How qualified do spa managers need to be? And who is responsible for their training?


Last week, we took a look at the theoretical aspect of spa management education, including the challenges that come with maintaining, training and educating spa managers. As we continue to learn about the growing need for knowledgeable leaders in the industry, this week we will look at the more practical aspects that we are facing. We will examine our most prevalent concerns as well as what is on offer to address those concerns.


Whose responsibility is it to train spa managers?

In the past, spa managers were either therapists that worked their way up the ladder or individuals who made the shift from a related industry. However, industry leaders are now looking directly at educational institutes for people with more practical experience to lead their spas. They are seeking potential managers with degrees in business administration, hospitality, tourism, leisure and other related fields. They are looking for individuals that not only have the hands-on knowledge to understand the therapy provided in their facilities, but also the leadership and business skills to run operations successfully.

According to the article, “The Learning Curve” by Rhianon Howells at, the former managing director of Six Senses Spas, Samir Patel, admits that “a lot of people ask me which course they should do, and I don’t have a clue.” However, he reinforces “that there is an absolutely imperative need to create industry leaders, and for that we need proper management training.”

Even though more and more educational institutes are offering courses that are dedicated to the spa industry, the information and training that they provide is hasty, disjointed, not monitored and out of line with the industry. This leads to much confusion and does not adequately meet the needs of those looking to become successful leaders in the industry.

Anna Bjurstam, vice president of spa and wellness at Six Senses Hotels, Resorts and Spas and board member of Global Spa & Wellness Summit, accurately states that “the current system is a nightmare for anyone to make sense of.”

Although industry leaders are recruiting from the universities, they are still faced with the problem of a lack of practical experience. Elaine Fenard, managing partner of spa consultancy Spa Strategy says, “…graduates are not able to hit the ground running. There’s no entry into spa.”

A few industry leaders feel that it is not entirely up to the universities to prepare graduates to become spa leaders, but also that the industry should play a greater role. There should be mentoring programmes, follow-up courses and other systems of on-going support in place to properly groom the future leaders of this industry.


Necessary practical knowledge

Some industry leaders prefer to recruit spa managers from related industries, for example, the hospitality sector. As former managing director of Six Senses Spas claimed, “these are highly educated, smart young men and women with a thorough understanding of hotel management, so we don’t need to teach them the basics of our business.” Others believe that spa managers need therapy training in order to get more of a hands-on experience in real-world situations.

We, however, agree with Fenard: “How many CEOs know the technical detail of how the people on the ground provide services within the business? Success in spa depends on teamwork and that requires drawing on everyone’s core competencies. Therapists provide a service that they train hard, and are qualified for, whereas the role of a leader is to lead. The most important quality in a spa manager is the business acumen that comes with a college degree.”

Leaders must know how to effectively deal with hotel operators and manage owner expectations. Having the skills at hand in order to perform well as a leader is proven to be more useful in the grand scheme of things, perhaps more so than having the knowledge required to perform therapy treatments.

It is extremely important to understand all that it takes to perform treatments and the many challenges that therapists face on a regular basis. However, at the end of the day, the spa manager needs to be a great leader and have the required business acumen.


The simple fact of the matter is that the qualifications of a successful spa manager vary depending on the setting. However, it is important to understand all aspects of the industry, which includes the needs of consumers, the abilities of the therapists, the intricacies of the business itself and how to manage them all in a manner that creates harmony.

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

Join the conversation