Hotel spas transition to digital, touch-free offerings

At Auberge’s Solage resort in California's Napa Valley, group fitness classes will be reduced in size.

With traditional spa treatments largely dependent on high-touch interactions, hotel spa and wellness centers have had to pivot to put some distance between clients and staff in a post-Covid world.

“Obviously, when it comes to spa and wellness, it’s hard to think of a space that really requires more one-on-one, personal contact,” said Beth McGroarty, vice president of research at the Global Wellness Institute. “They’ve been decimated with the lockdown and all these social distancing rules.”

According to McGroarty, some wellness venues have adapted by focusing on treatments that can happen “either without practitioners or with very little intermediation.” These include technology-enhanced offerings such as float tanks, infrared saunas and cryotherapy machines, all of which require minimal human contact. 

“These are technologies that had already become sort of mainstream in wellness centers and spas, because the No. 1 pain point for this industry has been the labor costs,” McGroarty added. “Now this has definitely accelerated due to Covid-19, and we’re seeing more offerings that have a high impact but don’t have a high human labor component.”

Falling under a similar umbrella are fitness offerings such as exercise bike juggernaut Peloton and Mirror, an interactive, digital fitness trainer that looks like a full-length mirror. Both products offer a socially distant alternative to guided group fitness classes and have seen a boom in popularity post-pandemic, with McGroarty predicting in-room Peloton or Mirror equipment could become an increasingly in-demand hotel amenity in the coming months.

Likewise, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts has tapped Hyperice, a recovery and performance technology brand specializing in vibration, compression and percussion devices, to debut a menu of Hyperice Contactless Treatments at several of its spas. The touch-free treatments will incorporate Hyperice’s Hypervolt percussion massage device, NormaTec Pulse Pro 2.0 Leg Recovery compression system and Venom heat vibration wrap, each with adjustable settings to suit clients’ needs.

Hyperice’s Hypervolt percussive massage device will be incorporated into Four Seasons’ menu of touchless treatments.
Hyperice’s Hypervolt percussive massage device will be incorporated into Four Seasons’ menu of touchless treatments.

Zero-contact wellness doesn’t necessarily have to be high-tech, however. Uxua Casa Hotel & Spa in Trancoso, Brazil, has launched a series of “self-treatments” designed to showcase Uxua Vida spa’s fresh-made skin products, featuring locally sourced fruits, flowers, roots and clay. Instead of the products being applied by a spa therapist, they are set up for guests in a private treatment suite or their own accommodation and can be self-applied or applied by a partner or family member. 

“In some ways, I see this really as an educational opportunity with the clients, perhaps even more enriching than if they were just the passive recipient of treatment from a therapist,” said Jullian Hamamoto, doctor of nutrition and the director of Uxua’s Vida Spa and Vida Lab research facility.

At the Belmond Cap Juluca in Anguilla, the property’s Arawak Spa has simplified its wellness menu, putting a focus on “energy healing” treatments that require less interaction and utilize essential oils, sound therapy and crystal balancing. Concurrently, the property is relocating its group classes to an outdoor pavilion area as well as increasing its private-class options.

Also highlighting outdoor wellness offerings are the Auberge du Soleil and Solage resorts in California’s Napa Valley, with the former offering outdoor meditative art walks and the latter touting a variety of outdoor meditation, yoga and fitness class areas. 

“I think the outdoor piece is going to be critical,” McGroarty said. “We’re definitely going to be seeing more outdoor spa, outdoor fitness, outdoor excursions, experiences, guided hikes  --  outdoor everything, really. And not only is it the most elegant solution for many spas, but it’s also the most easily realizable.”

Whether indoor or outdoor, smaller wellness and fitness class sizes are also likely to be the norm for the foreseeable future. However, Helen Brown, area director of wellness for Auberge du Soleil and Solage, sees this shift as a positive one for the guest experience.

The Uxua Casa Hotel & Spa has launched a series of fresh-made skin products guests can apply themselves.
The Uxua Casa Hotel & Spa has launched a series of fresh-made skin products guests can apply themselves.

“Because spas will open with a much lower volume of guests, each guest will in fact benefit from an increased amount of individual attention and personalized service and an even more serene environment,” Brown said. 

Meanwhile, with many wellness and spa brands bolstering their digital presence in recent months, McGroarty expects digital wellness platforms to become a bigger part of the overall business. And while many of these platforms, including Six Senses’ recently launched At Home With Six Senses initiative, continue to offer complimentary access to expert videos, tutorials, articles and advice, some players are taking the leap into subscription-based online programming. 

In mid-May, Como Hotels and Resorts' Como Shambhala wellness program unveiled Como Shambhala By My Side, a curated digital platform that offers unlimited access to live video classes led by Como Shambhala specialists for $16 per month. Additionally, subscribers can opt for private digital consultations with Como Shambhala’s nutritionist, naturopath, physiotherapist or life coach, with sessions starting at $116 for 45 minutes.

“The problem spas and wellness centers have now is monetizing a space where you used to have 20 people and now you can only have six,” McGroarty said. “So boutique fitness and wellness centers are obviously thinking, how do we solve this? And going digital is going to be a solution for many of them.”


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