Sooner or later, COVID-19 will be a thing of the past. However, as the crisis will pass, many things will have changed. New ways of working, new consumption patterns, a new way of interacting with people, and most certainly, cleanliness standards as new ways of measuring the attractiveness of hotels will become the norm.

There is no doubt that the wellness and spa industry will experience an immense transformation. After all, wellness and spa experiences are all about personal service and the human touch. However, around all those changes, one thing has not changed. People still want to “feel good.” The wellness and spa operations are not only about one massage or one beauty treatment. They are about providing self-confidence, empowerment, and an escape from our busy, interconnected lives. While safety and sanitation were always essential in the wellness industry, the measures taken up to now, won’t be enough. New procedures will need to be implemented. On the one hand, you will need to ensure additional hygiene and cleanliness standards. On the other hand, your guests will need reassurance and transparency when they pick up traveling again.

Owners and hotel asset managers need to monitor what is happening on the spa operational level. We have compiled easy-to-follow best practices for your spa and wellness department during and post-COVID-19.

Prior to Re-Opening:
While the wellness and spa operations are closed, there are a few actions hotel owners and asset managers can take to prepare for the re-opening of the hotel and to prepare for a seamless and successful recovery:

1. Engage: Maintain guests engaged through positive and motivating social media posts. Show them that you are looking forward to welcoming them back as soon as possible. You could also share short “how-to” videos made by your staff, showcasing tips and tricks on how to increase well-being at home during the lockdown.

2. Communicate:
To your guests: Update the hotel’s website with the most current information possible, ensure transparency, and concentrate on the fact that your operation’s primary center is the well-being of your guests and staff. Include information on how you can help the guests and especially get in touch with those who have future bookings or memberships.
To your Staff: Communicate with your team, through regular updates for all stakeholders, about the situation and the measures implemented. By being visible and ensuring a two-way conversation, you can ensure a seamless recovery in the future.

3. Laws and Regulations: Before implementing any new measures, you should familiarize yourself with the new regulations implemented by your state and government and the policies that have been put in place by professional institutions. Of course, all of these suggested actions might vary, depending on the local regulations and laws.

4. Cash Flow: In a crisis, intelligent cost-cutting should be on the priority list for hotel owners and asset managers. This includes re-working cash flows to know precisely the trajectory of the current receipts, as well as increasing cash reserves and producing a plan for each line of the cash flow. For the spa department specifically, this means retaining income from memberships, pre-paid treatments, and gift vouchers. This can be done by extending all gift vouchers expiration dates, offering the opportunity to reschedule pre-paid treatments, or considering complimentary upgrades to reward those guests for their loyalty. Additionally, you could engage your staff to provide some of your services virtually. Workout classes and massage workshops are just two of many examples.

5. Prepare for social distancing: Adapt the front and back of house areas for the new two-meter distance rules. This includes everything from the guests’ waiting lounges furniture, gym, and changing rooms, to the linen rooms for your staff. To make it as simple as possible for guests and staff to follow this new rule, make sure to mark the required distances as 2-meter circles on the floor with tapes. To ensure a one-way flow, you should prepare a system to monitor the flow of entrance and exit in the hotel and within the spa.

6. Supply Chain: Make sure to stay in touch with your suppliers and to review payment terms regularly. Update them with information on re-opening plans and collaborate to find new well-being services that you could offer. Treatments that can be done over clothes are a good option for the guests that are still hesitant about re-visiting a spa. Suppliers are great partners to offer courses for your employees.

7. Train your Team: The hotel’s closure is an excellent opportunity to perform training for the staff about the new SOPs that will be implemented. This is the best way to ensure the right cleanliness and sanitation standards, after re-opening. Consider offering virtual courses on how to sanitize and prepare the spa for guests, as well as online classes about the staff’s personal safety at work. Additionally, you should provide your team with a FAQ list on how to handle guest inquiries regarding new policies and sanitation rules. The Global Wellness Institute offers practical resources to plan such courses.

8. Prepare for domestic travel: Many experts agree that the first guests re-visiting wellness and spa hotels will be domestic travellers. To capture this demand, you could consider delving deeper into the history and traditions of your location. Consider offering packages with rates better than your best rate and valid for the first five weeks of re-opening.

Re-Opening:
Once hotels can re-open, hotel owners and asset managers will need to collaborate with their hotel operators and spa managers to implement new procedures and guidelines. The objective is to reassure your guest and provide them with a memorable experience in a safe and healthy environment. We have compiled the essential guidelines to consider:

9. The message: Once you’re ready to re-open, create a positive and forward-looking re-opening message. Show guests what has been done during the closure to make their stay at the hotel as safe and healthy as possible. Doing that provides you with the opportunity to direct the conversation to the positive actions you take and will position your business as authentic and supportive.

10. Pre-Arrival: Include information about the safety measures taken in the confirmation E-Mail sent to the guests. Reconfirm that they have read the communication before their arrival and be sure to be able to answer all questions the guests might have about the procedures implemented by your hotel. You should also include a letter to be signed by your guests, confirming that they have read and accepted your safety policies.

11. Arrival at the Hotel and Spa: Create a reassuring welcoming ritual, including a welcome gift upon arrival at the hotel and spa. When welcoming the guests, the receptionists can provide guests with a refreshment, hand sanitizing wipes, and a moist towel, while informing them about the safety measures taken and what can be expected from the stay at your hotel spa.

12. Printed Materials: You will need to remove all printed materials such as brochures and menus from your spa operations. Instead, consider using QR codes that guests can scan to receive information about your services and safety rules.

13. Retail: Additionally, to wiping down all surfaces on an hourly basis, all testers should be removed from your boutique. This includes body creams, makeup, jewelry, and apparel. Instead, you could make use of video and picture materials to showcase your products and inform guests that testers are available at the reception upon request. In addition to declining any exchanges, a disinfectant should be available upon entry of the boutique, and contactless payment should be encouraged.

14. Treatments:
a. To transition the guests from the outside world into the treatment experience, the welcoming routine can include handwashing. The therapists should do so for a minimum of 20 seconds in front of the guest to provide reassurance. Ideally, the guest should do this at the same time. Determine if you need to introduce treatments in different phases (e.g., facial treatment only after a few weeks of operation).
b. Ensure treatments have 30 minutes in between, to ensure proper cleaning, airing, and sanitation of the treatment rooms.

15. Hydrothermal facilities and Pools: Several experts recommend keeping these facilities closed at the beginning of your re-opening, as those will include high planning efforts. Yet, we believe it is feasible if we have the adequate approach: Social distancing will need to be considered when you decide to re-open your areas like saunas, Jacuzzis, or steam rooms. To limit the number of people visiting these outlets simultaneously, while keeping waiting times at a minimum, encourage guests to pre-book 30 minutes slots. Keep in mind that the post-COVID-19 planning will need to include 30-minute slots in between for sanitation and preparation of the outlets for the next guests. Regarding your pools, even though there is no evidence that the virus can spread through the use of pools, proper water treatment, on-going maintenance control, operation, and disinfection should be done regularly, and the number of guests should be limited. Additionally, soap showers before the visit should be made mandatory.

16. Relaxation Areas: Again, social distancing is vital here. Re-arrange the seating areas to implement the required 2 meters distances while removing extra pillows and blankets that can’t be sanitized after every use.

17. Lockers and Changing Rooms: Your staff should assign the cabinets to your guests by keeping the 2-meter rule in mind, to limit the number of guests that can use the changing rooms. A good practice is only using every third locker and keeping the two in the middle locked. Linen should be placed in plastic wrap, and the used towels should be placed by clients into a specific area, immediately after disposal. As mentioned previously flow of guests should be managed carefully, especially in lockers and changing rooms. When feasible, a one-way circulation is recommended. In addition, the hand dryer and swimming wear dryer should be switched off. Finally, all personal items should stay in the lockers.

18. Gym and Fitness: By defining a maximum number of people for your fitness area and placing signage to educate and inform your guests on how to disinfect the equipment after use, the planning for your spa operations can be simplified. It should also be considered to add Plexiglas walls in between the machines, to provide additional security. Additionally, to placing disinfectant wipes on all tools, the gyms should be cleaned by the staff on an hourly basis. Group classes could also be replaced by live courses available on the guest room TVs. If there is space in the guest rooms, in-room gyms (yoga mat and weights) are an excellent option to reduce the number of people using your gym.

For the safety of your staff:
19. Work Stations: If possible, work stations for treatments should not be shared, and training and equipment should be provided for the staff to sanitize the stations before and after the shifts thoroughly and to prevent touching guests’ personal items. Breaks should be planned at different periods, and ideally, the same people should take breaks together wherever possible.

20. Spa reception: Remove any contamination points at your reception by providing each employee with a personal pen and hand sanitizers. All door handles, computers, phones, and high contact areas should be wiped down at least every 30 minutes. Contactless payments and digital invoices should be implemented.

21. Masks and Gloves: In addition to providing every staff member with a personal disinfectant gel and pen, therapists, trainers, hairdressers, and all other staff will need to wear masks. Make this as comfortable as possible for them by providing enough disposable masks that can be changed after every treatment (or minimum every 4 hours). Ideally, staff members that work in proximity to clients such as hairdressers or manicurists should be provided with face shield masks.

22. Uniforms: If you are not already doing so, consider providing your staff with additional uniform, and textile disinfectants, in case they feel the need to change them during the shifts.

Conclusion
The disinclination to avoid unnecessary contact will lead to a new set of expectations from hotels and spas. While masks & gloves are likely to become a part of the uniform, the post-COVID-19 spa industry won’t just be about being clean but being seen as clean. By preparing new SOPs and safety measures during the hotel closure and providing transparency and clear communication to the guests, hotel owners and hotel asset managers can make sure that their hotels come out of this crisis strong and healthy. We encourage you to share this document with your general managers and spa managers.

A special thank you to: Alexander Ivanov, Regional Spa Manager AMAN Indonesia, for his expertise on the subject.

Written by

Larina Maira Laube, Vani van Nielen, Eliana Levine, Mingze Li, Zhaoyu Zhu and Paloma Guerra.
Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne Students and Alumna

Global Asset Solutions, your key partner in hotel asset management, has partnered with a team of five students and one alumna from Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, recognized by industry leaders as the best hospitality school in the world. Together, we are working on compiling the best practices to help hotel owners and operators navigate through the COVID-19 crisis. By combining diligent research, expert opinions, and our own experiences, we will be publishing the best practices on the most current topics facing our industry. Team APAC is composed of Paloma Guerra, Mingze Li, and Zhaoyu Zhu, while Eliana Levine, Larina Maira Laube, and Vani van Nielen make up our Team EU & US and Remy Rein (EHL Lecturer).

Co-Published with Alex Sogno (CEO – Senior Hotel Asset Manager at Global Asset Solutions). Mr. Sogno began his career in New York City after graduating with honors at Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, Switzerland. He joined HVS International New York, and he established a new venture at the Cushman & Wakefield headquarters in Manhattan. In 2005, Mr. Sogno began working for Kingdom Hotel Investments (KHI), founded by HRH Prince Al-Walid bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud member of the Saudi Royal family, and asset managed various hotels including Four Seasons, Fairmont, Raffles, Mövenpick, and Swissôtel. He also participated to the Initial Public Offering (IPO) of KHI at the London Stock Exchange as well as the Dubai International Financial Exchange. Mr. Sogno is also the co-writer of the ‘Hotel Asset Management’ textbook second edition published by the Hospitality Asset Managers Association (HAMA), the American Hotel & Lodging Education Institute, and the University of Denver. He is the Founder of the Hospitality Asset Managers Association Asia Pacific (HAMA AP) and Middle East Africa (HAMA MEA).

Sources of Information

o Amanjiwo, Aman Hotels Website. 2020. Retrieved from: https://www.aman.com/resorts/amanjiwo/exclusives/ancient-wisdom
o Covid-19 and Your Pool. 2020. Retrieved from: https://pooloperationmanagement.com/covid-19-and-your-pool/
o ESPA Guidelines COVID-19. 2020. Retrieved from: https://globalwellnessinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/ESPA-Guidelines-COVID-19-Ext_.pdf
o European Spa Crisis Management Plan. 2020. Retrieved from: https://globalwellnessinstitute.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/European-Spa_Spa-Crisis-Management-Plan.pdf
o Global Resources for Reopening After COVID-19. 2020. Retrieved from: https://globalwellnessinstitute.org/positivelywell/reopening-standards-toolkits/
o Hyatt care & cleanliness commitment. 2020. Retrieved from:
https://www.hyatt.com/de-DE/info/global-care-and-cleanliness-commitment
o Safe Stay. AHLA. 2020. Retrieved from: https://www.ahla.com/safestay