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Fri 23 Jan 2009 04:00 AM

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Fit for purpose

As more people make fitness and wellbeing routine, the club spa concept provides the one-stop-shop that is just up the modern consumer's street.

As more people make fitness and wellbeing routine, the club spa concept provides the one-stop-shop that is just up the modern consumer's street.

Spa is becoming less of a luxury and more of a person's regular routine, according to spa consultant and general manager of Body & Soul Health Club Rohun Beven.

Beven, who manages three health clubs, including one which has an on-site spa, estimates that around 25 to 30% of the facility's turnover is generated from spa.

You have to work extremely hard to encourage gym goers to go across to the spa but once they have tried it they tend to then become regular users.

"People are now viewing wellness as a way of life; thinking more about how they look and what they eat. It's in the news a lot and therefore people take care of themselves more," he says.

"The spa is a very crucial element of the health club," supports director of operations at Hilton Abu Dhabi Marc Shumacher. The hotel has an on-site beach club, which includes a gym and spa open to hotel guests and the general public.

"The demand for gym and spa treatments is continuously growing throughout the world and especially in this region," says Shumacher. "At our health club and spa we've seen a continuous growth in the number of treatments."

One-stop shop

Both Beven and Shumacher say that one of the reasons the club spa can be successful is because not only are people looking to work out and then have a spa treatment, they're also looking for the convenience of having it all in one location.

"I think the trend is going towards treatments becoming a part of the lifestyle, especially after work, when people won't have much time but will come to a fitness class, followed by a massage to relax. There are also a lot of families coming at the weekend," says Shumacher.

This is an important market for the Hilton Abu Dhabi, which ensures high attendance seven days a week by offering something for each market segment.

Shumacher says that typically men, or the father, use the gym while the mother has a massage and the children play in the beach club facilities.

However, Beven points out that not every club spa is guaranteed to be successful. He stresses the importance of feasibility studies and location.

"As part of a club, a spa can make money because you don't need that much space for it, you've already got a reception desk and locker rooms that are operational and all of the facilities are there anyway. By adding treatment rooms and training staff a spa can certainly make a health club become more profitable depending on where it is; you've got to be very careful." Beven says that the location and demographics are more important than the club itself.

For example, he says that a club spa in an office environment is not ideal.

"There's no-one in the office on Friday and Saturday and people won't want to travel back to work because the spa's there and even after work customers would prefer to go home than hang around the office.

"You've got more chance of being financially successful in a residential setting because the family can go there and you're not restricting the market."

"A club with a large membership, in a residential area, where you can sell treatments to non-members is ideal," he says.

In terms of design, he says that the spa always has to be luxurious but it shouldn't be over the top because if your capital's too high you just don't get your money back. Similarly, the design of the club spa must be adapted so that you're sending the gym goers and spa goers in opposite directions.

"The spa is passive and the club is active so by design you have to separate the two," says Beven. "The two don't mix. People going to the spa want to relax; they want a quiet environment with soft music; they want to have a sleep. In the gym you want loud music, activities, hype, noisy aerobics classes, yelling and screaming."

Shumacher on the other hand says that the two do crossover and one of the benefits for club users is that you don't have to get changed  - you can walk through the facilities and the spa and club is all in one area.The hotel is currently developing beach massage cabanas to open in 2009 to further integrate the different components.

For the club spa that gets the ground work right, in terms of feasibility and design, there is the benefit of attracting a large and unique customer base. Targeting the fitness goer

Fitness First, in the BurJuman mall, Dubai, has a tenanted spa called Dragonfly.

"I think it's a great asset for a fitness facility to have the stress-reducing benefits of a professional spa," says CEO of Fitness First Middle East Gary Knill.

"And for the spa there's the seeding of the professional fitness goer. Typically they're not spa goers; they are exercisers that like to go to the gym, sweat and stuff.

"However, these things change as you experience the spa and see the benefits of the relaxation and the specialised treatments we have here," says Knill.

"I think we're converting more fitness people than we thought we could," he adds.

Knill says that you have to work very hard to get gym goers to the spa, but once they've tried it they become regular users.

There are a number of ways that Fitness First has attracted gym users to the spa. It offers new club members a free quarterly massage for the first year and all members get discounted treatments; a promotion also in place at the Hilton Abu Dhabi.

Dragonfly also benefits from large marketing budgets of an established facility.

"We have quite a stringent marketing campaign, which we put a lot of time and effort into and we bolt Dragonfly onto the side of it and they share the same database," says Knill.

"I think the link to the brand gives the spa an edge." Knill  also emphasises the importance of word of mouth, saying gym members talk about Dragonfly once they've tried it.

In addition to this, the spa runs its own campaigns. Dragonfly retreat manager Adele Duncan says that she regularly emails the gym's client database with promotions, as well as displaying posters in Fitness First centres across the region.

"I also use the text which comes up on the large-screen televisions in the gym to say, for example, ‘get 10% off fitness massages this week,' which people will read while on the treadmill," says Duncan.

The club spa can offer tailored post-workout treatments. The Hilton Abu Dhabi spa advertises yoga, stress-relief workouts, pilates, medical gym and sports massages to complement the fitness component.

Similarly, Dragonfly is promoting a contour-control programme which is an anti-cellulite, appetite suppressing reflexology treatment to help gym members who are slimming achieve their desired results.

All of these methods have been relatively successful for Dragonfly, which has seen an approximate growth in capture rate over the last 12 months from 5% to 15% of the 1000 members; an increasing figure.

"The good thing about targeting large databases of club members is that you only need to apply a relatively small capture rate to the female section and you've got the number of treatments required to make the spa profitable," concludes Beven.

"Fitness is becoming essential instead of exclusive; an essential component of people's lifestyle. The relaxing spa element accompanied by fitness is a tremendous scenario," adds Knill.

USPS of the club spa concept

• Changing rooms, lockers and reception desk are already operational in the facility

• Provides one complete location for fitness and wellness, which fits into the busy modern guest's lifestyle

• Guests are more likely to make a day of it and generally spend longer at a spa that is attached to a gym

• Ability to tap into the gym-goer market, who are not typically spa users

• Access to a large database of gym club members is good for marketing

• Spa can benefit from association with the fitness centre's established brand

• Opportunity to utilise new marketing avenues such as plasma TV screens in fitness centres

• The multi-purpose facilities cater for and attract more families, boosting weekend guest numbers

• Guests suffering from sport injuries or aches often enter the spa for massages or are tempted with secondary spend options such as soothing bath soaks.

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