Future-proofing spas in a virtual world

The resilience and flexibility shown by spa and wellness teams worldwide has been inspirational. Now they must step into the brave new virtual world, says Executive Fitness Foundation founder Iain Bell

By European Spa

22 November 2020

The British Medical Association says that 64% of UK doctors have noted a significant increase in demand for non-Covid care. Demonstrating the strain that the ‘sharp end’ of healthcare provision is under, some 20% of them reported that levels of demand were higher than before the pandemic began.

Current research also indicates that there has been a significant increase in anxiety and stress disorders, catalysed by uncertainty brought about by the pandemic, which is set to continue.

While we cannot directly compare national health services to the spa industry, we should recognise that our frontline operations could play a significant future role in promoting preventative health and wellbeing.

The rapid adoption of virtual wellness consultations has been catalysed by the pandemic

Spas need to consider exactly how they can provide relevant support in this area as it will be key to industry growth in a post-lockdown world.

To meet these shifts in demand, our teams need to feel safe and accounted for through the delivery of relevant and clear wisdom and leadership.

The entire industry, including all its stakeholders – suppliers, operators, developers and investors – will need to shore up their business models and drive a more resilient, dynamic and positive approach to every aspect of business and communications

Together alone in a digital world

Like it or not, we have all, to some extent, become ‘digital beings’ in the past months. Covid-19 and the ensuing lockdown required each of us to learn new skills to try and understand how to deal with it, so we looked to the internet and chat groups to seek positive motivation and direction. In fact, we probably all overdosed on almost every available digital platform and resource to try and find a way forward.

This was also the case in the spa industry, where lockdown became a shared experience. We all came to terms with the reality, but there is now great uncertainty about how we restart our operations back in the physical world.

Healthy nutrition and immunity-boasting regimes create new online opportunities

If there is one common denominator for all in the pandemic, it is uncertainty about the future and our personal and public safety. This is the greatest issue we have to tackle, and figuring out how to proceed can be difficult. It’s very human to feel confused and anxious about this.

The real prospect of mini-lockdowns and moving in and out of restrictions poses an ongoing undercurrent of insecurity. So, as we look to our future, we must build behaviours that are creative, shared and supportive to become more resilient.

“The entire spa industry will need to shore up their business models and drive a more resilient, dynamic and positive approach to every aspect of business and communications.“

Iain Bell

Founder, Executive Fitness Foundation

A circle of communication

Key factors in the post-lockdown landscape are communication and engagement. Customer relationships and feedback will be vital tools in growing spa businesses. They will help operators formulate clear strategies to nurture and build resilience in their teams. This strength will then feed back to the guest and be as visible as the hygiene and safety procedures we put in place.

If we take anything away from the pandemic it’s that we need to put our teams first. Ingenuity and creativity will allow spas to thrive and this is a golden opportunity to place greater transparency and value upon ourselves.

Collectively, we need to shape this change. We should demonstrate clarity and engagement from within and establish resilience as a core competency. This will be an integral component for training and people development.

Top tips: The bigger picture

Why spa businesses should grasp online opportunities to capitalise on the consumer shift towards healthier living


  • Changing tastes All over Europe people are adopting a healthier lifestyle with retail sales of organic foods across the continent now topping €40 billion (£36 billion).


  • Taking the vegatarian option 13% of the European population now avoid red meat and beef, with 30% more Italian consumers now incorporating more vegetarian foods into their diet. In the UK alone 35% of evening meals are meat-free.


  • Ordering out In the US, retail and food services have soared to a high of $537 billion [£417 billion, €460 billion] due to the pandemic, according to the US Census Bureau.


  • Online profits E-commerce is growing inexorably with Amazon showing operating profits of $14.1 billion and Alibaba Retail Group totaling $12.9 billion.

Where spa guests are concerned, the experiences we provide will continue to evolve, matched by a more person-centric philosophy that reflects adaptability, community and resilience.

Spas will get back to business quicker if they adopt a leaner and more proactive style. Covid-19 has forced us to look at our industry’s flaws and weaknesses. It has given us an opportunity to open the doors to ourselves and our customers with a new, clearer spa philosophy based on change management, positive communication and energy.

Together we continue to grow, bringing positivity to our clients and nurturing human skills beyond the spa walls. This allows us to thrive in life with purpose and true resilience.

Meet the expert...

Founded in 1991 with clients in the UK, Europe and worldwide, the Executive Fitness Foundation’s sole directive to deliver high-quality personal fitness programmes to spas and executives focused on personal well-being and individual productivity. In the UK it exclusively manages all wellness and lifestyle services at One Spa in Edinburgh, Scotland. For more information, click below

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