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Two Hilton Head Island Resorts, the Westin and Marriott
 Adding On-site Spas - Now a Necessity for Resorts
By Jim Faber, The Island Packet, Hilton Head Island, S.C.McClatchy-Tribune Business News

Aug. 4, 2006 - The Westin Resort and Marriott Hilton Head Beach & Golf Resort will add full-service spas this winter.

The two Hilton Head Island resorts are following a nationwide trend as travelers demand more options and pampering when they are away from home.

"It is definitely a trend in the upper end of the spectrum," said Charles Partlow, director of the School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management at the University of South Carolina.

The Westin's spa will be the company's first Heavenly Spa in the continental United States. That spa will have nine treatment rooms within 8,000 square feet of space -- an area currently used as administrative offices at the front of the hotel. Construction at the Westin will begin this month and likely finish in December, said Ken Nason, the resort's director of sales and marketing.

"We are delighted to be the first Heavenly Spa by Westin in the continental United States," said Jim McGlashan, resort general manager. "Having such a wonderful concept will allow the Westin Resort Hilton Head Island to create personalized renewal experiences for our guests."

The Westin spa will offer manicures, pedicures, facials, hair salon services, a steam room, a sauna, a whirlpool, the company's unique Heavenly treatment beds and Westin's signature line of Heavenly Spa products.

Specially selected food and drinks will be served in the spa, which will serve touch, scent, sound, taste and sight, Nason said.

"Heavenly Spa by Westin will attract new incentive and leisure groups from all over the world as well as local islanders to experience the Westin Resort Hilton Head Island's sense of renewal," McGlashan said.

The Marriott Hilton Head Beach & Golf Resort's spa will have between 12 and 16 treatment rooms. That spa will be on the resort's first floor beside the health club. Construction at the Marriott will begin in November with an anticipated opening in March, said David Sulak, the resort's director of sales.

Having a spa has become part of the price of entry into the resort market, and not only at the highest levels of that market, said John Russell, vice president and managing director of the Daufuskie Island Resort and Breathe Spa.

"If you don't have a spa, especially in a resort environment, you are at a competitive disadvantage," said Russell, who used to manage Ritz-Carlton resorts in Virginia, Puerto Rico and New Orleans, all of which had spas.

Many resort spa users are first-times users. They don't have the time for that kind of luxury in their daily life, but that changes when they are on vacation.

"People are a little more adventurous," Russell said. "They have a little more time."

There are two advantages to having a spa: First, it differentiates a hotel and gives guests a reason to choose that specific resort, and, second, it can be a profitable business if it is well run and features a good mix of retail products, industry experts said.

"If it puts heads in the beds, it is making money for them," Partlow said.

An in-house spa also keeps customers -- and their money -- in one spot, Partlow said.

"They want to be the all-inclusive place to go for everything," he said.

Certain group markets, like destination weddings and corporate conferences, see the spa as a necessity.

"This addition will allow us to target the corporate market more easily while, at the same time, provide an additional service to our repeat guests," said Sulak, of Marriott's upcoming full-service spa.

The Hilton Oceanfront Resort on the island expanded its spa to six treatment rooms plus a wet room over a year ago. As temperatures have spiked recently, the spa has been booked solid by those looking for an alternative to baking on the beach, said Earl Nightingal, task-force general manager at the Hilton resort.

As for competition, the vast majority of the customers at the Ocean Tides Spa at the Hilton are guests at the resort. If guests want spa services, they almost automatically sign up at the resort where they are staying, Nightingale said.

Dorine Bucci, owner of Seeds of Calm Spa on the island, said her two-year-old spa is always busy, and some customers prefer a locally owned spa over the corporate offerings.

"We love what we do," she said. "I think that can get lost in a large corporation."

There don't seem to be enough spa services on the island to easily serve all the customers who want them, said Patricia Owen, owner of Faces Day Spa.

"Compared to other areas there is probably quite a bit of room for growth," Owen said. "Business is booming."

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Copyright (c) 2006, The Island Packet, Hilton Head Island, S.C.

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