On My Mind - SPA THEMES and RITUALS
by Julie Register
Theme: subject or topic of artistic representation; a specific and distinctive quality, characteristic, or concern
Ritual: done in accordance with social custom or normal protocol
I recently experienced The Spa at Primland, a spa whose treatments are inspired by American Indian beliefs and legends. I can't vouch for the authenticity of the American Indian elements in the spa. However, I do know that the spa's owner wanted the spa to honor the land and the people of the
land and spent over a year meeting with local native descendants and historians gathering
information so that authenticity would be in The Spa environment. I thought everything worked well to deliver that vision, and I loved the treatments I received there. Elements of the theme are woven into the spa menu, the rituals beginning and ending each treatment, the music playing in the spa, the choice of color in the décor and linens, the art on the walls as well as details in the relaxation lounge such as the tea that is served and the books on the shelf.
Spas use themes and rituals to set themselves apart from other spas. They are often part of the branding and create a focus for everything the spa offers. Consultant Andrew Finkelstein encourages spa teams to tell stories about how the spa brand was created. "A story becomes the staging ground for a successful relationship and makes your salon/spa come alive in a client's imagination." Themes and rituals are great if they have integrity and are used consistently. Without those two elements, I find that they are actually a detriment to a spa. Here are a few examples where those elements failed to make an appearance:
- When I first heard that The Spa at Primland was an American Indian - inspired spa, my thoughts went to the first spa I experienced that made that claim. The spa's marketing and treatment menu focused on it. Supposedly, a local Native American created the spa menu. The spa treatments supposedly changed with the seasons of the year; each season was represented by a specific color that signified and enhanced specific thoughts and emotions. The treatment also incorporated of indigenous herbs, flowers and muds used for generations by the local Indians for their healing and soothing properties. I had really looked forward to a very special spa experience. What I got was a very nice spa experience that had nothing at all to do with American Indians as far as I could tell. There was nothing in the décor or music to indicate the spa was inspired by American Indians. There was nothing in the treatment or the explanation given by the therapist that the treatment was inspired by American Indians. The products used were a well-known spa brand (nothing
indigenous). The spa could have been anywhere. The treatment could have been given by any spa. It was a perfectly lovely spa, but really disappointing because of the disconnect with the marketing claims, the spa menu and what was actually delivered. I really wanted to experience what that Native American consultant had designed. When I am asked about that spa, I don't say it was a nice treatment in a lovely spa that was in a lovely location. I tell about the lack of integrity of the spa because that's the story I walked away with. A number of years later, the spa finally stopped all the claims of being inspired by American Indians. A little late in my opinion.
- I went to a spa one time that was themed around the phases of the moon. The treatments offered changed as the moon's phases changed. The snacks offered changed as the moon's phases changed. It sounded interesting. While the receptionist who gave me a tour of the spa after I checked in knew the theme well and could explain it and aroused my interest in it, my therapist had no idea what the theme was when I asked about it. She didn't even know there was a theme. She gave me a treatment using products that she liked not that were appropriate for the current phase of the moon (according to the menu). The treatment was fabulous, but lost a bit of its shine because of the lack of alignment with the theme. In this case, I think the cause of the disconnect was that the therapist was not an employee of the spa. Spas don't usually invest the time to train contractors the way they would if they were employees. It's hard for spas to get contractors to buy into the spa's theme and vision when they aren't really part of the team.
- Finally, I've been to a number of spas in a high-end spa brand that use a foot ritual and chimes to begin and end each treatment. Each time has been a unique experience. Not one footbath has been the same. Sometimes the chimes are used and sometimes not. Sometimes only at the beginning. Sometimes only at the end. No consistency whatsoever.
Themes and rituals can add uniqueness to the spa experience. However, the spa has to be vigilant and make sure it delivers that vision each and every time (consistency) and the décor, music, treatment menu and products, treatment delivery (service provider training) and advertising all have to be synchronized to support that vision (integrity).
Those are my thoughts about spa themes and rituals. Thanks for "listening." I am interested in hearing your story of spa discovery. Share
it with me at jar@DiscoverSpas.com.
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Lantana Spa at JW Marriott San Antonio
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