hat does it take to start one of the
first firms in the U.S. devoted to selling the spa experience an
entire decade before its popularity would become widespread?
In 1985, spa travel pioneer Jenni Lipa, founder of Spa Trek
Travel in New York, saw an overlooked niche worthy of promoting to
the American public -- European and domestic spas.
"Spas in general were missing from the landscape, and
European-style spas were relatively unknown," Lipa explained. "But
by this time I had been to several European and South African spas
twice a year to recharge my battery."
Lipa has lived in Paris; Florence, Italy, and New York and speaks
nine languages, including Arabic, Swiss Deutsch and Afrikaans, one
of the official languages of South Africa. Lipa was born there, in
Johannesburg, and experienced many of the exotic spas found in her
To Lipa, the importance of the spa experience can best be
described by saying: "People in today's stressful world need to
learn how to regenerate themselves."
And helping people find themselves is what she likes most about
"When I first started my company, I could see this general trend
as well as the beauty of the mind, body and spirit experience," she
said. Lipa added that her favorite phone calls are from her
once-anxious clients upon their return from their relaxing
Today Lipa spends half of her time training travel agents at her
one-day seminars on selling spas and putting together spa fam
trips. (She just finished a national workshop tour and will start
offering seminars again this July).
The other half of her time is spent consulting spas on their
products and concepts as well as booking travel for individual
clients. She charges a $100 fee to clients who want her to organize
Her main advice to agents is to get out and experience for
themselves what spas have to offer.
"This is why I give agents 'mini' spa treatments during my
training," explained Lipa. "Then I have them describe exactly what
they experienced because this is what they need in order to sell
spas to their clients."
According to Lipa, spa treatments are really about learning to
treat yourself well. "It's learning how to have a gentler, softer
way of life. It's getting down to the bare basics."
And for agents, spas represent a good piece of change,
especially when packaged to include treatments, food and
Lipa described the spa market as wide open for attracting almost
any type of client -- executive groups, meetings, singles, families
and those celebrating special events.
-- Michele SanFilippo
pa expert Jenni Lipa, an
International Spa & Fitness Association (ISPA) member who
co-chaired the first European ISPA meeting in Baden-Baden, Germany,
in 1996, offers several insights for travel agents selling the spa
Her firm, Spa Trek Travel in New York, has produced a directory
of up to 100 spas from around the world that she has prequalified
and worked with to provide branded spa packages.
These Spa Trek experiences are available to agents -- at 10%
commission or more -- directly through the properties Lipa works
with by asking for the Spa Trek experience.
"It doesn't always have to be a five-star property to make it
onto our list, but we do have very strict criteria," Lipa said.
She added that the challenge for agents is to market packages
that include at least one or two spa treatments in order to get
more customers acquainted with what the experience has to
Lipa also said she is spending more and more time marketing to
other agents as well as consulting for the spas themselves. Her
consulting fees can range from $5,000 to $20,000, depending on the
type of project.
Among the trips Lipa is offering to get agents acquainted with
her packages is a four-night trip to northern Italy from March 23
to 28. It visits the Palazzo Arzaga resort in Brescia; Abano Terme;
Verona; Padua, and the Brente River region for $500 per person,
From April 16 to 23, the Alpine Experience spa fam visits Le
Mirador in Vevey, Switzerland, and Les Fermes des Marie in Megeve,
France, for $500.
Spa Trek Travel also will offer an Asia trip in May and spa fams
in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Jordan, and Spain this summer and
For details, call (800) 272-3480 or (212) 779-3480; e-mail
[email protected], or visit www.spatrek.com.
A new specialty niche?
e've seen a transition in
terminology, as agents have become consultants. A consultant
advises, an agent takes orders; at least that's how the thinking
goes. The consultant slowly has started to develop into the
vacation consultant, completely separating the duties of the
commercial agent and the leisure counselor.
But do our clients want agents, consultants or counselors?
The answer may be none of the above.
recent study of affluent travelers, 60% of respondents said they
were actively seeking ways to reduce stress in their lives. And
that, I believe, is a concept we ought to pause and examine.
How do we communicate what we do if we sell leisure? Leisure is
not an exciting term; it has only limited connotations.
But when you tell consumers that your specialty is reducing
their stress, you may be communicating a powerful sales
Here are four approaches to take to appeal to this crying need
among today's harried, time-starved affluents:Set up a division of your firm and produce a brochure totally
devoted to the most stress-relieving vacations in your portfolio.
Resorts with golf and spas are a good start; so are smaller hotels
off the beaten track where one can truly relax for a week or
so.Build in stress-reducing amenities to your current programs,
such as a pre-night hotel and after-flight massage package for
overseas clients, or perhaps a day at a local spa provided to
clients prior to their departure on a long flight.Think of all the hassles involved in modern travel and have
your staff come up with ways to reduce these tensions. A personally
designed, antistress, in-flight amenity kit is just one small way
to begin.Develop your own stress rating system and include a sticker
with the ratings on the brochures you offer to clients. Truth in
travel would dictate that the consumer is entitled to know which
vacation experiences are likely to provide the most stress-free
Richard Turen is an industry consultant and travel agency
president. Contact him at [email protected].