Spa: A Comprehensive Introduction
The Beginnings of the Contemporary Spa
While the medical view of spa therapy and health resort medicine was on the decline, a new era in the world of spa began to develop in the 1940s, with an emphasis on physical fitness, personal development, self improvement, and wellness—not focused on the eradication of disease, but on the optimization of good health. The contemporary spa began to take shape, but still retained ties to its ancient and global heritage. Modern spas in many forms began to develop into what people today recognize as spa, incorporating and expanding on the practices and traditions of the rich history of the world’s spa cultures.
The modern spa era saw spas shift from their ancient medical and spiritual emphasis to today’s corporate model that primarily focuses on beauty, fitness, and wellness. While wellness and relaxation have always been the cornerstones of a spa’s holistic experience, the historical European model had come to emphasize taking the waters and retreating to pastoral and natural setting for weeks and even months at a time. Food was luxurious and abundant, and doctors routinely recommended spas as a way to cleanse and heal the body away from the rigors of everyday urban life.
In the early part of the twentieth century, medical discoveries started to replace clinical interest in spas and their powers of natural healing. Public hospitals started replacing spas and the medical establishment became guarded about spa treatments as a health response for many years. It wasn’t until the last decade of the twentieth century that the public once again began to recognize the medical, health, and healing values of spas.
In the United States, many spas followed the classical European tradition of taking the waters. Such historic spas as the Greenbrier, Saratoga Springs, The Homestead, Glenwood Hot Springs, and French Lick and West Baden Springs were all centered around mineral springs. As traditional medicine developed more treatments, drugs began to replace traditional water cures, leading to the waning of spas in America.
The renaissance and renewal of wider public interest in spas, especially in the United States and Canada, can be directly linked to the emergence and development of the health movement and fitness boom of the 1960s and 1970s. As the fitness fascination took hold, some spa professionals began to notice that there were “fit” people who were not “well.” This shifted the paradigm from merely being physical toward a focus on wellness and emotional well-being, which in turn, opened and broadened the way from fitness clubs to the contemporary spa.
One of the central figures in this shift from fitness to spa was Sheila Cluff, a professional figure skater and high school physical education teacher. Cluff introduced “cardiovascular dance” to the world in the 1950s. Later her methods were refined by fitness practitioners, including Dr. Kenneth Cooper and Jacki Sorensen, and would come to be called aerobics. Cluff went on to found The Oaks at Ojai in 1977. This American fitness movement would lead many people to see and think about spas in a new and wider light than the classical European model with its primary focus on the waters.
Today’s Spa Industry
An increasingly hectic daily life with ever increasing pressure to earn more and more money has spurred the growth of the spa industry. Specifically for women, pressure was at a zenith in the 1980s with baby boomer women breaking out of traditional roles in droves and pursuing careers as well as family life. The “I can have it all” attitude of the time, which persists today, was a lot to sustain, and combined with the information overload of the 1990s, created a “perfect storm” of stress in the daily lives of millions. The antidote: Spa.
Relaxation and stress reduction always have been and continue to be the primary drivers of spa visits. As technology grew exponentially, and people became constantly accessible and available, stress and the need for relaxation increased. People began feeling less human and more like numbers or bytes of data. The high-tech world needed to be balanced with high-touch. This remains the foundation for the relevance of spa today and into the future.
Retail Management for Spas
During the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries numerous European spas ﬂourished and were supported with full medical staffs and professional personnel. Typically spa visitors were sent to a resort spa by their home doctors in order to “take the waters” and “make a cure.”
Spas have long centered around responding to the needs of people to ﬁnd relief from stress, improve their health, and enhance their overall wellness. Spas design their treatment menus around meeting these guest needs. The retail environment of a spa is a part of that entire package, one that complements and supports the spa’s philosophy.
Bob Hope was known to mention the beneﬁts of his daily massage for feeling so well in his later life. Unfortunately, it is the rareﬁed few who will enjoy the beneﬁts of a daily treatment. This is one of the reasons that retail ﬁts in with the overall purpose of spa.
The word “retail” covers a broad expanse of businesses. It can cover anyone who sells anything in small quantities to the person who will consume those items. Retail stores take on a lot of different appearances. They can be huge department stores, small souvenir shops, arts and craft booths, or gift shops.
Even in the spa environment there is no single picture that illustrates retail. Rather there is a collage of portraits ranging from shelves in a hallway to large boutiques to cozy lounges to shiny displays.
When it comes to retail, there are a lot of players who contribute to making it a success. There are partners, such as the media, ﬁnancial institutions, local businesses, and charitable organizations, all of which can also help a spa business grow and succeed.
Uniform System of Financial Reporting for Spas
A uniform system of financial reporting establishes standardized formats and account classifications to guide individuals in the preparation and presentation of financial statements. The recommendations set forth in this uniform system are based on a consensus of spa industry financial executives, public accounting authorities, consulting specialists, and a leading academy expert, and are consistent with generally accepted accounting principles.
Financial Management for Spas
This text is intended to provide spa beginners and veterans alike with a better understanding of financial management. Our hope is that you will learn to embrace the accounting process and to understand that, while accounting is in many ways a science, there is also an art to financial management. In the end, you will be able to appreciate the beauty in numbers.
Spa Operations Manual
The customizable manual includes comprehensive materials for spa job descriptions, new hire checklists, standard departmental information, specific departmental procedures, staff training, common spa treatments, reference guide templates and more.