In response to lingering concerns over meeting costs, destination resort spas are creating new programs and value-add options for groups.
According to the 2010 International Spa Association (ISPA) Trend Watch, a study produced by ISPA, a leading voice of the spa industry, a number of efforts are under way that are favorable for meetings.
"One trend we’ve seen are more 30-minute treatment offerings," says ISPA President Lynne McNees. "According to an ISPA member survey, 46 percent of member spas saw an increase in the number of shorter treatments booked. This makes it easy to get a relaxing service on a lunch break or before a meeting."
She adds that ISPA is also seeing spa sampling menus becoming popular.
"These mini services allow spa-goers to test a variety of treatments so they can decide what’s right for them," she says. "Another trend that has risen out of the current economy is hotels and resorts offering spa credits when booking hotel stays."
The Spa Grande at Maui’s Grand Wailea recently introduced the Hawaiian Spa Fair, which offers an array of mini spa treatments geared toward groups, ranging from a coconut kukui massage to a floral foot bath.
Companies can pre-pay for the Spa Fairs for each of their employees, or if the employees are expected to pick up the tab, the hotel can often provide an exclusive discount to the group.
Acqualina Resort and Spa on the Beach, on Sunny Isles Beach, Fla., has had enough requests from clients for a spa mini program that it recently dedicated an event room within its ESPA at Acqualina for groups.
"We have created several packages for groups from 10 to 35 persons, which includes mini spa treatments as well as food and beverage," says Deborah Yager Fleming, vice president of sales and marketing for the resort.
Packages include Wellness, which offers the private group space for four hours and features three therapists performing three mini treatments, such as a foot, hand or scalp massage.
The resort also created an ESPA group pass for meeting planners, giving attendees spa access in addition to a 20-minute boutique treatment, such as a mini facial.
"For our incentive group clients we have offered a T.L.C. Treatments, Light Bites and Cocktails Event option," Yager Fleming says. "This is a two-hour event that includes cocktails and canapes while exploring many of ESPA’s signature treatments."
Guests can relax with 10-minute mini treatments of chakra balancing and foot reflexology.
Utah’s Red Mountain Resort & Spa also offers what it calls a Spa Tapas event at its Stagestone Spa & Salon, highlighting a buffet-style sample of treatments.
"It’s like a mini trade show, and guests can get a little taste of wellness," says Tracey Welsh, general manager of Red Mountain. "Groups really enjoy it, and planners don’t have to guess what treatment everyone is going to like. They don’t necessarily need to book a spa treatment for every attendee."
Tapas samples include a neck and shoulder massage and consultation with a life coach.
Groups can also book spiritual ceremonies, such as a fire ceremony conducted by a shaman.
"The group can set its intentions and goals for the year, take an offering and think thoughts about the offering," Welsh says. "A spiritual blessing circulates around the group and is sent to the spirits the shaman works with. It’s significant for a lot of our groups."
A life coach can also help set goals and intentions for groups. On the wellness front, the resort offers lectures on healthy living, private group classes like yoga and salsa, and outdoor activities, among other options. Fitness breaks are also popular, including group stretching lessons from a personal trainer and a hand massage, dubbed the "Blackberry Massage."
At Topnotch Resort and Spa in Stowe, Vt., which attracts reward groups and executive retreats, short spa breaks are in high demand.
"We provide spa breaks with chair massage, hand reflexology, yoga classes and stretching right outside the meeting room," says Alexandra Robinson, spa director of Topnotch. "We take the spa to the meeting space, and fit it into their schedule and timing. They get relief from the stress of looking at PowerPoint all day."
Robinson also notes the spa’s flexible hours for groups.
"We can stay after-hours if a meeting runs late, or start early," she says.
Groups can also book the spa space itself for private treatments or team-building activities, whether the group brings in its own team builders or utilizes the spa’s fitness staff or lifestyle coach. The staff can also offer classes in massage, reflexology or show groups how to hold meditation sessions in the work space.
Unlike some resorts, Topnotch is reluctant to shorten its treatment times, but can utilize its 32 treatment rooms to accommodate groups.
The WELL Spa + Salon at Grand Geneva resort, in Lake Geneva, Wis., is also reluctant to shorten its treatments. Instead, planners receive up to a 30 percent discount to offer attendees to take advantage of spa services on their own, which can be used a few days before or after the meeting as well.
"Companies aren’t picking up the bill for spa services," says Amy Idsvoog, director of sales and marketing for Grand Geneva. "In the past, the company picked up the golf outing and for non-golfers it picked up the spa. Now groups allow attendees to take advantage of the spa, but they are paying for it.."
The spa, part of a 1,300-acre destination resort, offers its fitness facilities for group rentals, including a pool area, basketball courts and a climbing wall.
The Willow Stream Spa at Fairmont Mayakoba Riviera Maya in Mexico is also becoming more flexible as groups book spa treatments on shorter notice.
"Before, we received requests six, eight or 10 months out," says Roselia Flandes, spa director for the resort. "Right now we are receiving requests three months in advance, or for domestic groups, three weeks in advance."
Today, 50 percent of the groups give spa credits and 50 percent are still booking treatments, as opposed to the former process of groups booking in advance. Flandes also notes that planners used to book a slot and let attendees choose a treatment, but now are choosing the basic services for them.
The next step for spas may be a technological one.
"Social media is on everyone’s radar now, and the spa industry has really taken the lead," McNees says. "Spas can offer up-to-the-minute deals and rebook cancellations by tweeting or posting a Facebook message. Millennials are tapped into social media, and they have started flocking to the spa."