MAKING THE MOST OF SUMMER
Members' Tips for Seasonal Success
by Jamison Stoike

Spring is already underway, and that means it won’t be long until summer arrives in full force. Of course, the summer season brings different things for different spas. June, July and august may mark a seasonal slowdown for some; yet for others, the days of summer bring more bookings, increased out-of-town spa-goers and a need for seasonal staff.

This month, Pulse spoke with three spas about what they do to maximize their summer revenue, regardless of whether business slows down during the season (in the case of Red Mountain Resort – Sagestone Spa and Fern Tree Spa) or picks up (The Spa at Sun Valley).

Driving Business When Business is Slow
Red Mountain Resort and its Sagestone Spa are located in Ivins, Utah, just a stone’s throw from several State and National Parks. The spa is busiest in the spring and fall, and summertime brings reduced traffic, save for those who are passing through on their way to Zion national Park 35 miles to the east; according to Marci Howard-May, Director of Spa and Wellness, most visitors to the national Parks stay elsewhere because Red Mountain Resort doesn’t allow children onsite.

To help drive revenue during a time when there are fewer people staying at the resort itself, Howard-May alters her spa’s marketing strategy: rather than driving revenue through resort guests, she increases the spa’smarketing push to local customers and National Park travelers. Both clientele utilize the spa as a day spa, so the combination makes sense. “We do e-blasts and social media,” says Howard-May, “but word-of-mouth is a big one. We have a devoted local clientele who will spread the word if we’re discounting our packages.” By contrast, the resort will use digital advertising during the busy seasons to help reach a national audience.

Sagestone Spa does offer discounts to its customers during the summer; Howard-May prefers to discount as the need arises, based on bookings, rather than setting anything in stone. Says Howard-May, “we’ll offer an additional discount on our multiple-treatment packages, and that’s on top of our existing fifteen percent discount for local guests.” Sagestone’s word-of-mouth is further helped by seasonally rotating manicures, pedicures and salt scrubs, although they don’t create summer-specific treatments. For their retail in summer, Sagestone Spa places an emphasis on summer-centric skin care, such as sunburn repair and sunscreen products, which are necessary given the area’s 300-plus days of sunshine annually.

Since switching to more aggressive discounting and marketing strategies in the summer, the spa has seen a measurable improvement in summer revenues—“easily fifteen to twenty percent,” according to Howard-May.

Red Mountain Resort – Sagestone Spa also takes advantage of the summer slowdown by using it as a time to train its staff and build the spa’s culture. Howard-May has her team review spa protocols, as well as the spa’s handbook, to ensure her team’s knowledge is up-to-date. During the summer, the staff will also engage in team-building activities, including offsite gatherings and cooperative goal-setting during team meetings.

When Summer Gets Busy
The Spa at Sun Valley experiences the opposite seasonality: busy in summer and winter, slow in spring and fall.The added demand in winter comes courtesy of ski enthusiasts, who come to resort’s locale of Ketchum, Idaho, to schuss down the slopes of the 13,500-foot Bald Mountain. in summer, the area is swarmed by campers, hikers and vacationers who come to explore Idaho’s mountainous terrain and Ketchum’s small-town charm.

To deal with the crush of customers, The Spa at Sun Valley spends the first half of the year hiring and training seasonal staff, according to Director of Spa & Wellness Tracy Harper. Beginning in late January, Harper begins recruiting therapists and estheticians from local schools. “This year we’re even doing a ‘familiarization trip,’ where we invite students to stay at our resort, in staff housing, to see what it would be like if they came onboard,” says Harper. Due to the remoteness of its location, the resort provides its staff with onsite housing.

Once a seasonal employee is hired, they go through an extensive training process. Every department of the spa has a dedicated trainer, and each new hire is paired with their department’s trainer for up to a month to learn signature treatments and spa protocols. “By the end of the process they’ve learned how to do every service through hands-on training and coaching,” Harper notes. The process is extensive, but it works: since instituting the program two years ago, the Spa at Sun Valley has lowered customer complaints by a resounding 50 percent. Although most seasonal hires leave the spa at season’s end, a handful will turn into full-time employees.

Harper also takes advantage of the summer to host special spa events, often in partnership with its vendors,
including HydraFacial, Jurlique and EmerginC. Over Memorial Day weekend, the spa will host a “from head to Toe” skin care event, featuring poolside services and mini-facials at a flat fee. At a skin care event last summer, the
spa charged a $50 flat fee for a 25-minute service, use of all spa amenities, complimentary food and beverage, and discounted specials. These events result in boosted revenue from both retail and bookings, says Harper, but the point goes beyond the bottom line: “our goal isn’t necessarily to make money… it’s for a marketing and branding boost, and it gives us a chance to educate people on why it’s important to care for themselves.” In fact, a portion of the profit from these events is typically donated to charity, and Harper says that the spa’s vendor partners are excited to participate for that very reason.

Additionally, the Spa at Sun Valley is launching its first-ever wellness retreat this June, which will be available both to resort guests, local patrons and those who are staying at other hotels. Taking advantage of the summer sunshine, the itinerary includes a variety of outdoor classes, services and activities, including meditation and nature walks.

In recent years, the Spa at Sun Valley has found success marketing these events through its email database, although Harper notes that local print advertising has been highly effective as well. Although the spa doesn’t push out its summertime specials through digital advertising, it does use social media to build its brand and promote the “Sun Valley Spa lifestyle,” says Harper.

Rethinking the Strategy
Like most Caribbean resort spas, Fern Tree Spa is busiest during the winter vacation season, slower in summer, and slowest in the fall. Despite this, the Jamaican spa has been able to find ways to boost its profitability even when there are fewer vacationers in the area. Their secret? Experiment with new ideas.

“One summer, we introduced a summer price list,” says Spa Director Tanya Vassell. Although the summer prices were lower, Vassell quickly noticed an issue: customers were getting a discount that they didn’t realize they were getting, leading to less of a revenue boost than anticipated. “Our summer clients want to know that they’re getting a deal,” Vassell says, “so the following summer I introduced a marked twenty-percent discount” that was listed alongside the year-round price. Even though the resulting price was the same, the latter approach yielded an improvement in revenue.

Vassell has since altered this strategy by offering added value promotions, rather than price discounts, in recent years; for example, the purchase of a 90-minute massage service might come with a complimentary body exfoliation treatment. The result has been a marked increase in year-over-year revenue per treatment, according to the spa
director.

With less pressure to perform well during the slow season, Fern Tree has also used this time to test out new treatments. Some may not work out—“sand bathing was an option which got some interest, but not many bookings,” according to Vassell—but others have been so successful that they’ve become year-round fixtures on the spa’s menu, such as “visiting instructors who offer yoga and meditation with singing bowls.”

Other treatments which may not be popular during the spa’s busy winter season have proven far more popular in the summer, such as outdoor baths. Fern Tree Spa offers these treatments all year long, but the extended daylight of summer affords resort guests more time to soak in the outside tubs after a day at the beach.

Like Red Mountain Resort, Vassell also uses summer as a time to train her staff. in addition to training for new treatments and refreshing on old standards, Vassell lets each team member have their own “spa day” at the spa in order to experience each treatment just as a guest would. Additionally, Fern Tree Spa works with its vendor partners, including Elemis, to schedule week-long hands-on training for the spa’s estheticians.

Regardless of whether this summer finds your spa swamped with bookings or—as the song goes—with too much time on your hands, there are a variety of ways to make the most of the season. With training, promotions, marketing initiatives and special events all on the docket, these three ISPA members are making the most of the summer. How will you?