The future of luxury Spas: in conversation with Niam O’Connell, Director of Spas, Hyatt International

Hyatt Hotels & Resorts‘ Niam O’Connell, Director of International Spa Operations & Development has recently shared with CPP-LUXURY.COM, exclusively, his views on the latest developments in Spas and what the future has in store for the industry.

How important have Spas become for a luxury hotel, nowadays?

Many of our international and regional based guests have come to expect a spa experience, whether travelling for leisure or business. Similarly, guests are much more conscious of their lifestyle and health than ever before – there is a need to ensure that luxury hotels cater for their ongoing wellness routines; access to a spa is a large part of this routine, especially in Asia.

Business travelers may have less time to indulge in treatments, for example, but will often make the time to unwind with a 60 to 90 minute body massage. The effects can enhance a sense of well-being as well as improve their overall performance during the trip. We find that leisure guests can spare more time, allowing for a 2 to 3 hour set of treatments. There is a need for luxury hotels to now cater to both of these routines, bearing in mind that guests may often have time constraints.

How important is it for your Spas to provide guests with a sense of place by introducing local products/treatments or even décor elements?

The “spa” experience is compiled of several components, therefore there are a number of areas for us to take into consideration before creating a suitable concept that meets the needs of the market, and is credible enough for our owners to invest in.

Areas for consideration are based around location, local customers and their typical needs, looking ahead to the potential development of that particular location as well as the guest segment likely to visit. We need to ensure a mutually beneficial agreement is struck, one that reflects our brand spa concept.

What is your approach for each of your luxury hotel brands when it comes to Spas?

At Hyatt, we have a distinct ‘listening’ culture – this is something that is embedded into each market and is innate among our associates. We conduct rigorous research into what our guests are looking for, as we understand this may differ between markets, and look to create the most authentic spa experience as a result.

Our guest centric model comprises of exclusive product lines and individualised concepts – creating a distinct and luxurious spa experience across our seven unique brand portfolio. Additionally, we understand that each culture can hold its own philosophy on health and wellness; our goal is to establish an experience that is credible and mindful of these local traditions, while still appealing to the international audience.

Which of your properties provides the most comprehensive Spa offering?

Across Asia we have the luxury of holding a number of rich traditions when it comes to health and wellness. For example, traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic, the Onsen culture in Japan, Thai herbal healing rituals of Thailand – among others. We find that many rely upon these traditions and so our spas need to cater for this demand, while similarly international travelers are intrigued and willing to try something new.

Therefore, each spa experience provided is authentic and sensitive to the culture surrounding it. This is extended to the rigorous training program employed by our staff, to ensure that all treatments are perfectly executed and brand loyalty is created

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

We collaborate with a host of international and local healthcare and wellness brands, depending on the need of our guests in a given market. To ensure a distinct spa experience is created, we also partner with brands on bespoke lines – for example, last year saw June Jacobs create four signature treatments for Hyatt Spas, available in all Hyatt Regency and Grand Hyatt spas in Asia. In order to ensure a high standard of quality is maintained, we look to collaborate with brands that reflect our spa concept and understand our guest’s needs.

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

We have found that body massages account for over 70% of our booked treatments. The type of massage varies across market and location, with the most popular being our ‘Signature’ massage – which is offered across all hotels in Asia

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.

The most requested result is that of ‘de-stressing’ – whether for leisure or business travelers, our guests see a hotel spa experience as a way to escape their everyday pressures. We always look to hold a consultation and assess how best to cater for each guest – what they look to achieve from the treatment, what is the preferred outcome etc. Our philosophy remains the same across all Hyatt brands – a personalized experience is of the utmost importance to our guests, we need to be seen to listen and understand their individual needs and pressures.

Park Hyatt Aviara, Spa Suite