Spa Business: “What’s Valued” Editor’s Note

In this issue, we analyse new research from the Coyle Hospitality Group and WTS International (see p61), which looks at consumer buying patterns, habits, preferences and best experiences.

The sample of 1,300 active spa-goers was carried out in September 2009, when the Consumer Confi- dence Index was lower than at present – something which needs to be taken into account when analys- ing findings which explore purchasing intentions.

Some of the most interesting results relate to what consumers value. They were asked to rate 12 facilities and 12 attributes as very important, somewhat important or not important. If you combine the percentage score in the some- what important and very important categories, the list reads: relaxation room 85 per cent, locker room 82 per cent, hot tub 74 per cent, saunas 69 per cent, fitness facility 63 per cent, steamroom 68 per cent, spa dining 52 per cent, heated lap pool 46 per cent, outdoor pool 43 per cent, staffed locker room 41 per cent, retail 39 per cent and co-ed areas 23 per cent.

This is good news in that the areas typically provided by spas all score highly and in terms of costs, that staffed locker rooms are significantly less popu- lar than unstaffed ones and yes, the designers have been right all along about those co-ed areas which really seem to be unpopular. However, the relatively
low rating for pools may need further analysis in light of existing hotel research which showed people are more likely to book a hotel with a pool, yet the major- ity don’t end up using it, indicating that consumers’ perceptions of what they value and the reality of what they use are not always the same.

The spa attributes results show cleanliness with the outstanding score of the survey, with a massive 98 per cent in the very important category. As if we didn’t know it already, this confirms there’s no room for error when it comes to hygiene: your cleaners are your most important assets. Scores for professional staff came in at 93 per cent and atmosphere at 92 per cent in the very important category, indicating that human touch is valued more than hardware. Freebies do well, with complimentary refreshments at 55 per cent and free consultations at 43 per cent, although free retail samples only come in at 23 per cent.

If this research could be cross referenced with another piece of work which tracks actual behaviour, to see whether these preferences translate into ac- tions, then we would be able to further understand what our customers want and steer facility investment accordingly.

The fact that two of the lowest scoring areas – retail and spa dining – are important revenue generators for operators, suggests that either the indus- try hasn’t made these experiences compelling enough for customers, or that they’re genuinely less interested in these activities. Both interpretations point to the need for research to establish ways in which these areas of the business can be made more rewarding and central to the spa visit.

Liz Terry editor SPA BUSINESS 2 2010    ©cybertrek 2010

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