

What are your three greatest priorities in life?   

I try to be a good leader, husband, and dad; I love to help people grow; and I enjoy spending time with family and friends.

What’s the best advice you’ve received? 

It doesn’t matter what other people think of you if you know you are doing the right thing. Also, be the mint on the pillow, not the lint under the pillow.