Spa and Wellness Facilities: Is It Time to Downsize Projects?


In previous posts, we have discussed the increasing interest of the spa and wellness industries to embrace new business opportunities. That move has been largely dictated by the desire of our industry to move away from the idea of luxury and exclusivity that has surrounded it from the very beginning.

Considering such a desire has been tightly related to profitability, especially after the financial crisis hit the world, one of the issues that has captured the attention of professionals in the field has been related to the ideal design of treatment rooms capable of delivering optimal revenue as well as customer satisfaction.

Recently, published an article entitled Overbuilding, which shares some interesting insights on the different ways of conceiving treatment rooms. In the following lines, we will discuss some of the most effective ideas to deal with the size and numbers of treatment rooms.


The Old Way

The development of the spa industry was largely shaped around luxurious and opulent facilities. Pretty much, the prevailing idea was “the bigger the spa, the better.” Design prevailed over budget, and overbuilt facilities could not even cope with their operational costs.

According to Dan Shackleton-Jones, President/Partner at Niki Bryan Inc., one of the consequences of that way of thinking was the proliferation of “more overbuilt spas than effective builds” especially in those properties where there was a consolidated base of customers willing to pay for luxurious services.

With the arrival of the financial crisis, however, things changed dramatically. Spas and wellness centres were forced to reconsider everything they were doing. One of the first things that needed immediate attention was revenue management. It was from this moment that our industry started to question some of the prevailing design solutions that were adopted before the crisis. In particular, attention was given to the size and number of treatments rooms.

Some of the crucial questions the spa industry has been debating about treatment room design are exposed in the article: “What’s the optimum size for a treatment room? What’s too big and what’s the smallest space operators can get away with? Is it possible to build a future-proof spa? Is there a quick-fix solution for existing facilities that were built too big?”


The Simple Answer

Different professionals in the spa industry have come with a pretty clear idea about what works and what does not. In terms of size, Simon Shepherdson, Managing Director at International Leisure Consultants, thinks “small (120sq ft) to medium (180sq ft) size treatment rooms are the most efficient.”

Similarly, Dan Shackleton-Jones says that “12 x 12 ft is ideal for profitability” thanks to a functional size that provides both the therapist and the customer with a comfortable experience. According to Shackleton-Jones, this kind of room pays for the operating costs while protecting the guest experience. Susan Harmsworth, Founder and CEO of ESPA International, considers “that a good size for a single treatment room for massage would be 14-16sq m.”

In terms of the number of treatment rooms to incorporate into a given structure, these professionals have also come up with different formulas. When deciding this, Andrew Gibson, Group Director of Spa of Mandarin Oriental, highlights the importance of considering various factors such as “the number of hotel bedrooms, urban versus resort location, average length of stay and leisure versus business guests.” Similarly, Dan Shackleton-Jones states that the number of treatment rooms depends on things like “guest occupancy, average length of stay, number of bedrooms and capture rate.”


A Comprehensive Approach

All the numbers that are mentioned above are the result of a large learning experience in the field, which includes the adoption of various successful strategies. The bottom line, however, is that there is no magic formula to use when deciding the size and number of the treatment rooms.

Nonetheless, there is a good set of practices to follow when designing a spa or wellness centre. Simon Shepherdson embraces flexibility, stating “new spas now fit the size of the property being developed.” Likewise, he thinks it is important to make a difference between spa and wellness facilities in hotels and resorts.

Andrew Gibson highlights the importance of having a treatment menu in place before getting into the design of the treatment room. Susan Harmsworth reinforces this idea saying that “it is really important to design a spa with the treatment menu in mind at start but you do also need to think about the availability of practitioners.”

Gibson also talks about the important principle of matching the treatment room with the concept that defines your spa. In other words, a successful strategy will probably be flexible and comprehensive enough in order to deliver the best results.


The Value of The Customer’s Experience

As we have seen before, the size and number of treatment rooms is effectively implemented when there is a flexible and comprehensive approach in place. However, the treatment room is going to provide you with the most value when you have designed one capable of giving your customer a unique experience.

That said, we can go back to our initial question: Is it the time to downsize projects? Considering the way the spa industry is moving and the financial constraints of the competitive world we live in, the answer to that question is yes. However, that answer is not merely about reducing the size of projects but rather about incorporating a comprehensive and flexible approach where profitability and the costumer’s experience are balanced in an optimum way. If you are struggling with these issues, at Spa Balance, we would be happy to guide you in the right direction.

By Sonal

Sonal Uberoi creates and delivers smarter spas around the world. Spas and hotel groups hire Sonal to help them design, set up and manage their wellness businesses. Her finance background and worldwide operations experience in the spa, wellness and hospitality sectors make Sonal the go-to expert for business optimisation solutions. Connect with Sonal on LinkedIn

2 thoughts on “Spa and Wellness Facilities: Is It Time to Downsize Projects?

  1. Sonal! congrats on this article. I think you are absolutely right.
    We have to create concepts not only how to build new spas with the right size, profitability …, but also how to downsize existing spas. That will be a challenge for both architects and consultants like us.

  2. I agree with your analysis, but I would place the emphasis on a basic analysis that unfortunately many projects do not provide, and that is to respond carefully to the following two questions:

    1. Who are your potential customers?
    2. Budget that you can put in and what investment return do you want?

    Only after fully clarified all the answers to these two questions you can choose the concept, the menu of services and thus begin the design of your SPA.

    It sounds simple, but how many SPA lose money every day for not having answered these questions carefully before you start. . . if she should start!!

    best regards

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