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Thu 5 Jun 2008 04:00 AM

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GMs “ignorant” about spas

Hotelier Middle East GM Survey reveals spas not seen as essential to a hotel's success.

Hotelier Middle East GM Survey reveals spas not seen as essential to a hotel's success.

Despite the millions of dollars being invested in spas in the Middle East and the fact that a spa is often granted a prime location within a hotel properties, hotel general managers have admitted to not viewing spa facilities as being a key contributing factor in their hotel's success.

This is according to findings from the Hotelier Middle East GM Survey, which was carried out with 125 hotel general managers from across the region between April and May of this year.

When asked to rate the three factors most important to the success of their hotel from a list of 11 options, only 8.2% of respondents chose spa facilities.

This is compared to 27.8% of GMs that rated meeting facilities highly and 25.8% that selected F&B as a key factor in success, for example.

Michael Sagild, chief operating officer of Minor International, which operates spas under the Anantara and Mandara brands, said the lack of value given to a spa by GMs was down to one basic factor.

"You know what it is? Ignorance. GMs are not trained. They don't realise that their spas could generate significantly more profit than their food and beverage outlets. At the end of day, the F&B outlets generate 12% profits if you're lucky. A spa could give you 35% profits - you just need to focus on selling your products," he said.

"Why miss that opportunity? In the smart spas of this world, 26% of their revenue is from retail, just from the products. It's so simple," he continued.

"GMs don't understand where their profit lies. The money is waiting there for them," said Sagild.

Agung Jayastika, spa manager at The Chedi, Muscat, said he was disappointed but not surprised by the findings and agreed that spas had "great potential in contributing more revenue income for hotels".

The GM respondents reported that 5.24% of their hotel's gross operating profit was from spa and recreation.

Jayastika said that The Spa at The Chedi contributed more than this amount.

Profits should be driven by featuring the spa as an integral part of the hotel's marketing plan, visual merchandising, optimising the treatment schedule by capturing guest demands and offering a good quality of service in order to generate repeat customers, suggested Jayastika.

Full integration of the spa into the hotel is key to realising the potential of a spa in boosting both a property's image and its bottom line, according to Donna Kenyon, recreation manager at Towers Rotana - Dubai, who commented that "having a spa would certainly increase our hotel's gross operating profit".

"There is no point having great facilities and professional staff if other departments don't know what services are on offer, what theme the spa has or even what the benefits are to them. This is where training in the form of cross-exposure plays a big part," she explained.

"Likewise if the image is not marketed in the correct way outside the hotel, the spa will not attract the right people. It's not always about being the biggest, it's about being the best!

"It's quality that keeps people returning to a spa, not how many treatments are on offer. And only through this will hotels appreciate the success a spa can give them," continued Kenyon.

The Hotelier Middle East GM Survey also revealed that 67.6% of the GMs that responded used to work in F&B before becoming GMs, compared to 3.7% that worked in the recreation/spa departments.

Spa director at Four Seasons Hotel Alexandria at San Stefano, Egypt, Martin Hilton, said this would have impacted the results.

"Hotel GMs do typically come from a F&B or rooms background and have previously perceived spas as having an air of mystery around them."

He conceded, however, that GMs are now becoming more spa savvy.

Spa manager at Six Senses Hideaway Zighy Bay Elaine Okeke pointed out that the perceived value of spa facilities by GMs depends on the purpose of the hotel.

"Is it mainly used for leisure or business?" she asked.

Okeke also acknowledged a weakness in the spa industry which might affect the value placed on a spa.

"The weakness in the spa industry is reflected in lower standards - spas should have a stamp of approval to meet international standards."

How can spas be fully integrated into hotels? And how can spa operators work with GMs to increase spa revenue? Send your thoughts on the findings of the Hotelier Middle East GM Survey to: louise.oakley@itp.com. For more details on the GM survey, see the June issue of Hotelier Middle East.

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