The future of luxury Spas: in conversation with Jeremy McCarthy, Director Global Spa for Starwood Hotels & Resorts

As part of our ongoing series this September, dedicated to understanding the future of luxury Spas, CPP-LUXURY.COM has recently interviewed, exclusively, Mr Jeremy McCarthy, Director Global Spa Development and Operations for Starwood Hotels & Resorts.

How important have Spas become for a luxury hotel, nowadays? What percentage of your global revenue comes from Spas?

As a global hotel company with many brands, our spas represent only a small percentage of our global revenue.  But the importance of a spa in the luxury hotel space goes far beyond the revenue contribution to the hotel.  Properties that have a spa build a deeper loyalty (both to the hotel and to our brands) than those that don’t.  And guests who visit the spa during their stay rate their entire hotel experience as better and are more likely to return in the future.

For the properties your company operates under a third party management agreement, how challenging is it for developers to understand the investment required by a Spa?

We find that most of our luxury development partners understand the importance of a spa to the luxury traveler.  Most of our owners are looking to create a guest experience that will stand apart from other hotels in the region and see the spa as an important part of the offering.

What is your approach for each of your luxury hotel brands when it comes to Spas? Do hotels have the liberty, individually, to opt for a third party operator and/or a mono-brand options for the Spa?

We look at each location individually and determine the best spa offering for that location.  For W and St. Regis we have our own spa brands (Away Spa and Iridium, respectively) but we also have an exclusive partnership with Steiner for the Bliss and Remede Spa brands.  Each of these brands can offer our guests a great spa experience that is in keeping with our brand positioning, so ultimately the decision is made based on the unique needs of the individual property and our owners’ preferences for their property.  For our Luxury Collection properties, every spa is unique and typically reflects the local culture and history of spa from the region.  We tend to shy away from branded spas for these hotels.

Do you have preferred Spa brand(s) you collaborate, internationally, at a chain level?

As mentioned above, we have an exclusive partnership with Bliss and Remede for our W and St. Regis hotel brands.  These brands are owned by Steiner Leisure, a company with a great international reputation for spa management, consulting, products and education.

Across your luxury brand chains, is there one more Spa focused/oriented?

All of our luxury brands share a similar focus towards creating a complete guest experience that is inclusive of spa.

Do you aim, at your Spas, to provide guests with a sense of place by introducing local products/treatments or even décor elements? How important is such a local flavor for guests?

All of our internal spa concepts are designed to incorporate a great deal of local influence.  Our guests are looking to have unique experiences that connect to the destinations they are visiting so we try to bring in local products and authentic, indigenous treatment experiences wherever we can.

What are the most popular Spa services/packages requested by your guests regardless of location city or resort?

Most guests are looking for a really good massage.  A good massage helps to relieve the stress, tension, and aches of travel.

From your research and feedback from guests, what are the goals they seek to achieve through a Spa experience? i.e. instant effects (skin related treatments), establish a healthy and balanced lifestyle etc.

Most of our guests see the spa as an important way to keep themselves looking and feeling their best while on the road.  Sometimes it is about stress relief or addressing a specific issue (a stiff neck or back, or sunburn or dry skin, for example) but sometimes it is just about having a moment of calm and relaxation during a busy work trip or an active vacation.