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Mon 27 Jul 2009 04:00 AM

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Ticking all the boxes

Audits and training are vital for spa success, says Elegance Group president Jean-Eric Knecht.

Ticking all the boxes

Audits and training are vital for spa success, says Elegance Group president Jean-Eric Knecht.

What exactly is the Elegance Group?

Elegance is a French group comprising of different parts. We began to work in the spa industry six years ago. We built our own spa in France and began to organise all the courses for the spa specifically, instead of only taking people from the beauty sector and putting them in the spa. We organised one of the first schools in Europe dedicated to spa, which is called Elegance Spa Academy.

The team is the first thing the client feels. It’s crazy to see how much money is invested in a spa without thinking about the human resources.

What is the training like?

People work as they train in our academy, as we also have our own spa including the academy. It's a real spa but the staff are students supervised by teachers. They can take a lot of notes, and afterwards they can see exactly what was right and wrong, and learn again. The spa courses take 10 weeks, and at the end they get a diploma, and work for 10 weeks in a spa, so they get real experience.

Where do you get your auditing experience from?

From our academy, we have information from inside a lot of spas. We use that to improve our courses but also we understood we can help in the organisation and running of a hotel spa. This has been the first step to begin to give audits for spa. We organised a lot of things to be able to carry out precise audits on things like finances, structural aspects, procedures, competencies of human resources and all the organisation between the spa and hotel. Most of the time, spas get these wrong. Now spas can ask us to come and send someone from our team to carry out a real audit and provide some recommendation.

How important is it for a spa to ensure the concept is the right one?

If we can show what is wrong in a concept, maybe we can also correct it more easily at the beginning. We can show you what will happen. If you follow us you will not make these kinds of mistakes.

We're talking about what you want to offer. Who is your client? What are we going to give them? After that, we look at the treatments and feelings we want to give them. Then we look at the equipment, the zones and the organisation. Who is the workforce and what are the human competencies we need? What is the plan of architecture we need? Most of the time, concept companies are going the other way. They begin with the architectural concept, and at the end, the last month before the opening, they call us because they don't have any staff or a menu.

Does that happen frequently?

It's really, really common. When you imagine that all the organisation of the team, and that the quality and harmony of the team is the first thing the client will feel, it's crazy to see how much money is invested in a spa without thinking about the human resources.

What challenges affect spas particularly in this region?

In this region, most of the time, people working in spas come from other countries. Most of the time, these kinds of people are not necessarily qualified. Of course, often they have a good feeling of service, but beyond that they need a lot of knowledge. They might not know how the body works. They don't know what kind of massage they can do. They don't know the equipment or procedures. You have to teach them many things in a very short time and the problem is that no-one really wants to pay for the courses.

In the end, usually the hotel asks the spa manager to organise sessions and so on. But it is not the job of a spa manager to run courses. The manager has to manage, not to teach ortrain. Of course they need to know what treatment is good or not good and they have to be able to appreciate the quality of treatment. They have to have this knowledge but they don't need to know the exact details and they don't have to be a good teacher of that. It's a big mistake in the spa industry to ask spa managers to organise all the courses and training for the team.

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