Following a period of uncertainty and enormous challenges for the spa industry, we caught up with Helena Grzesk, general manager of the UK Spa Association to find out her view on the situation, new initiatives planned and why a career in spa is still one of the best you can choose.
- The past few months have been challenging for us all but being at the front end of spa, what has been your greatest challenge as General Manager of the UK Spa Association?
There have been lots of challenges and if I am being perfectly honest, I’m not sure I can just pick one. It’s been a struggle managing my own frustrations whilst trying to balance the workload and demand of the UKSA and our members through these troubling times and my personal life as a mum, dinner lady and playtime coordinator! It’s been incredibly difficult trying to meet everyone’s expectation. In addition to all of that, we have been working incredibly hard to build relations across four different Governments representing the UK, who of course all want different things and are working to varying rules and dates etc. The lack of understanding and recognition of our sector is now clear and that’s certainly made this process much more challenging. I can definitely say that my comfort zone has been stretched!
The wider Spa and Wellness industry, including hair and beauty, have really had to fight each and every step of the way toward reopening. There is a considerable lack of understanding of the complexity and diversity of our incredible skilled and professional industry and that is something I am keen to change moving forwards.
- What are the biggest concerns that spa operators are currently facing?
The continued and prolonged closure of our saunas and steam rooms in England, Scotland and Wales is most certainly one of the biggest, if not the biggest challenge that our spa operators are facing. And with that, it brings about a host of other challenges that the spas are trying to manage. In many of our spas they have vast thermal facilities which in some cases are responsible for generating upward of 75% of the overall revenue. While these facilities remain closed, and we have the restrictions on pool usage, it is impacting spa occupancy and limiting ways to generate revenue, even preventing spas from being able to bring back a full team. In fact, many of our spas are not yet able to take day spa bookings whilst these restrictions remain in place.
Customer service is also a huge challenge as the guest expectation of spa as they remember it compared to spa as it is now, is not meeting their expectations. Spas do need to ensure that their communications are clear and concise at every point of the customer journey. From the point they arrive at the website, directly or through a third party, through the booking, in pre arrival communications, on arrival and throughout the visit. This way they can manage the guest expectation, maintain incredible levels of customer service and a quality experience to minimise customer complaints. We understand the caveats that we are working to but the guest doesn’t so it’s vital that any restrictions, expectations and new ways of working are communicated in advance.
- Are there any new or current initiatives that the UK Spa Ass are working on?
We have refocused our efforts over the past few months to support our members through what has certainly been the most difficult time the sector has ever seen. We’ve reached out to provide a platform for the wider spa community here in the United Kingdom through our spa director and spa supplier assemblies to offer a support network for our members to come together, where they can share news, best practice, encourage each other, and we can support them with regular updates and advice. We will be reviewing our existing initiatives at our next board meeting as we look at planning ahead for what the future of the UK Spa Association should be post Covid-19. Just like the rest of the industry we also need to adapt to the ‘new norm’ and the future of Wellness as the industry trade association. Watch this space…
- What are the benefits to spas and supplier becoming a member of the UK Spa Ass?
There are many benefits in joining us, as the official trade association representing spas in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. At the UK Spa Association, we pride ourselves on the support we deliver to our spa community, including spas, suppliers, individuals, and even our partnering education facilities and various other stakeholders. Through our various networking activities we bring the industry together, helping to pair businesses and facilitating long lasting relationships. Our monthly SpaVoice newsletter delivers up to date news and informative articles and information whist our Spa Line provides members with access to our team of experts for help and advice. We also provide the only spa data collection in the UK through our benchmarking initiative which spas can participate in and see how they are performing against the wider industry.
In addition to the direct benefits we provide, we also work with the wider spa, beauty and wellness industry to champion the sector, representing as part of the Beauty Industry Group and All-Party Parliamentary Group on Beauty, Aesthetics and Wellbeing. We will continue our lobbying activities at Government level over the coming months and years to ensure our sector has a voice.
There is more information about the UKSA and our membership options on the website at www.spa-uk.org
5. How do you see the future of the UK spa industry?
I think we are going to see a shift in consumer expectation as people are beginning to recognise more so now than ever before, that there is a real need to live better, eat healthier and generally look after themselves more: mind body and soul .
Throughout lockdown we saw a massive shift to online as businesses pivoted to meet consumer demand, and consumers searched ways to exercise, look after their skin, hair, nails and even try new things such as meditation and yoga from home. Many spas, and suppliers made significant changes to their operations while they were closed. As an industry we have already begun to see the green shoots of what the future of Wellness maybe and I predict that we are on the cusp of some really exciting changes that will see the next boom in wellness.
The pandemic has shone a light on the fact that our industry lacks both recognition and regulation. Over the coming months I think that we can expect to see and hear a lot more discussion around how we re-position the perception of our industry in the mind of both Government and the consumer, and also how we as an industry need to evolve to raise and professionalise the standards across the sector. This is something that we had already began to work on with our Work For Wellness campaign and I am certain this will remain a key area of focus for us and the wider industry.
6. As someone who has worked in the spa industry for many years and has experience both as an operator and supplier, what advice would you give to someone looking at coming into the industry?
The Spa and Wellness industry doesn’t just offer a job, it’s a vocation, a career for life. I’ve worked in the spa and wider beauty industry for more than 20 years and I’ve had a great career. There are so many opportunities. We are such a diverse fast paced sector to develop in, learn new skills and shift focus. You can work for incredible brands, beautiful award-winning properties, there are international travel opportunities, the list is endless. If you are thinking about a career in the spa and wellness industry I would speak to your local colleges or careers advisors, reach out and speak to your trade association, listen to people in the industry speak and hear from them first hand, you could even pop in to your local salon and spa and ask for some advice. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice, and gain as much experience as you can whilst you are training. Be open minded, and most importantly just make sure that you train with a professional and accredited training school that will make sure that you’re prepared and at the right standard for a career in our sector when you qualify.