Courtesy of The Raithwaite Estate Spa, N Yorks
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THE FUTURE OF A THERAPIST IN THE SERVICE INDUSTRY

Hannah

- by Hannah Charlesworth

 

I’m unsure which is the most common phrase I’m hearing at the moment; “Recorded before social distancing”, or “How are you doing in these difficult times?”. Nevertheless, Covid-19 is proving to be a challenging time for everyone, and the service sector is no different. Life after lockdown for therapists will be a world away from how we worked in late 2019, and thus far not many predictions can be made as to how or when we could reopen our doors. In April 2020, the International Spa Association (ISPA) released a ‘checklist’ of what spas must ensure they have before there can even be a consideration of opening, but so far this is all we have.

When considering the future of therapists in the service industry, it would be so easy to speculate how the current pandemic is going to affect us and our jobs. However, I am sure many are fed up with reading about the doom and gloom this virus has brought to so many, and as I am sure you can guess from my opening statement, I am myself. Instead, I decided to use this article to reflect on the industry changes we could expect to see when we are all back on track, some perhaps now more relevant than they were prior to lockdown. 

I recall a lecturer at my University inviting us to discuss the possibility of technology being integrated into the wider service industry, beyond automated hotel check-ins and online bookings. Technology has had a profound impact on the service industry, with many spa brands being able to develop treatments that require technology to perform. Therapists have had to adapt their roles to use technology on an increasing basis and could expect to continue to do so. 

Resources such as skin scanners, used by a variety of brands, allows therapists a more detailed and accurate consultation of their guests and subsequent aftercare. Websites such as spabreaks.com, founded in 2009, have also allowed the service industry to benefit from technology by opening up the spa to more consumers. With the world-wide-web seeing two billion users daily, all being able to self-educate themselves in a matter of moments, the inclusion of more easily accessible ways to book spa experiences online can only be seen as beneficial in the 21stcentury. Social media has also been a channel many spas have now taken to use in place of traditional advertisements, understanding the variety of consumers they are able to reach this way. But within this discussion of technological advancements came about questions such as how may treatments continue to be delivered? Would there even be a need for therapists? 

The short answer is yes; there will always be a need for therapists. In an industry where the human element is so vital to consumers, it would not make sense to remove this aspect. Consumer behaviour research has found that human interaction in both hospitality and customer service jobs have the demand from the consumer for human interaction, rather than to solely deal with automated systems. Perhaps down the line we will develop technology so that we no longer have to perform massage, facials, or nail treatments, but will this take off? Unlikely. The passion to provide holistic care to others is what drives the service sector, and truthfully, I had never seen such enthusiasm in any other role, until I became a part of the hospitality industry. This is something even advanced robotics cannot ever truly replicate. Therapists should, however, be prepared to allow more technology into spas to aid both themselves and their guests, and to become proficient in using it to their advantage. 

Technology is just one example of how the future of therapists in the service industry could change. However, it is not the only contributor to the change’s hospitality could expect to see. Forbes contributor Angelina Villa-Clarke reported in a 2017 interview with Abi Wright, founder of spabreaks.com, that the service industry could benefit from increasing numbers of treatments designed for those who have suffered from cancer. Whilst previously those recovering were unable to receive treatments, a movement within the industry has allowed more people to benefit from a spa’s services. Wright states she would also like to see this kind of service available for other illnesses, post-natal depression being an example given. Whilst she appreciates that spas may never be a replacement for actual health-care services, spas can provide some relief to those who have already been through the worst life has to offer.

The future of the service sector could also expect to see an increase in reputation as a result of this. Whilst therapists can often battle with stereotypes in their roles, an increase in education as to a spa’s benefits and industry movements are happening to place emphasis on spas being integrated with preventative health care. 

A 2017 article by Bromstein (Spa Executive writer) highlights how the industry should experience a shift towards mindfulness and a focus on personal wellness in a non-medical way. A new way of thinking about the spa, and its target market, could be needed to see this change and to allow for holistic healthcare to become integrated into our lives. In 2020, the shift of the service sector becoming a way the consumer can look after their health preventatively, perhaps holds more relevance now than it did at the time of these interviews. 

Therapists of the future should expect mandatory training to treat people who have been through illnesses, or those who wish to complement existing treatments, to ensure spas are not discriminatory, and that there is a place for everybody. To benefit more people, barriers need to be broken down, such as the belief spas are just for those who can afford it. Therapists may become tasked with helping this from an educational standpoint in the future, promoting holistic healthcare and being able to demonstrate why it is worth investing in. 

THE HEALING POWER OF TOUCH
 

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Monday, 06 July 2020