|By Suzanne Marta, The Dallas Morning
NewsMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Apr. 26, 2008 - Ultra-luxury hotel owner and operator Rosewood Hotels & Resorts is putting its brand on spas.
The Dallas-based company, which began prominently including its name on its hotels only two years ago, has launched Sense, a Rosewood spa.
It's a move that mirrors efforts by other upscale hotels to leverage their spas as a marketing tool and revenue driver.
Irving-based Omni Hotels, for example, recently announced plans to roll out its Mokara spa brand.
For Rosewood, the new Sense spa is part of a strategy to lure partners as it expands across the globe.
Rosewood chief operating officer Robert Boulogne and his team found that potential partners were increasingly demanding a formal concept for the spas that would go along with the projects.
Developers "are looking for brand names," he said. "Rather than just saying, 'We run great spas, trust us,' we can now give them a very good idea of what we would do in their particular location."
Until a few years ago, brand was almost a forbidden word at Rosewood, which built its portfolio on the idea that each hotel would be unique. Trouble was, customers weren't connecting the dots between hotels.
In 2004, the company began subtly adding Rosewood as a tagline. And two years ago, the Rosewood name started taking on more prominence for new projects.
Finally, last year, the brand was added to some existing locations, including Dallas' Crescent and the Mansion on Turtle Creek.
Brand can add value to a property, especially in a crowded market where competitors offer similar amenities, said Robert Passikoff, president of brand research firm Brand Keys Inc.
A brand "stands for something in the mind of the consumer," he said.
Rosewood has been in the spa business for 15 years, but its spas had been operated separately.
That approach gave spa managers the flexibility to tailor services and products to the location, often incorporating locally grown, natural ingredients to emphasize that the experience they offered wasn't a cookie-cutter one.
But since products and supplies were ordered by each location, Rosewood couldn't take advantage of savings for bulk orders on items used throughout the company.
That wasn't so big a deal when the company had just a handful of spas, Mr. Boulogne said. But in the last few years, Rosewood has had a growth spurt.
It grew from a dozen locations in 2004 to 17 expected by the end of this year. Five more properties are under construction, and the company expects to have 30 to 35 in five years.
Meanwhile, spas have become a key revenue driver for high-end hotels.
A recent study by Smith Travel Research found that luxury hotels with spas were able to charge significantly higher average room rates than those without -- a trend that has accelerated in the past 10 years.
In 1997, a luxury room at a property with a spa ran $40 more than one without. By 2007, that gap had grown to $73.
"In some people's minds, it just seems that if you have a spa, then you're a better hotel," said Eva Jensch, a veteran spa consultant who operates Spa Concepts International in Sonoma, Calif.
"There's a comfort level that goes along with a [spa] brand," she said.
For hotel management firms like Rosewood, having a branded spa can make it easier to negotiate lucrative contracts with property owners, Ms. Jensch said.
The first Sense location opened in March at the new Rosewood Mayakoba in Mexico's Mayan Riviera.
Rosewood Little Dix Bay in the British Virgin Islands converted its spa this month.
Rosewood will revamp the spa at its CordeValle resort in the California wine country into a Sense in June.
It will add locations at its prestigious Carlyle in New York this fall and the Jumby Bay resort in Antigua in the West Indies later this year.
"All of our development projects going forward will have a Sense spa," Mr. Boulogne said.
Some of Rosewood's well-established spas -- such as the one at the Rosewood Crescent in Dallas and the Las Ventanas al Paraiso in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico -- will go unchanged for now. Rosewood has left things up to those properties' owners.
While Sense will be a unifying brand, each location will incorporate some local products and traditions -- an approach many were already taking. Branding simply formalizes that effort.
The branding will make it easier for Rosewood to coordinate marketing of the spas.
And, Rosewood officials hope, it will help drive revenue to business center locations that often have more empty rooms on weekends.
Rosewood Sand Hill is expected to open in the heart of California's Silicon Valley next year, and officials hope its Sense spa will attract guests looking for a weekend getaway.
"We're trying to take what would traditionally just be viewed as a hotel and create an urban resort," Mr. Boulogne said.
"The positioning of Sense really allows us to play in a marketplace that we wouldn't be able to play in if we didn't have a spa."
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