Courtesy of The Raithwaite Estate Spa, N Yorks

Keeping Our Industry Spa Therapists Healthy

Practical Solutions for A Brave New World of Working

I have been in the spa industry for over 22 years, and it seems a lifetime ago when I walked through the doors of Plymouth College to train and become a "Beauty Therapist".

Back then you had to do everything that encompasses what a therapist was, and this most definitely meant massage…lots of it!

But back then there wasn't a real understanding of a therapist’s wellbeing, so you can imagine the lack of training to use our forearms etc. to help reduce the pressure on our wrists.

Jump to the 21st century, and now we have specialist courses for massage therapists - no waxing required! A trainee's can even do a course in just 6 weeks.

Yes there is more emphasis on techniques to enable the therapist to maintain strength without injury and RSI regulations are enforced in some councils, but we are still seeing our therapists suffer. I personally can no longer do any more than four full body massages in a day, so why would I put that expectation on my team? 

With the exciting opportunity to write a new treatment menu, we can easily get carried away with the usual demands of our business P&L…maximizing effective cost savings, aiming for a high hourly spend from our guests, squeezing as much as we can out of our therapist’s hourly costs.

How is that traditionally done...? Through low cost treatments of course!

But this time I took a risk (don't tell my boss that!) 

What could I do to see my therapists smile again when they look at their column for the day?

What could I do to educate my guests to expand their conceptions of what treatment you need to receive to relax and unwind?

The questions kept on coming and the same answer kept coming back to me. No more massage! 

But let’s be realistic…I can't just remove it completely; there are endless benefits to receiving a massage. It’s always been the core treatment of a day spa, so how on earth can I completely remove massage? What if I lose guests? How will I keep my costs down if I remove the one treatment that provides the highest profit?

The answer? Adapt that way of thinking and come up with other ideas to drive the revenue that isn't all on the therapists.

I was adamant that our guests only choose massage because it’s the most popular way of stress relief and quite often the lowest costing treatment on the menu.

So, I went for it.

All our spa experiences are now half day's only, the guests upgrade to stay longer (this is where our profit margin improves), full body massage came off the menu, and hot poultice massage went in.

This meant the therapists had assistance during their massages to take the pressure off their wrists. It isn't included in any of our spa experiences; it must be booked as an additional or single treatment. 

The back massages in our spa experiences are combined with another treatment so it reduces the amount of massage my therapists do. Combo treatments such as back massage and facial are booked back to back so the therapists have a break from massage and of course the guest enjoys a complete 55-minute treatment with one therapist in one room, so no bed or therapist hopping!

With all of the above combined, business is up 20% year on year! Retail has increased by 32% and most importantly my team actually enjoy their day of treatments; they actually want to work additional hours to accommodate new guest bookings, because it isn't just another massage.

They are no longer walking into a day of massage and hoping they get cancellations. The only issue I need to solve now is the flu, and then my sickness ratio will diminish! :)

Therapists are the only reason why our spas can operate. Without them we have don’t have a business!

It’s time they are respected and looked after the way they deserve to be, so I hope my story can inspire others to re-evaluate their treatment offerings and structure of their therapists’ bookings.

We only have one body and we need to do whatever we can to keep it going for as long as we can.

karen1  karen2

Images Courtesy of the Crowne Plaza Felbridge Hotel.


Written by Karen Thomas, Spa Director at the Crowne Plaza Fellbridge Hotel

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Comments 1

Natasha on Thursday, 07 June 2018 12:28

What a fantastic article, very inspirational and something I will be looking into. Thank you

What a fantastic article, very inspirational and something I will be looking into. Thank you
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Monday, 20 May 2019

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