Spa management strategies from NYSPA conference

Earlier this week I attended the 6th annual NYSPA symposium in Rye Brook, NY.  NYSPA is an excellent organization, whose mission is to serve as a resource for information, education and advocacy of New York state spa and wellness related businesses.  This group who deliverson their promise with an information-packed symposium every year, led by the venerable Professor Mary Tabacchi of Cornell University.

The two day conference had too many speakers for me to begin to list them here, but I'll mention some highlights.  We heard a great discussion on the new healthcare reform and what it may mean to spa clients and spa business-owners (I'll cover that in a future blog).  There were terrific and varied financial analysis and forecasting presentations of the hotel spa segment from Nikita Sarkar of Ernst & Young, John Fox from PKF, and Jan Freitag of STR.  Bottom line (pun intended!) was that 2009 saw the biggest drop ever in hotel revpar; the biggest growth opportunities remain in emerging markets; and they don't see the market returning to robust growth before 2011.  The best news was that, in spite of lower revenue for 2009, profit ratios were only slightly lower than 2008, showing that spa management initiatives were working.  However, spa revenue can defy precise predictions.  As Jan Freitag commented, "Salon and spa purchases may just be more related to how clients are feeling at a particular moment, than to any larger macroeconomic view."  After all, we're the place they go to get away from all of the economic worries.

Jeremy McCarthy of Starwood gave a terrific presentation entitled "In Defense of Pampering", and showed us why we don't need to be afraid to use the "p" word.  Jeremy walked us through the history of pampering and showed how years of psychological studies have proven that making people feel good is a way to make them well.  If a client visits a spa and feels pampered, and the positive emotions that result from the pampering lead to healthier life choices, then we've contributed greatly to the ongoing wellness of that individual, and we should be proud of it!  Said McCarthy, "So what if we give chocolate baths; if the client has fun, then it's good!  We in spas do things that no one else is doing, let's celebrate what makes us unique."

Lastly, the training theme was woven throughout the speaker presentations; the continuing need to do a better job training staff to manage all of the moments around the service, if not the service itself.

I highly recommend that spa management personnel plan to attend this event at your next opportunity; lots of great food for thought (and food!) and networking opportunities with industry leaders.