bannerFranchise News

How the Spa Industry is Preparing to Reopen

The health and wellness industry is in a uniquely precarious position coming out of the COVID-19 crisis.

As the world continues to deal with the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, most spas worldwide have been mandated to close. While it is increasingly hard for businesses throughout every industry to imagine what the other side of this crisis will look like, the health and wellness segment’s future is even more complex. 

This crisis will pass — it may take a few months or maybe a year, but it will pass. Still, the effects will be long-lasting, including new methods of working, consumer demands and ways of interacting with each other. The spa industry is one sector that is bound to experience a major transformation. Since the services that the industry provides are personal and physical in nature, existing in a post-pandemic world will undoubtedly come with its fair share of challenges. On the flip side, the spa industry may become more necessary than ever as consumers prioritize wellness to bounce back from this collective trauma. 

To prepare for this complicated reopening process, franchisors are developing several strategies to support spa owners, massage therapists, employees and customers. As brands learn the best ways to prevent the spread of viruses and outbreaks, there will be several enhanced procedures taken to ensure the health and safety of everyone in the spa industry.

According to a new study done by the ISPA on the effects of COVID-19, 60 percent of spa-goers noted that they will likely ask about hygiene and sanitation practices when they next visit a spa.

The spa franchise Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa has already begun implementing new health standards to prepare for reopening. “Cleanliness will continue to be a focus moving forward,” the brand outlined in a franchisee newsletter. “We use the industry’s best disinfectants (PureGreen 24, Benefect Botanical Disinfectant, Benefect Decon 30 and Benefect Decon 30 Wipes) on all hard surfaces throughout the spa and specifically in each treatment room and for our Basalt and Himalayan salt stones. These disinfectants kill enveloped viruses such as HIV-1, Influenza A, Influenza A Avian and other viruses at extremely high levels. These disinfectants also effectively kill viruses in the non-enveloped virus category, specifically Norovirus and Rhinovirus.”

On April 16, the International SPA Association (ISPA) announced it is working collectively with numerous global spa members to lead the development of resources designed to help spas reopen safely and responsibly following the coronavirus crisis, including operating procedures for reopening a spa, updated sanitation and hygiene standards for the spa industry, checklists for reopening preparedness and employee education, templates for guest communications and downloadable sanitation standards materials for display.

“The spa industry is once again showing its commitment to a stronger future through this cooperative effort,” said ISPA President Lynne McNees in a press release. “ISPA looks forward to putting these tools into the hands of those who can use them to safely, confidently welcome guests back into their spas when the time comes. We know that guests’ peace of mind will be critical to the reopening process, so a big part of this effort is strengthening the already rigorous sanitation standards practiced within the industry, offering guidance on communicating those standards to guests and protecting spa employees.”

In addition to these new protocols, spa businesses will likely have to adapt to state guidelines in regards to testing and capacity planning. According to a statement by the Georgia Board of Massage Therapy, as of April 24, 2020, “all licensed massage therapists in the state of Georgia may begin in-person Minimum Basic Operations [which are] limited to the minimum activities necessary to maintain the value of the business, provide services, manage inventory, ensure security, process payroll and employee benefits to include remaining open to the public subject to the measures required to mitigate the exposure and spread of COVID-19.”

The pandemic has also led to an increased consumer focus on wellness, which spas may need to address by emphasizing the value and quality of the professional treatments and services they provide. According to the ISPA research, more than 80 percent of respondents say they plan to spend as much or more on spa visits once the pandemic ends, indicating that demand for spa services may be high upon reopening.

To meet this pent-up demand, the beauty and wellness industry is going to have to do more than just update its sanitation protocol. Technological advancement may be the key to bringing in new customers, with online bookings, self-check-ins, automatic payments and many such features eliminating unnecessary touch-interactions, optimizing appointments and minimizing wait time.

Hand & Stone, for example, was already developing a contactless customer transaction platform before COVID-19, but the pandemic sped the process along. In the near future, customers won’t need to stop at the front counter at any point in their transaction and will complete all forms and payment on their phones. The front desk associates who normally handle those processes will switch to more of an educational role for first-time customers.

On the business side, this advanced technology may become essential as the spa industry implements new process-standardization and data-management requirements. Communication will be more important than ever in order to make sure franchisees and massage therapists throughout a brand’s network are all on the same page as spas open back up. Virtual training may be the only option to get employees educated and up to date on new practices before the time comes to open. 

There are both pros and cons to reopening, and brands need to be careful not to jump the gun or make decisions they aren’t comfortable with as states start to allow it. “Just because you can, doesn’t necessarily mean you should,” said Amanda Al Masri, founder of Al-Masri Consulting, on Professional Beauty’s “Reset and Restart” webinar. “Be mindful that every market, brand and consumer is different. What’s right for the spa in the next country or city, or even across the street, isn’t necessarily what’s right for you and your guests. Don’t reopen without carefully considering the when, why and how.”