What’s All The Hype? It’s Just Water – Creating Memorable Spa Experiences Without A Wet Room

It was possibly the most luxurious treatment on the planet, the smells, the sensation……As I lay there, swaying in my hammock reminiscing about my luxurious day at the spa, I couldn’t help but think about how it compared overall to spa treatments around the world and the spa menu promise of a tropical escape.

Elements of almond and honey polish those neglected areas. Harmony is induced with a cascading Vichy Shower, followed by a cooling mente de coco wrap. Cocooned in heated fragrant linens, your own personal sanctuary is created as your skin continues to absorb the cleansing and balancing effects of coconut and mint, finished with an exotic blend of oils smoothed over the skin. This is something to take home. Aside from using mind altering agents, this treatment was a close runner up in the search for total bliss.

I had just spent a great day in a tropical resort. A place where they specialized in creating a client “experience”with packages, indigenous rituals and native fruits and plants. From the Four Seasons, Papagayo, Costa Rica, to The Banyan Tree, Phuket, Thailand, they are going out of their way to include all the expected amenities of spas, including wet rooms. But is the wet element really necessary, and worth the expense?

Though spas were originally based on “taking the waters” for health and beauty, the modern day spa guests and spa developers have other considerations when it comes to spa concepts. In the extensive and growing area of spa development, owners need to decide what their floor plan will be, what equipment to include, and what technical requirements will be needed for that plan, some of which may include a wet room. With a realistic expectation of each wet room costing $20,000 – 30,000, or even more with
elaborate and palacial concepts, it could be a while before you break even on your investment. It has been of growing advisement from industry consultants and builders that a wet room is not needed, and in a lot of cases, should not be included as an anchor to grow a spa business. They are expensive to build out, to maintain, and more difficult to sell than other treatments. Especially away from the resort concept.

With a majority of day spas opting for a more intimate to moderate square footage, it’s not recommended a wet room be considered for this type of floorplan. In working with technicians, owners, operators and developers we see more development towards total wellness retreats, and a focus on inner health, with treatment menus listing anti aging facials and indigenous body treatments rather than water oriented therapies. Spa guests on the other hand are now looking for results based treatments, anti aging and unique culturally based indigenous experiences. Once again, a wet room is not a necessary element to give your market what they want. For the purposes of this topic, we’ve opted to evolve a fictitious practice without a wet room, and look at wet vs. dry and other unique elements you can take advantage of. We will utilize the many beneficial treatment options and add on’s for a memorable waterless spa treatment. You will no doubt find ways to apply this to your business, and relieve some of the stress of feeling you have to include a wet room in your concept, or follow suit in what your neighboring spas may be doing. If your market segmentation, feasibility and strict mission concept doesn’t show you will fail without a wet room, forge ahead with your own spa identity and apply some of the tips here.

Breaking into your “style career” with spa essentials

Think of your own practice or spa as a vital part of your “style career”. In other words a career with style. You can create this with any career, and in the spa and beauty industry we have the added benefit of working in a highly consciousness driven business. Treat it as if you were the choreographer of a motivational event, with lots of fans booked to see you, and you are the star of your own fiction or fantasy. Your spa essentials kit should include a high level of professionalism, knowledge of products, benefits, contraindications, an authentic design and the desire to succeed in everything you do. Receiving continuing education for specialty therapies can also make a big difference in your sales, treatment concept and booking abilities.

To put it into simple terms your spa should always be client – centric. Let refer to a quick overview of the top ten tips to client satisfaction.

Awareness in your actions with your client and your personal conduct

Deliver what you or your menu promises.

Having the appropriate training and qualifications for your client to be comfortable and satisfied.

Be efficient in your work and with the use of the products

Educate your client on your technique, products, professional knowledge

Practice diplomacy at all times

Value their time and the money they are spending

Deliver your treatment with a healing touch and from a place of honor

Have a purpose when selling client product purchases, not just the commission

Create a valuable treatment design for both your client and yourself

Now that we have a basic architecture of a client-centric attitude we can create a phenomenal spa experience in your dry room, massage room, or spa suite.

Adopt a creative opened minded perspective

Spas are highly experiential and clients are largely there for the what they can receive from you that they cannot get anywhere else. That puts a lot of pressure on you, but clients also understand minor imperfections, as long as the overall experience meets their needs. The full mind-body element that spas have long boasted is reflected in a close interaction of the psyche and soma. The “psychosomatic” element I’m talking about is not the one shrouded by mystics or doubt, it is simply the conscious expression of what the mind sees as a representation and what the body feels and remembers in relation to that. I talk about the connection element and body memory because those are just the types of markers we are creating in our spa. This includes our body treatments and our client relationship management. This is a pretty big deal when it comes to creating a winning and memorable technique that will keep clients
on the book.

We find that with spa therapies and techniques without the use of a wet room, be a little more work for clean up, but they are perfectly satisfactory to your clientèle.After all your not performing an invasive procedure, and your focus should be onskin & body benefit without the machines, bells or whistles.

Just as you can private label your spa products, and create prescriptive spa music for your location, you can create operational distinction with great hands on technique, style and authenticity during your training and treatments. Take that psychosomatic element to the next level with what ever will work in your market. Consider the growing sustainability movement in both personal and business aspects. Be sincere about including organic product, or supporting a worthwhile cause that support human sustainability.

Our body and minds, will relate, and create a more personal connection with something of authenticity.

With stiff competition and spas in almost every major city in the world, each one is looking to create something unique. We found a chocolate spa suite in the German Bavarian Alps, a turquoise wrap at Golden Door, Arizona, and a tequila wrap, champagne wrap, red wine and green tea souffle wrap, and an Asian bamboo scrub all in different parts of the Your boundaries are solely created by your own experiences.

We no longer have the restrictive, claustrophobic wraps from previous spa “health” resorts,but soothing, heated, loose wraps that allow us to take in the product benefits, nourish and hydrate the skin, along with the relaxing mind-body getaway of the whole process. This is especially true if you have a good therapist, one who doesn’t leave you to wonder what they are chatting and laughing about outside the door, while you lay confined in your wrap alone.

Though water can create a quick clean up, and a different sensation for the body, it may not be the choice for you, nor is it absolutely necessary to gain the effects you want. The focus of great spa technique, is the sweep of the brush, the follow through with the hand, the effluerage massage, and the product itself as the catalyst to success. You can be in any location in the world and be creative in the work you do. What you give to the client is the nourishing and hydrating benefit with each wrap, or the smoothing and ex foliation with each scrub. Maybe it’s more results oriented with a detox wrap or cellulite treatment. Whatever is on the menu, people who are patrons of body treatments, love the whole process that goes with it, and the beneficial after effects for the skin. Know your clientèle, and your will be able to address their needs.

Identify body therapy techniques for the masses vs. tailored treatments

One client I spoke to who was accustomed to visiting the Four Season, St. Regis, and other high end spas, reiterated the fact that her overall satisfaction and praise of the treatment was due to the visceral reaction and overall feel of the treatment process. This is what her body remembered. Fitting in along the lines of the experiential factor. She has had every imaginable treatment, but whether it was the super, signature, ultimate deluxe wrap with gold flecks and a twenty head Vichy shower or the basic salt scrub, with table salt, she wanted the benefit to the skin and the psyche – soma (psychosomatic) connection.

When I was acting as Director of a tropical spa in Central America, we had some unique trials to overcome that induced a new level of creativity with spa treatments. We had adopted green practices of water conservation, not because the spa owner and developer wanted it that way but more because there was no other choice. In the aftermath of development he knew it had been wasteful to include a large infinity pool, a man made stream running through the back corridor, and lavish fountains. They sat as an empty reminder to adapt your development and expectations to the realities of your surrounding environment. With many days, where water would be scarce a trickle in the tap or sometimes not at all, we certainly were a proponent of spa techniques and body wraps in a dry room. Rather than risk a poorly developed spa treatment in a wet room, we became adept at selling massage & body wrap packages. We simply adapted heated towels, and layers of spa wrap, blankets, linens and a hydroculator to convert any room into a specialty spa suite. We were successful. However, water, or lack of was not our only challenge. We continued to have to locate and ship products from the capital 3 ½ hours away, or in some
lucky cases bring in a lot of additional “personal items” after a visit to a U.S. Trade show. Another seemingly permanent addition to our tropical spa was importing crates of products, including Javenese lulur, Balinese boreh, aryvedic items, equipment and boutique inventory from Indonesia. This was a long and tedious process, that added on sufficient operational costs and an uneven flow of supply and demand for treatment products and retail purchases.

These challenges at times could be an operational disaster. I had to intervene, and let the owner know, it was time to shift focus and get back to the readily available native indigenous plants, fruits, flowers and healing aspects based in the local culture.

The choice to embrace the local indigenous cultures of the Bri Bri and Maleku Indian tribes brought a new element to the spa, and we were able to blend it with the existing concept. Simultaneously in doing so we decreased our over head, and operation difficulties without sacrificing our quality or healing elements.

With the use of the local market, where everything was free and clear of chemicals, we were able to create a honey – almond scrub, a yogurt-spice wrap, carrot – milk mask, and volcanic detox wrap. In addition to that, with the local culture and history of native healers we were able to include a amapola, ginger flower, musa bucari and other dried herbs and flowers into further treatment elements. Clients loved them!

Without the benefit of a lot of water, and the self designed Vichy shower system as a non functional setback, we did these all without the use of a wet room. Each client was met with a “ritual” that was created with a corresponding story for each body treatment, including drink and food, welcome ceremony and gift. We also got creative with our hours, in offering an evening stream side body scrub by moonlight. We used the streams water to pump into a free standing outdoor shower with shower head heater. This worked perfectly in our tropical element, and added to the guest experience. Even when met with these
challenges in a remote area, we were able to use our experience and knowledge of the guests expectations to accomplish our goal.

There are spas around the world, some of which I’m sure run into similar challenges of geographic location, resources or available technician talent. Some recent news from spas trends in Singapore shows that Asian spa treatments are leaning towards the basics when it comes to designing spa experiences. This means using aryvedic influences, and going back to traditional Chinese medicine, organic/natural based elements, and a holistic client focus to bring them something unique. And these are all performed
without a wet room.

As mentioned earlier there has been a large population of spa owners, operators, and practitioner’s going for a more holistic and inner healing element with their own spa design and client treatment.

Melinda Taschetta-Millane, from Global Cosmetic Industry Magazine says, ……What’s hot in Singapore? Sinnathurai [manager of RafflesAmrita Spa, Singapore] is seeing a surge in body treatments using chocolate, tamaran scrub, papaya wrap, saffron and coffee as main ingredients.” She also experienced many treatments with a foundation in Thailand’s rich natural products and resources. Including sugar cane, rain forest honey, and jasmine rice. A trend that delivers what clients need, while creating local benefits.

All of this, along with the rise in natural products, confirms the same trend happening on the other side of the world in our Central America spa. It is best when designing your spa treatment to utilize available and natural elements, while promoting an authenticity of individual cultures. You can use this to create benefit, sensation, change, or the highly sought after lifestyle element needed in spas.

People from around the world visit exotic destination spas and tourism is on the rise in more remote locations. However you still have plenty of opportunity to capture your local market in and create an experience that would feel like a vacation, without being a resort, or having the capital of a large With a little research and creativity you can accomplish your own goals

Here’s a quick list of essentials for dry treatment body techniques. You won’t need every item for one treatment, but this is a comprehensive list of what you will need to provide an excellent body treatment, without the use of a hydro tub, Vichy shower, shower or, steam room.

Hot towel cabby

Large and small towels (dry & moist)

Large blanket (wool is preferred)

Plastic sheets (perforated) or cotton roll

Mylar sheets/foils

Waterproof sheets

Thermal sheets

Heated blanket

Mixing bowls


Large body brush

Small facial brush


Facial sponges


Sheets (more extra sheets to cover floor)

Eye pillow or eye pads

Great branded product (or your own private label)

OR – Organic/Natural product with products from farmers market or health food store for your own


Sea salt, Moor mud,Sugar,Seaweed, Honey, dried herbs, sea algae, clay

Refreshing drink and a straw for your client

Your own personal element

In weighing the difference between treatments for the masses vs. tailored treatments, you should lean towards something for the masses. By this I don’t mean to contradict our previous element of authenticity, but rather a treatment that doesn’t have to be custom made for each guest. Find a treatment and a protocol that is easily replicated with consistency in quality.

Valuation of Sales – Wet vs. Dry
We previously mentioned the costs of build out, and possible equipment concerns with wet rooms. Now let’s take a deeper look into what you will be facing with your choice of building a wet area or opting out.

Pre opening expense wet room – $30,000

Estimated Spa Occupancy 40 – 50%

Average Wet Room Treatment Price – $110

Treatments per day (one room) – 1- 2

Days per week of operation – 6

Weeks per year of operation – 52

Treatment per year @ 100% – 312 (based on one per day)

Treatment per year @ 50% – 156

Treatments per month @ 100% – 24 (based on one per day)

Treatment per month @ 50% – 12

Monthly Wet Room ROI – $1,320 (before cost of treatment is calculated and subtracted)

This is not quite what you had in mind when you thought of a soothing wet room inclusion in your spa concept. Even at 2 treatments per day, the ROI is still pretty meager compared to what other average service sells bring.

Here’s another look at the time it takes to reach break even on wet room vs. time it takes to reach break even on dry room.

Wet Room Ultimate 2 4 6 52 1,248 96 50% 48

Vichy Shower Wrap

With this enthusiastic calculation you will still need 12 months to make $63,360 – which

leaves you with $3,360 after paying for two wet rooms. This is all before calculating cost per

treatment, interest, tax, and fixed expenses. Which would take you into the red.

Dry room/ Body wrap/scrub 5 10 6 52 3120 240 50% 120

Massage room

With the same treatment price at $110 , utilizing your massage/dry rooms when a body treatment is needed, leaves you with $158,400 in 12 months, before calculating cost per treatment, interest, tax, and fixed expenses. Which would you rather have?

Be your own spokesperson
Whether you are already practicing, or are about to embark on a spa career, you will need to hone your skills in “selling” yourself. This means having the ability to have a social but professional attitude towards the client, network both in and out of your work boundaries, and above all, tell people what you do. No one will care more about what your doing than you, and if you can create enthusiasm in others about what you do in your profession, you’ve done a great job at selling.

Can you confidently be your own spokes person? This means are you ready to put your self out there for questions. Have you done your due diligence in knowing the spa trends, products and equipment options that can be used? Are you confident in your training and goals? These are all things to consider in your style career, and your growth.

Handling client Q & A

Having the savvy to address your clients questions intelligently and with enough knowledge that it gives you a step up from th steep competition, will ensure your on your way to a successful “style career” with spa techniques. Even better, taking the time to anticipate client questions about your spa training, techniques, products, and benefits will leave you and your staff with a preparedness that will simply become habit.

Bottom Line

It is up to you to decide which direction to pursue with new spa techniques, and with all of the information, trade shows, articles and training out there, it can be overwhelming to find what you need.

If you didn’t receive spa training in your formal licensing, you may be looking for more in depth training on spa therapies and techniques that can be added to your spa menu. I would suggest looking for specific classes that are spa related to obtain your continuing hands on credits. This can easily be located by doing a search onyahoo or Google for key words like “Spa Training” or “Spa therapist CEU’S”. You can check to see if your school offers a graduate refresher course, purchase an informative DVD training, see if they have a manual that they can include, attend seminars, manufacturer’s classes at expo’s, and participate in tele seminars. For the more ambitious you may even, receive licensing in two areas, like esthetic’s and massage, giving you a broader range of skills. There are many spa related schools and resources to include in your bag of tricks. Find one that fits your concept, lifestyle and most importantly one that excites you. After all knowledge is power, and that applies to spa techniques too. How you present yourself, your education, and your overall spa treatment is a reflection of who you are, and future opportunities. This is what client’s remember.

Does this mean that we are doomed to be read and judged by our visual appearance, and our surroundings? Well, to some degree yes. We subconsciously remember our first visual markers that defined a person or place for the first time. Our sight can render a situation relaxing, tense, or dangerous all in an instant, just as the body remembers emotional and physical markers that stay with us through the years. I once came across a quote that said,”Who you are speaks so loudly, I cannot hear what your saying.” This is exactly how we should think everyday as we approach our work, and our creativity
in our spa treatment and therapies.

Just as the mind unconsciously and automatically remembers each placement of stone or turn in the road on a path you’ve walked day after day, the body too, records the intensity, sensation and benefit of a brush stroke, aromatic smells, temperature and caring of the practitioner in each spa treatment. With or without water.

Whatever you do, incorporate the best body treatment design with an authentic and consistent experience. Elevate the expectations of your spa guests, and teach them to “take the waters” with creative visualization, while you take them on a beautiful escape for the day. An important element in our world, for us as practitioner’s and our guests as willing participants in our personal “style career”, is the bottom line. That meaning being able to own your own time, and be in control of your own destiny. Finding the
right place and the right spa treatment to do that, can be irreplaceable.

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