Spa Trek: Resort Spas for the 21st Century


By Ellen Gemmill

recent in-depth survey conducted for the International SPA Association by PricewaterhouseCoopers revealed that there are about 5,700 spas in the United States, and of these, 8 percent are resort/hotel spas. The annual revenue generated by the spa industry overall is $5 billion. Punch a few buttons on your calculator, and you'll discover that the annual revenue generated by the 8 percent of resort spas is $400 million. To capitalize on this trend, many resort facilities are adding spa services or upgrading their existing ones. They are finding that this undertaking should be done with great forethought, care and planning.

Branding—what's in a name?

When managed properly, branding creates value and influence and, equally as important, differentiation from competitors. It's what compels your target audience to see you as the solution to their problem. The scope of branding encompasses not only what services you provide, but the décor, esthetic appeal and equipment of your spa as well.

Your clients' treatment should begin as they cross your threshold; they instantly should feel welcomed and relaxed by the engaging environment you have created. They should feel confident because of the professionalism of your staff. And they should feel anticipatory as they peruse your menu of treatments.

All these elements are essential in creating a brand—a lasting and memorable impression—in your clients' minds. This can be accomplished either by developing your own brand identity or by co-branding with a company that has an established reputation.


Lighting, music, plants all work to bring your vision to life. But as important as those components may be, to some extent they are extraneous. What can make or break a successful spa experience for your clients is the actual equipment on which they will be treated. No matter how pleasing your spa is to the eye, if the equipment doesn't deliver the comfort and support your clients rightly expect, most likely they will not book subsequent appointments.

Another consideration is the health of your staff; equipment that is engineered with ergonomic precision will support staff retention. This is where your research will pay off. Do your homework, and your spa will graduate with honors. Following is a list of design elements to take into account when choosing spa equipment:

Construction and materials. Buying a solidly built table is paramount in terms of performance over time, minimization of repair costs and consistency in treatment. Use of solid hardwood, steel frames, structurally sound and tested designs, and quality control in the manufacturing process will help ensure stability and longevity of equipment.

Comfort. Padding is the primary consideration for client comfort and ergonomic practitioner support. If it's soft, supportive and supple, the client will enjoy luxurious support while the practitioner benefits from easy and ergonomic client access. Fabric also is a prime component. Look for a fabric that offers abrasion- and tear-resistance, cleanability, and a great memory to retain its shape.

Cost. An equipment purchase is an investment in your ability to generate revenue. And, as in everything else, the old maxim applies: You get what you pay for. Higher quality products that promote treatment versatility, and therefore maximize your income potential from each room, naturally command a higher price. Options such as upgraded upholstery, back rests or flex tops, storage cabinets or shelves, and electronic controls involve an initial outlay but can pay for themselves quickly by supporting staff ergonomics, time-saving efficiency and convenience, and by providing superior client comfort.

Conversion. Table strength and the degree of adjustability in the top, as well as tilt functionality, are important factors that promote treatment of a wider variety of clients and expand your menu of services. Buying a table that will accommodate a growing and evolving practice is vital; spa is an industry that continues to develop and transform, and you want equipment that will meet the challenge. Accessories such as arm rests, face rests, bolsters and table extenders can provide additional comfort and client access.

Configuration. Both the client and the practitioner need ample width for an enhanced treatment experience. The surface area most clients need to feel supported is 30 inches or 31 inches, and when coupled with rounded corners on the table top, also provides maximum ergonomics and optimum work space for the practitioner.

Creativity. Designs constantly are being upgraded to optimally address client comfort and practitioner well-being. Happily, eye appeal is not sacrificed in this endeavor. As treatments expand from isolated, individual therapies to holistic experiences that embrace alternative practices, esthetics are taken into consideration and reflect this inclusive approach. The incorporation of heating elements and greater focus on furniture-grade construction and design are important trends in table innovation that most assuredly will continue into the future.

Climate. As spa locations and treatments become more exotic, special considerations need to be met in order to ensure the life and performance of your equipment. Exposure to sun and high levels of humidity and salt air will accelerate the aging process of spa equipment. Protection from these elements, whenever possible, will maximize its lifespan.

Other preventive measures include storing your table out of the elements when not in use and draping a cover on the table surface when it is in use to protect the upholstery from sun, moisture and oils. Additionally, exposed metal parts can be sprayed with light oil or lubricant as an extra layer of protection.

Something ventured, plenty gained

Designing a new spa or expanding an existing one can be an exciting and challenging journey. With strategic planning and judicious equipment choices, you will create a haven that your clients will associate with their healing and rejuvenation, that your staff will applaud for its attention to their health and well-being, and that you will recognize as the profitable venture you envisioned all along the way.


Ellen Gemmill is a communications specialist for Oakworks Inc. For more information, visit

© Copyright 2022 Recreation Management. All rights reserved.