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7 Insights on Creating an Exceptional Spa Experience

The U.S. spa industry, including club-based spas, has a long history and continues to grow; between 2013 and 2014, the most recent year for which figures are available, revenues climbed 5.3%, to $15.5 billion, and the annual number of visits rose 6.7%, to 176 million. 

When it comes to looking for valuable advice to improve one’s spa offering, it would be hard to do better than to check in with Aspria, a London-based chain that operates a total of eight facilities, all of which have world-class spa amenities. The company has one club in Milan, Italy; three in Brussels, Belgium; and four in Germany, with one in Berlin, one in Hannover, and two in Hamburg. 

Brian Morris, the company’s founder and chief executive officer, offered his thoughts on succeeding in spa services in the April issue of Club Business International

1. Minimize Overhead: “Payroll has the greatest impact on a club’s profit-and-loss situation. In the Far East or other markets with low labor costs, you can afford to have a fairly labor-intensive spa offering that’s based on personal treatments. In Europe, where the cost of labor is high, the alternative is to focus on amenities that minimize payroll—things such as saunas, steam rooms, and relaxation rooms. Our spas are very well equipped and as automated as possible. There’s still some impact with utility bills, but we’ve combined the heat and power systems at several of our clubs to ameliorate this.” 

2. Keep It Personal: “Member-facing services need to be personal and individual, particularly when, as in Europe, there are cultural and linguistic differences to be considered. The common systems are those that operate behind the scenes—the finance and membership systems, for instance. Because ours is a very complex product, achieving the appropriate balance is challenging; we’ve had to do a lot of tailoring of our processes.” 

3. Make It Exciting: “During peak times at the spa, an ‘aufguss,’ or ‘sauna meister,’ will stage a sauna ceremony. This raises the participants’ body temperature over a short period of time, and then modulates the temperature. It’s fun, theatrical, and quite dramatic, and an experience that our German and Scandinavian members, in particular, love. The members engage in a lot of banter during the aufguss. It’s not dissimilar to a group cycling class with an incredibly popular instructor who’s developed a strong following.” 

4. Train Your Team: “Developing a truly excellent management team in a spa department isn’t easy. The industry isn’t very well developed, and it doesn’t travel terribly well. European therapists, for instance, may have a different idea than their Asian counterparts about what a treatment should be like. As a result, it’s important to invest in training and to think long-term. I look at it from the perspective of the world of soccer. The best soccer clubs have academies that go back decades, and field new players after an extensive period of scouting, preparation, training, and growth. That’s the approach we’ve taken at Aspria.” 

5. Think Smartphone: “In the old days, you used a phone to make a call. Now, people organize their lives around their smartphones. In a way, that’s what our clubs are like; they’re very complex and offer so many possibilities. Most members will use only a fraction of the services we’re able to provide. So it’s our job to educate them. We need to help them identify and make full use of the value inherent in their membership. Our team members show them around, talk to them, and invite them to ‘taster’ sessions. It’s very much a handholding exercise—one in which we educate not only our own members, but also the market, through osmosis and direct contact.”

6. Evaluate Thoroughly: “New spa products are being introduced every other week. We want to offer treatments that can deliver proven benefits over a long period of time. Our members trust our advice, so we don’t want to say, ‘This is the greatest thing since sliced bread,’ and then, six months later, withdraw it and replace it with something else. … So, when we choose the product houses we’re going to work with, we tend to look for longevity, quality, service support, and good advice. … Aspria’s current treatment brands include Decléor, Carita, Comfort Zone, St. Barth’s, Dermalogica, and Phyt’s Organic.” 

7. The ‘Health’ in Health Club: “Fitness is easy—it’s a box with some equipment in it. True health, on the other hand, is a wholly different ball game. We have a system, called AspriaPro, that’s probably the finest health assessment program available outside of a hospital or health clinic, and we’re also working with some of the finest medical specialists in Europe. … While, in the U.K. and Europe, fitness probably yields a penetration rate of 5%–15%, we’re convinced that most people are interested in health, so that’s the direction we’re taking—we’re looking at prevention and rehabilitation.” 

Read the full “The Exceptional Spa Experience” article in the April CBI.

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