As hotels and their facilities re-open, ensuring the health and safety of guests and staff has become an even bigger priority. In order to achieve this, as well as instill confidence in both parties, significant changes have had to be made, which has impacted the operation of wellness facilities.
At the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, the Spa has employed a phased approach to re-opening. “We reduced the menu [and] reduced some operational hours,” explains Viviana Quesada, Spa director, Four Seasons Hotel Toronto. “This will allow our teams and the guests an opportunity to get comfortable with the new guidelines and procedures.”
And, while the experience at hotel spas and fitness centres has been altered by pandemic-related policies and procedures — including personal protective equipment (PPE) and enhanced, more visible cleaning practices — Quesada notes the goal is still to provide relaxing escape. “[Four Seasons’ Lead-with-Care program] focuses on providing care, confidence, trust and comfort to our guests and employees, with the aim to ensure safety and serenity,” she explains.
The hotel started by offering services to its residents — first hair services, then massages — before welcoming external guests. When Toronto entered Phase Three of re-opening, the hotel also opened its fitness centre and was allowed to offer facials. However, Quesada notes the hotel chose not to offer facials right away, as it was awaiting bed shields. “Once we’ve received them and go through the proper training process, we’ll offer facials again,” she explains. “Furthermore, we’re not serving food and drinks at our spa facilities yet [and] the steam and whirlpool areas remain closed until further notice.”
While still governed by the same brand-level cleanliness protocols as its sister property in Toronto, the Four Seasons Hotel Montreal has been working under different local regulations. “Our spa offerings have not been impacted, but adapted to the current health-and-safety requirements advised by local authorities and our international health experts,” explains Eugenie Jason, director of Rooms, Four Seasons Hotel Montreal. “For example, all our registrations and menus are paperless or one-time-use paper menus.”
As Dino Michael, global category head, Luxury Brands, Spa & Wellness, Hilton, explains, wellness facilities at Hilton properties have each taken slightly different approaches to re-opening to adhere to local restrictions.
“As with others in the spa industry, health restrictions have impacted some of the services we’re able to provide,” Michael explains. “While menus will vary based on federal, state or local regulations and health-official guidance, across the portfolio, we’ve removed or altered some procedures, such as ones that generate aerosol — like steam or oxygen. In addition, hydrotherapy areas, including saunas, steam rooms, indoor pools/hot tubs and ice rooms, remain closed in many locations. In the initial stages of re-opening, we’ve also recommended that the locker rooms are used for restroom purposes only.”
To address this area of its facilities, Four Seasons Toronto has altered its locker-use system so lockers are locked from the time they’re disinfected until guests are provided with a key by a spa attendant. “We removed all the shared materials and [amenities] from lockers, however we didn’t remove these from the guest experience,” shares Quesada. Instead, amenities are available upon request and, while most are single-use, anything that isn’t is disinfected in front of the guest.
Clear signage, updated layouts and reduced furniture have also been implemented to promote safe practices.
“Our approach to health and safety in response to COVID-19 is about doing what we do best — continuing to demonstrate personalized and genuine care while strengthening our already stringent and industry-leading health-and-safety procedures, enhancing tools and training and embracing technological innovation,” says Jason.
In fitness centres, social distancing, updated layouts, reduced hours, limited capacity and enhanced cleaning are among the key operational changes.
“We require guests to social distance throughout the fitness centre, including when training on machines and while moving around the facility,” says Jason. “Just like for our spa, previous cleaning protocols were already very strict. Frequency of cleaning has increased [and] all equipment’s being cleaned after each guest usage.”
Quesada notes the facilities also feature dispensers for sanitizers and disinfectants, floor markers for social distancing and cards to indicate when equipment is disinfected and ready to use. And group classes are currently not offered. “Guests are responding very well to the use of the mask in this area,” Quesada adds. “Some may have made comments that it’s a little bit harder to work out, but we’re all in the process of adjusting to ensure we’re all safe, so our guests have been very gracious about this new [policy].”
And, Michael notes, some Hilton properties have been closing their fitness facilities for thorough cleaning multiple times a day. “If applicable, clear signage is placed in and around the facility indicating the new operating hours,” he explains.
Clear communication of health-and-safety protocols has played a key role in the operation of these amenities — both on property and prior to arrival — to help manage expectations. “For spas, pre-arrival correspondence is sent to all spa guests, informing them of the steps being taken to care for their safety and what to expect during their spa visit,” explains Michael. This includes the guest’s reservation details, as well as the property’s cancellation policy, elevated cleaning standards, wellness screening and face-covering policies and any adjustments to services
And, on site, “when guests are in the spas and fitness centres, as well as in all public areas, they’ll see clear signage communicating our cleaning protocols, equipment outages and adjusted services,” he adds.
Digital platforms are also utilized to share policies and facility information. Four Seasons has been leveraging its mobile app, as well as its website and social-media channels, to ensure guests have all the information they need.
Overall, it seems guests have been responding positively to changes and restrictions in place in these facilities and demand continues to grow as the public gets more comfortable with the current reality.
“We’ve been fortunate to receive positive feedback from guests. Regular guests are excited to return and new guests have shared their feelings of being reassured by the brand and all the measures we have in place to make them feel safe and relaxed at the same time,” Jason says.
“As we’ve started opening spa and fitness facilities, our guests have continued to respectfully embrace our spa services and wellness/fitness areas,” agrees Michael. “We’ve seen an especially positive customer response where the spas draw local clients and at resort locations, where guests may be staying on property more than previous visits.” He points to The Spa at Waldorf Astoria Park City in Utah as an example with a strong local client base. “Since we’ve re-opened in mid-June, we’ve seen a steady stream of customers, especially utilizing the salon services.”