Monday, April 21, 2014

What's in a Word?

By Expert - Jeff Butterworth 


Jeff Butterworth, chief spa and wellness officer at Lux Resorts, asks what the sometimes overused term wellness really means and what the industry can do to deliver on it.

As an industry, we use the term "wellness" to define ourselves, with events such as the Professional Spa & Wellness Convention and the Global Spa & Wellness Summit being testament to this fact. Are we, however, in fact associating ourselves with a word that has no substance or worse, painting ourselves as something we’re not?

In the past few years, wellness has gone mainstream. When I first stared out in the industry over 20 years ago, wellness was a fringe topic. Now it’s fully entrenched in the mainstream, with companies such as General Motors, NestlĂ©, Google and even Coca-Cola defining themselves as wellness brands. Should we as an industry be associating ourselves with these and similar corporations?

The answer is yes. Despite its long history, spa is still relatively new to many people and the modern-day spa experience is quite different to its roots. Today it’s considered more of a pampering indulgence than the essential health care solution it was once seen as. In a way, the spa industry is now borrowing from the brand equity that the term wellness has acquired.

Authentic experiences
The question we need to ask ourselves is if we are true to the real meaning of wellness. Sure, Coca-Cola and NestlĂ© are using the word to try and reposition their brands, but in the spa world, we like to think of ourselves as honest and authentic. My advice to our industry is that we need to live up to the real meaning of wellness and not dilute our brand positioning by offering pseudo wellness experiences simply to ride the wave of popularity. Wellness is a holistic concept; it’s about providing a space for people to feel well through education, nutrition, treatments and lifestyle changes

Spas certainly have a role to play in this space, but we must be authentic in our offering. The word wellness has become so popular that there are some resorts and spas that seem to simply add it on for the sake of it, because it sells, rather than because they have really integrated wellbeing into what they provide. This is a danger for our industry, because if we are serious about positioning ourselves in the wellness arena, we must walk the talk.

I cringe when I hear the term services used to describe treatments and therapists being referred to as service providers. It’s not a car wash. One problem for the industry is that most of our team members come from a beauty background, which means they don’t necessarily have the training or skill set needed to create a genuine wellness experience. An experience that goes beyond just pampering and leads to a positive change for the client.

The wellness future
At Lux Resorts we have made a conscious decision to deliver a full wellness experience, through yoga and fitness programmes, healthy cuisine and holistic spa treatments. This month we’re also introducing a traditional Chinese medicine treatment known as Zhengliao, a healing practice that blurs the lines between a spa and a clinical treatment. None of this is difficult, or beyond the scope of most hotel groups to introduce. Most resorts have yoga instructors, gyms, spas and a healthy menu hidden away somewhere. They just don’t connect these different experiences for their guests, which is the critical element.

Spas are the perfect space for holistic treatments such as traditional Chinese medicine, nature cure rituals and Reiki and this wellness path is the future of our industry. It’s critical that we move in this direction, otherwise spa will become positioned alongside General Motors and Starbucks as sugary wellness. We need to start bringing in more holistic therapists and practitioners to develop treatment offerings that work in the spa environment and include elements such as yoga, meditation and nutrition in our offering to a greater extent.

These more peripheral services often don’t generate revenue directly. Over a longer period of time they do, however, produce higher overall spa spend, increased brand loyalty and provide excellent PR exposure. And, most importantly, they position our industry to develop and grow in accordance with the wellness concept over the next few decades.

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Article contributed from Professional Spa and Wellness Magazine

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