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EXCLUSIVE: Initial spa demand sees spike in occupancy for hotels with guests keen for treatments

Moddershall

Late July saw spas and leisure facilities finally given the green light to reopen, following five months of closure amid the coronavirus lockdown.

For many hotels, spa facilities are a major piece of the profit pie, bringing in lucrative revenue streams from both hotel residents and day guests.

So last month it was a sigh of relief for many operators when spas were permitted to trade once again. Further positivity came in August with the announcement that other treatments, such as facials and close contact beauty services, would be allowed to resume.

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We got the inside scoop from hotels across the country on how the reopening of spas has impacted business levels and the outlook on bookings for the rest of the year.

“Our website stats are up 105% on the whole of July last year”

Emma Pridding, spa and leisure manager, Carden Park

What was trading like on the first weekend of reopening?

It was an incredible feeling to reopen again after so many months and especially to see people enjoy facilities, such as the outdoor bar and loungers, that were specifically made to be used in summer. Everyone was in a great mood and we received lot of positive feedback on how we handled the COVID restrictions without interfering with the luxury atmosphere and Spa at Carden experience.

How did you manage capacity?

We already have systems in place to stagger bookings to ensure the spa does not get too crowded, we were able to utilise the technology and expertise already present in the team to pay extra attention to the flow of people using the spa – creating a seamless experience for the guest while remaining operationally efficient.

What are bookings like for the next few weeks? At both the hotel and the spa?

We’re seeing our highest level of interest ever over the past few days, with Monday 27th our best day for website bookings in the hotel’s history. Most people want to include spa in their stay to escape for the summer.

 “Maximise this period and stay cautious with costs.

Penny Weston, director, Moddershall Oaks

What was trading like on the first weekend of reopening?

Trading was quiet in terms of occupancy on the first weekend however, the enquiries in the sales office were through the roof. It was almost a delayed boom. I think people wanted to check and see how opening weekend went and wanted to be sure that everything was going to open as planned. It is almost as if our customers waited for the first weekend to run successfully before booking a visit. By Monday, the enquiries went crazy and we have been swamped ever since.

What were your occupancy levels?

30% on our first weekend, since then it has been going up and up. Our occupancy capacity for the spa is 70% when accounting for social distancing and at the moment we are running between 60-70% full.

How did you manage capacity?
We worked out distancing in the changing rooms and key areas of the business like seating etc and worked out that we could accommodate 30 people instead of 44. We staggered arrival times, in groups of 10 in am and departing in afternoon to stagger use of changing rooms mainly and also to avoid a rush at reception for welcome drinks and settling bills on departure.

How did your treatments work?
Treatment menu is very much the same. The treatments are carried out in the same manner as therapists are trained, however with the added addition of PPE to protect our guests and staff. Gloves, sanitisers and visors are being used throughout the experience. Changeover time has been extended, but our cleaning regime before Covid-19 was very strict anyway. The extended time between guests does reduce our diary time which isn’t ideal but due to reduced capacity it is working ok at the moment.

What are bookings like for the next few weeks? At both the hotel and the spa?
Bookings are very strong. At the moment it’s looking very positive. We’ve been able to bring back our full sales team from furlough. Things are busier than this time last year which is great.

 Are you seeing more last-minute bookings than usual?
Yes more last minute bookings, but we did have quite a lot of short lead demand anyway. Definitely for August we’ve seen lots of last minute bookings.

 Is there a rise in people coming for a staycation?
There has been a huge rise is spa breaks and staycations; we don’t usually get multi-night stays often but we’re getting lots of enquiries for these at the moment. I am worried about things changing quickly as they so often have in our industry during this time so I am cautious. With people going back to work and the furlough scheme comes to an end, will we find there is less demand? I don’t think that the business of this period is a sign of consistent booming enquiries. I think it will level out in time but we are making the most of the interest and bookings that we are getting now. Maximise this period and stay cautious with costs.

“It was apparent that our guests were from all over the UK who were prepared to spend high”

Simon Steele, Armathwaite Hall Hotel & Spa

What was trading like on the first weekend of reopening? What were your occupancy levels?

First weekend traded at 65% occupancy which was fantastic. It was apparent that our guests were from all over the UK who were prepared to spend high and have a great time! All of our guests adhered to the new rules/signage, i.e., social distancing measures, hand sanitisation set in place.

What are bookings like for the next few weeks? At both the hotel and the spa?

August occupancy is tracking at 87% currently so we are confident we will move into the 90% and above bracket. The spa is a little slower where we are allowing residents to use the facility within two-hour time slots throughout the day.

Are you seeing more last-minute bookings than usual?

Yes very much so…. September occupancy is at 46% currently but I do predict that from 15th August, September will start to move exponentially.

“People have been booking as early as the day before which is normally not possible”

 Warrick Burton, director, Titanic Spa

What was trading like on the first weekend of reopening?

We were delighted that our clients booked on day 1, the operation was been meticulously planned over the last several weeks so we could take day spa and overnight guests 

What were your occupancy levels?

We ran at about 40% of what we normally enjoy due to the last minute changes in restrictions regarding thermal suites and facial treatments.

How did your treatments work?

Our spa therapists are in the appropriate PPE; currently each therapist has two rooms at their disposal so we are able to fully clean each room after each client without disturbing the diary, and regardless of the number of treatments booked, guests will see the same therapist.

What are bookings like for the next few weeks?

We are extremely grateful and delighted that the bookings are coming through.

Are you seeing more last-minute bookings than usual?

Yes, during our reopening, people have been booking as early as the day before which is normally not possible due to the popularity of our packages, as we move forward and restriction ease, I’m sure the bookings will go further into the future.

“Following each treatment each therapist has an extra 30 minutes to sanitiser and disinfect the room”

Amanda Hardy, spa manager, Seaham Hall

What was trading like on the first weekend of reopening?

We were delighted to finally be able to re-open the Serenity Spa on 25th July 2020. Initially we re-opened very exclusively to spa members and hotel guests only, before welcoming day spa guests back from August 3. The feedback has been extremely positive, however we are trading at reduced level, filling to an average of 50% of those capacity markers in place. It has been amazing to breathe some life back into the spa and welcome a percentage of our followers back! It still remains unclear when we can re-open any heat facilities and without doubt this has impacted us from a member, hotel guest and day spa point of view. Nevertheless we are confident that occupancy will keep growing based on the level of reservations being made daily and consumers finding their confidence in the new norm we find ourselves in.

What were your occupancy levels?

Across our first week our occupancy levels fluctuated and on average we are filling to 50% of those capacities in place in terms of spa. The hotel however has seen a real spike in bookings across the past few weeks with the likelihood of overseas holidays off the cards for many. The hotel’s average occupancy for August 90.4% which is incredible.

How did you manage capacity?

We mapped our capacities based on the bather load and social distancing guidance. We have chosen to introduce full day spa and twilight experiences only until September 1. We will not be offering our morning or afternoon spa sessions throughout August, which has helped us control capacity, stagger arrivals, eliminate guest crossover as much as physically possible whilst protecting others. We have also launched a members booking app to allow members to pre-book their work out and spa sessions up to 48hrs in advance.

How did your treatments work?

We have fully re-inducted our treatments team, reduced our treatment menu initially and increased client turnaround time. Following each treatment each therapist has an extra 30 minutes to sanitiser and disinfect the room. We have combined this with rota pairing so we have a form of track and trace across the therapy team and allocation treatment rooms to team members for their and their guest’s comfort.

What are bookings like for the next few weeks? At both the hotel and the spa?

We have found a huge confidence in hotel residents and the staycation market. The spa continues to pick up steadily and is moving in the right direction, however we understand consumer confidence in this area is going to take time. Over the next few weeks we have seen a rise in treatment bookings vs spa experiences due to the level of hotel occupancy which is really important to maintain treatment team confidence and keep those very skilled therapists in positions they love!

Are you seeing more last-minute bookings than usual?

Typically our spa booking window ahead of lockdown would range from 7days to 48hrs ahead of arrival. We are certainly attracting more spontaneous travellers and spa goers.

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Zoe Monk

The author Zoe Monk

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