What is the reality of our spa management workforce and its educational needs?


In today’s post, we’d like to address the more theoretical aspect of education within the spa industry. A report, commissioned by GSWS and conducted by SRI International, Spa Management Workforce & Education: Addressing Market Gaps is our focus. Spa management professionals are hard to find. With the growing global wellness tourism economy, the number of spas throughout the world continues to increase. This is very much present in emerging markets. Yet, at this rate of growth, many spa owners are finding themselves struggling to keep qualified, effective managers in key positions. There is a growing need to find the right managers to manage the new spas opening their doors so readily. This is important not just for the consumer’s needs, but also to ensure spa business owners are getting the right return on investment from the facility.


The difficulties of finding qualified talent

In the article in SpaBusiness.com, “Work It Out”, Katherine Johnston indicated that 95 per cent of spa industry leaders find it difficult to hire spa managers or spa directors with the right level of both experience and qualifications for the job. The survey also indicates that up to 52 per cent of those spa owners believe that the problem will continue or will worsen over the next ten years.

There’s little doubt that this is worrisome for the industry as a whole. The experience the consumer has is fundamentally based on the quality of the employees at the facility. This makes well-trained, qualified professionals the number one asset in the spa industry.


The Key Stakeholders in the Management Workforce System in the Spa Industry

According to SRI International report, there are three main stakeholders in the spa industry responsible for maintaining, training, and educating spa managers and directors, as well as maintaining the overall spa workforce at an acceptable level.

  1. The current and future spa managers and directors: These individuals must incorporate knowledge from training in order to improve their service skills and to better manage the business. Additionally, these individuals must seek out and obtain upgrades to training and skills as needed throughout their careers, thus maintaining a higher quality of skill at every level.
  2. Spa business and industry leaders: This group must work with industry guidance and participate in educational programmes. The goal here is to ensure that educational programmes are relevant and that students receive proper job placements. Additionally, they must provide appropriate staff development and training opportunities to keep employees growing and learning.
  3. Spa management related educational institutions: At the schools, these individuals must communicate key skill needs, offer internships, and provide guidance to spa business and industry leaders. They must provide the highest level of training possible, including practical experience in the skill areas desired within the industry.

All three components of this industry are critically responsible for the success of the whole. In many ways, if any one component of these three stakeholders fails, the development of well-qualified spa managers is limited.


The Challenges

What makes this process so difficult? Spa specific challenges are numerous, including:

  • Individuals must have a true passion for the craft.
  • Individuals must also have a deep understanding of their skills and the needs of the client.
  • Formal education and training is essential but so is hands-on practical training.
  • There are limitations on a well-defined career pathway, providing some limitation and confusion to incoming talent.
  • Employees promoted from basic functions to management receive little training in management.
  • Those with management training often lack key skill training.


Additionally, this is a high demand career. It requires long hours and hard work. Employee burnout tends to be a problem as well. The combination of all of these factors often put employees that would be qualified for management positions in a difficult position. Even those who wish to excel may not have access to qualified training programmes and support. Each of these factors has contributed to the lack of well-qualified professionals in the field. This will continue to occur until key stakeholders improve.


Next week, we’ll discuss the practical side of this topic with a focus on how educated a spa manager really needs to be.

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 www.linkedin.com/in/sonaluberoi.

Join the conversation