Since opening its first day spa in Paris in 1954, Clarins has earned a reputation as a pioneer. Over the years, the brand has broadened its offering to provide spa partnerships with hotels. Morgan Lefrancois, international director of spas at Clarins Group, discusses how proper planning can make or break the guest experience.
A hotel spa needs to feel like a comforting cocoon, shielding guests from the rigours of daily living.
It also needs to be profitable. To ensure these requirements are met, hoteliers must meet multiple parameters, including structural design, high standards, guest circulation, and, of course, the treatment itself.
"This is not easy," says Morgan Lefrancois. "A well-designed spa is a must and its size needs to be relative to the hotel itself and its business model." Clarins' international director of spas says hotels risk being overly optimistic, building large facilities. However, if the hotel is small or the market doesn't allow local clientele to use the spa regularly, there will be no more investment available for operational costs. "You will have a reduced team," she says, "or you will look for cheaper and perhaps less qualified staff. As a result, great facilities can become empty shells."
Beyond profitability issues, the size of the spa is also a logistical concern. Developers and owners may favour aesthetics and a range of services over practical concerns. "For instance, if you don't have back-of-house areas," Lefrancois says, "it can be a big headache for your operation. How do you deal with your linen? Where do staff get changed?"
Another logistical issue is accessibility. The spa needs to be quiet - Lefrancois suggests complete sound-proofing - and removed from the faster-moving hotel areas, but guest circulation from the hotel to the spa has to be easy. "You don't want to end up face to face with someone dressed in a suit [when] you are in a robe," she says. "Guests need a smooth experience, starting from their room."
Part of this seamless process requires spas to have access to hotel reception details, so guests need not repeat their personal details and preferences just before a treatment. "If you only have 60 minutes available for your overall spa experience," Lefrancois says, "you would prefer the fastest way to the spa."
With these pressing concerns, it is advisable to seek the help of spa experts. "We are long-term partners with hotels," Lefrancois says, citing decades-long relationships with many of its clients. "We look for common goals and shared values with our hotel partners. Since this is not our core business,
we want to make sure we find the right match for such an investment from our side."
As part of this investment, Clarins provides multiple services, starting from the conception of the spa. Sitting
with hoteliers, architects and designers, the Clarins Group spa team delivers customised solutions based on a collaboratively strategised business plan.
The Clarins team also helps with recruitment, often drawing from the network of the nearly 200 spas it owns and runs in over 150 countries. "We have therapists and spa managers looking for career development," Lefrancois says, "and we
are happy to put them in the loop as potential employees."
Clarins will also help with the spa launch. "Our PR activities put a new property on the map," Lefrancois says. "We make it very visible to its target markets." The company has its own PR teams at 26 global subsidiaries, and partnerships with PR agencies to cover the rest of the map.
Once the spa is up and running, Clarins offers ongoing assistance, providing regular advice to management, sharing best practices and reviewing their figures against their budget. "Simply put," she says, "we assist them in growing their business."
A successful spa business is not just about having a stunning facility. First and foremost, it is about providing guests with the best experience. Clarins' Spa My Blend is a new offering for five-star hotels, which gives guests the ultimate personalised experience.
"Before receiving a treatment," Lefrancois says, "guests go through a very specific face diagnosis to assess their skin type and lifestyle habits. The results allow the therapist to prepare a specific blend or formula for a guest's particular skin condition.
"It is a cool brand, a reduced line and face only. It can be added to the Clarins offering under the Spa My Blend by Clarins label or as a non-branded and exclusive stand-alone concept at a hotel. High-end hoteliers like this concept because of its added exclusivity."
Hotel guests are becoming spa savvier with each year. While they are ready to pay for a premium experience, they expect the promised results. If this is achieved, hoteliers can reap the rewards of a reputable and profitable facility.