Spa and wellness redefined in a COVID-19 world
Spa and wellness redefined in a COVID-19 world
26 MAY 2020 8:03 AM

Revised standards of care, cleanliness and hygiene will be a prerequisite to hotel re-entry. These practices will get hotel doors open, but alone are unlikely to guarantee guests return.

As an industry we find ourselves navigating a quantum challenge. Overwhelmed by uncertainty, it is easy to become paralyzed by what we don’t know. There is however one thing we know for sure: The physical, mental and emotional impact of the COVID-19 crisis on humanity has been devastating. Unfortunately, the effects will continue. And the impact runs deep.

For our industry this presents an undeniable priority: the care, health and wellbeing of our team and guests in a COVID-19 world takes on a whole new meaning. Adopting new minimum standards of care, cleanliness and hygiene will be a prerequisite to re-entry. Arguably these practices will get your doors open, but alone it is unlikely they will be enough to get your guests to walk back through them.

As government bodies and regulatory boards around the world work to establish new minimum standards of care, hospitality professionals are also coming together to advance industry best practices. Yet beyond these sweeping fundamental actions, we identify two additional initiatives as critical to your COVID-19 survival plan:

  1. A clearly defined and personalized brand position around health and wellbeing, paired with renewed commitments to your team and your guests.
  2. A transparent operational and experiential overhaul of your existing health and wellness programs.

Developing a personalized brand position
It is expected that as consumers return to travel, they will look first to brands they trust that have taken a clear stance on what health and wellbeing means to them in this new world.

  • Proactive: Your “healthy hotel” strategy will likely be your most effective marketing tool in advance of reopening. This should be actively developed now and communicated early to the market.
  • Practical: New protocols and procedures must be formalized and accompanied by rigorous preopening training, transparently shared with colleagues and guests to develop trust.
  • Effective: A complete strategy must encompass both illness prevention and health optimization. Hospital-grade standards of cleanliness and hygiene will be non-negotiable. Seek expert support as required to establish and implement.
  • Accessible: Policies and procedures must be adopted by all team members and guests. The health and protection of your guests is reliant on the health and protection of your team more than ever before.
  • Emotional: Anticipatory of physical and emotional COVID-19 buttons, the heart of your business and brand must be audible, speaking to your team and guests on a meaningful level.

Experiential and operational overhaul
Phenomenal spas, robust fitness programs and healthy menu alternatives will require an operational and experiential overhaul in the short-term at the very least. Owners, operators and consumers alike will consider what they actually need to spend money on. Safe and simple will be the best approach. On an individual level, we expect recovery, resiliency and immunity to be key themes.

  • Deep physical and emotional healing will be needed by many, which requires expert care and specialized attention. Call on medical, health and wellness professionals to assist in the development and implementation of new programs.
  • This crisis has reinforced the importance of illness prevention and health optimization, underscoring the need for a proactive versus reactive stance on health and wellbeing. Services and programming should follow suit.
  • Amenities and experiences that support immunity and respiratory wellness will be under greater demand. Halotherapy, infrared saunas and mindfulness programs that focus on breathwork and visualization will be opportunities.
  • The demand for fit-tech and health-tech was already surging and will continue. Consider virtual wellness programs you can offer in guestrooms to meet this demand.
  • Simplified spa treatment menus focused on less-invasive services that protect guests and staff are recommended. Consider restricting offerings to clothed services such as Thai massage, PNF-assisted stretch and acupressure to start.

After months of self-isolation, we expect there will be a deep desire to connect with others in meaningful ways. Mind-body programs such as yoga that promote social wellbeing are ideal for this yet will require a revised approach to guarantee the safety and wellbeing of guests.

  • Wellness beyond the spa and outside of the built environment will be essential. Taking services and programming outdoors enables guests to maintain safe social distancing practices while still enjoying enriching programming. There is great opportunity for innovation here in both urban and resort locations.

Urban hotel spas can often derive close to 50% of their customer base from the local market. In early stages of recovery and reopening, locals will be crucial. Keep their needs top of mind when planning new programs and services.

Our industry is being called on to serve like never before. As we continue to implement all possible measures to minimize loss and long-term damage, we must also begin to turn our focus forward, making the choice to be part of the solution. Leaders rise above great difficulty. Legendary brands are known for what they do, not simply what they say.

Like Mark Twain said, “the secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

Jennifer Findlay is the founder of Core Essence, a design and consulting firm specializing in spa and wellness. Core Essence works within and beyond the traditional spa environment with an approach that examines design, development and ongoing operations concurrently. A member of the Global Wellness Institute’s preferred consultants and the International Society of Hospitality Consultants, Jennifer can be contacted at

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