ISHC - The International Society of Hospitality Consultants |

Spas & Hotels: Compatible, Marketable & Profitable | By Judith L. Singer

8 April 2009

Building, marketing and operating a spa is really not that different than building, marketing and operating a hotel or resort. You have to ask the right questions, hire the right people and deliver the promise so that you have a marketable and profitable business venture that meets the needs and interests of the investor, operator and guest. There are typically several business centers within the hotel/resort, each of which is intended to complement one another in order to enhance the guest experience while also being profit center. When a spa is properly planned, marketed and managed, it seamlessly co-exists within and enhances the lodging property.

If you are considering building a spa or are interested in achieving a higher performance standard from your existing spa, you need to treat the spa as you would any other venue: there needs to be a focus on accountability and profitability. While the word “spa” carries a certain mystique, there is no reason not to carefully scrutinize the spa as a business venture. There are too many developers, investors, lodging operators, asset managers and appraisers who get intimidated by the thought of developing, marketing, operating or understanding the financial realities of a spa.

When people embark into new ventures, they typically create a frame of reference that allows them to think logically and rely on similar experiences so they minimize the risks and maximize the opportunities. As in any new venture, it is important to gather reliable information from people you trust and have a thorough understanding of the business so that you can make an educated decision.

The following are some of the very basic premises that you need to understand regarding a new or existing spa venture:

As a spa consultant for over 25 years to resort-based spas all over the world, my company has provided technical and advisory services for almost $700 million of spa development. Our clients have some of the most profitable spas in the lodging industry, and the hotel/resort has attained some of the highest benchmarks in the lodging industry as measured by companies such as STR, PKF, etc.

To have a successful spa, everyone on the hotel development, marketing and operations team needs to realize that the spa is another “team member” as is retail, F&B, golf, marina, ski, etc. Every team member has a role to play and his/her skills need to complement those of the other team members. The team works and grows together, and they support and rely on one another. While they all have different roles and responsibilities, their individual contributions and skills assure that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The success of any team is about selecting, training, communicating and working together to achieve the goals of the owners (hotel developers, operators, asset managers) and to delight the fans (the guests).

The following are some of the coaching hints that we have consistently shared with our clients. As you read this, you can easily see how spas and hotels/resorts need work together in order to maximize their synergistic potential:






Spas are an important component of a hotel/resort. Do not under-estimate their contribution to the guest experience and financial potential of your property. Spas are about giving personalized service; enhancing the vacation and meeting experience; and providing an enjoyable venue that helps people look and feel better. While almost every four and five star hotel/resort needs to have a spa in order to be competitive, the key is to create a spa concept, facility and experience that is market-driven and trend-sensitive. There needs to be a clearly defined value-proposition so that guests will see the benefit of spending time and money in the spa. With the abundance of spas already in the marketplace, you cannot be another “me too” spa. Once you have a spa, focus on it being a viable business. Measure and monitor your individual performance and how your spa compares to others within your chain or collection and within your competitive set. Spas are not a passing trend – they will always have a certain market appeal. From a business perspective, spas will need to be more focused on being economically viable businesses that profit centers in and of themselves while also contributing to the profitability of the lodging venture. Owners, operators and asset managers will have little tolerance for spas that are “lazy assets.”

Judith L. Singer, Ed.D., ISHC, is the President & Co-Owner of Pompano Beach, Florida-based Health Fitness Dynamics, Inc. (HFD) ( an internationally recognized spa consulting company that specializes in the planning, marketing and management support services of spas for fine hotels and resorts, day spas and mixed-use developments. HFD is also actively involved in conducting economic and consumer spa research. Since its inception in 1983, HFD has been the consulting firm to almost $700 million of completed spa projects. A partial list of clients includes: Mount Washington Resort, Banyan Tree Mayakoba, The Umstead, Rosewood Mayakoba, Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires, Little Dix Bay, Four Seasons Hulalai, Miraval, Malliouhana, Cranwell, Pinehurst, The Homestead, The Greenbrier, Bacara, Silverado and the Delano, Dr. Singer is also the past chairperson of The International Society of Hospitality Consultants ( and was on the ISPA Committee for the inaugural edition of the Uniform System of Financial Reporting for Spas. As we go into our 26th year as spa consultants, HFD will be focusing more of its experience and expertise on helping existing spas to be more marketable and profitable via management advisory services.

International Society of Hospitality Consultants (ISHC) is a professional society with 190 members in 21 countries. Membership is by invitation only and members are leaders in the industry in their respective areas of expertise. With over fifty areas of specialty expertise represented in the society and member and experience working in over 65 countries, ISHC represents a one of kind collection of experience and expertise worldwide. For additional information on ISHC please visit the ISHC web site at or contact Lori Raleigh, Executive Director, ISHC, at

(Reprinted with permission of Hotel Interactive)


Judith Singer


HFD Spa (Health Fitness Dynamics, Inc.)
303 N. Riverside Drive * Suite 102
USA - Pompano Beach, FL 33062
Phone: (954) 942-0049
Fax: (954) 941-0854

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