The pandemic has made it difficult for anyone to relax. Beyond being a drag on a hotel’s core business—room sales—it’s also been an assault on ancillary revenues, such as spa business.

Hotels with spas needed to shift carefully during the pandemic, finding corners to cut without taking too much away from the promise of a serene customer experience. What they found, according to data, is that cutbacks in staff and some amenities were blessings in disguise, producing efficiencies and greater personalization of the guest experience.


Clever Cost-Cutting

Reduced services and social-distancing regulations allowed for vast savings in spa operations that helped pad the bottom line, even in the face of reduced revenue.

This is what the Acqualina Spa by ESPA, at the Acqualina Resort in Miami, realized. “Upon reopening of the spa, savings came from reduced hours that allowed us to schedule only one person per day on slower days, but still remain open seven days a week, rather than being closed on some days,” said Catherine Davalle, the spa’s director. This measure obviated the need for several receptionists or spa attendants to cover longer opening hours.

Demands for a more sanitary and personalized way to present spa amenities also resulted in unexpected cost savings for the spa. For instance, amenities, such as toothbrushes, combs, hair brushes and razors, are now available on-demand rather than freely available. In the relaxation lounge, tea service is now on demand.

Such efforts appear to be paying off. According to HotStats data, in May 2020, in the thick of the pandemic, spa profit on a per-available-room basis at full-service properties in the Americas was -$0.31. Fast forward to a year later and that metric jumped to $0.89—a 387% improvement.

At luxury hotels in the region, the same key performance indicator soared in May 2021, reaching $4.42 after declining to -$1.46 in May 2020.


Change for the Better

Meanwhile, the changes made last year to reduce costs have allowed spas to make improvements and find efficiencies.

“We have saved on amenities by approximately 30% and we have taken this saving to implement new standards, which will have a greater impact on our guests’ experience,” said Davalle.

The spa now offers more pool amenities, such as chilled grapes, frozen lemonade and cool, small hand towels. “As more guests use their spa visit as a ‘Spacation,’ we have worked to improve the overall guest experience that surrounds their treatment,” Davalle said. Other additions include new F&B items on the spa lunch menu and the availability of PressReader, a digital device to read thousands of newspapers and magazines from across the world.

The spa also added a new treatment, a Himalayan Salt Stone back massage, in which guests take the stones home with them.

Going forward, Davalle continued, “We are keeping the reduced hours as we are still not fully staffed to cover all areas during longer hours, and making the amenities on demand is allowing us to spend money in other areas to improve the guest experience.”

Other properties are reversing course from savings realized during the pandemic, addressing a need that, arguably, is vital to profitability: customer service.

“When we reopened our spa, we removed our healthy snacks to discourage communal eating—which was a short-term cost savings—and we discontinued group fitness classes,” said Derek Hofmann, Senior Director of Spa at Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort.

But, he added, “We have begun to resume these offerings as they are important service touch points for our guests. Returning to normal with offerings like these represent an increased cost to our immediate post-pandemic operation; however, we feel they are important service elements to enhance our spa patrons’ overall experience, that justify the relatively small profitability erosion.”