Spa Design – The Art of Looking Sideways

| August 11, 2016 | Reply

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By Corli Schoeman – Niche Spa Consulting – as featured in Les Nouvelles Esthetiques Spa Magazine – Issue 70.  To subscribe:


“Spa design is about creating a sense of place, one that can be otherworldly but also rooted in the location, the culture and customs.” – Michael Bender

If you want to see more detail, look at the world sideways. Visual curiosity and the ability to look at the world sideways can be regarded as both a blessing and a curse.

A curse, because nothing is ever simply the way it meets the eye, status quo won’t do it justice, mind over matter…matters and less can be more than enough!

A blessing because your business will soar – you will have the ability to gaze whilst thinking, to stand ideas on their heads, to look but to listen, to create life in a space where there once was no hope.

I would like to challenge you to start thinking in pictures, use of your five senses, and mindfully tackle your spa by shifting your perspective.

5 sure-fire steps to use when looking sideways at your spa:

1. Use your head…go on turn it sideways!

What is the most treasured and well-used piece of equipment in your spa? Your head! This can easily become the most underutilised tool in your shed as we have become lazy and spoilt – lost our creativity due to the era in which we find ourselves.

Do the math – does it add up, does it add meat to your bottomline? Analyse the occupied floor ratio to turnover – does your Rasul add value to your business or has it become an ongoing maintenance issue draining your capital? Draw on your stats, when last did you sell a hydrobath? Don’t become archaic, move with the times and the trends and analyse and adapt your spa and menu accordingly.
2. Declutter

“Decluttering is a refocusing – find the few things that matter most to you and make them a larger part of your life. In a world where an excess of choice has become paralysing, curation has become key.”

“Does it spark joy?” If it does, keep it. If not, discard it. “When you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too. As a result, you can see quite clearly what you need in life and what you don’t.” That simple system is the building block of Marie Kondo’s runaway best-selling book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

By shedding the outer layers of a very cluttered and usually somewhat unhygienic spa, we often discover gems – in the shape of equipment, assets and space.
A recent find was when I removed underutilised bicycles from a gorgeous space adjacent to a spa reception area and managed to double up the volume of the current area by adding a luxurious relaxation lounge in a space that once had no hope, vision or dream.

This newfound cocoon has in turn generated revenue by offering children an area to enjoy spa services, close enough to their parents but far enough to preserve the calm & tranquil setting of the main spa.

3. Spa Staff Survey

Do yourself a favour and practice a bit of our South-African ‘ubuntu’ [uu-boon-tuu] …my ear simply coverts this term to ‘bounty’ or goodness.

Practice what you are preaching by offering some in-house goodness – focus on your team’s ergonomic needs. By keeping your staff happy, they will automatically be more productive, by working harder, faster & smarter in a practical (…and pretty!) space.

Do they currently have a sufficient, smart prep room – is it safe and effective? One of my teams motivated me to convert a hydrobath room into a now smart & sleek prep/storeroom where they previously had no choice but to clutter and the room turnaround was a nightmare.

A minute storeroom was upgraded into a staff rec room, a coffee station and comfortable chairs where they once had to float between rooms and sneakily drink coffee – they deserve a break and break room too.

In a Zambian spa, a large over utilised staff room was completely transformed into a hairsalon, meeting the spa guest’s needs, driving revenue and motivating the staff to become more involved (a sufficient general hotel canteen was already in place)

Another winning example is where the removal of a hydrobath lead to a unique mani & pedi booth, where bridal parties now enjoy bubbly & pampering.

4. Focus on the Magic not the Tragic

It is easy to become despondent upon entering a space where there seems to be no hope, direction or way forward. One of my toughest challenges was in the Kalahari where the focus was 100% on wildlife and I had to motivate wellness & hospitality – foreign species!

The original allocated spa therapy room was once a curio store, became a kiddies play area, duty manager bedroom and finally a single therapy room adjacent to a small gym. Once revenue was generated out of the existing space and the guest demand became too great for the space allocated – phase one kicked in.

The gym was relocated and the space redesigned to offer a welcome lounge, single & couples room. The LNE spa awards drew near and we decided to enter the spa but knew that we had to expand our offering by adding hydrotherapy services – phase two – the magic in this case was that we now had the space but the tragic was major water restrictions which literally meant I walked around with my head sideways for days – ultimately discovering exquisite AirPower eco showers, installed in two private hydrotherapy stone-clad chambers.

The ripple effect lead to the private villa’s unoccupied nanny loft-room to be whipped into action by becoming an exclusive spa therapy suite, offering honeymooners indulgent treatments and yet again creating revenue from a once forgotten space. Yoga was offered by turning a wooden tsala into a cool calm area by adding sheer, flowy drops to create a serene space.

Make the most of the hand you were dealt!

5. Educate, Activate & Promote your new space

Once you have applied steps 1-4, you need to showcase and actively market your newfound revenue maker; it is wise to align with the latest wellness trends such as:

Mindfulness –
Host wellness workshops in a natural environment, showcasing your property’s diversity and the best of nature.

Kids Spa –
Tuned-in parents, armed with more options and resources than ever before, are looking to the same spa and wellness therapies and techniques they’ve relied upon to improve their own lives to now nurture their children’s. Parents reveal themselves willing to dedicate considerable time, attention, and, yes, money toward this niche that promises to be one of the industry’s most significant areas of growth.

Well-fests –
Festivals shift from wasted to wellness. Wellness festivals are cropping up all over the globe, celebrating health and wellbeing while still embracing the spirit that makes music festivals so popular.

There’s a magnitude of trends out there – find your feet, get them wet and decide which one is the way forward for your business.

Make a spa difference by simply making the basics work better…expect the unexpected!


Corli SchoemanCorli Schoeman is the owner operator of Niche Spa Consulting, currently based in the Garden Route South Africa.
Corli has been groomed in the spa industry for the past 14 years, as therapist and having managed award winning spa’s such as Tswalu Kalahari Reserve & Pezula Resort Hotel & Spa.

She skillfully applies her gained experience and currently mentors & consults to some of the country’s leading spa’s. Corli is focused on driving individual spa revenue, establishing unsurpassed spa standards, educating spa teams & delivering exceptional profits.

Corli sits on the board of the South African Spa Association and heads the distribution & education for Esse Probiotic Skincare in the Garden Route.

Category: Spa Articles

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