By Sara Firman-Pitt
Long before colonization of the New World, Native Americans gathered at thermal mineral springs for physical health, spiritual and social purposes. In Europe the Romans were cultivating spas as places for both play and politics. Now, our own society is recognizing the value of adding spa culture to its gatherings, whether for business or celebration.
Back in the nineteenth century, Missouri boasted around eighty mineral water sites, many with hotels and spas. Most no longer exist and Missouri is not known as a spa destination, though that could change. The burgeoning spa industry epitomizes innovation, creativity, and service. Spa culture clearly has the potential to enrich corporate culture and society in general.
Considering a spa self-indulgent is to overlook its regenerative and socially re-creative value, says Jonathan Paul De Vierville of the International Spa Association (ISPA). Progressive business management techniques now include spirituality and promote health. Realizing that tending to participants’ comfort can extend beyond food and entertainment, meeting planners are joining the trend.
Spa services are effective ways to help meeting participants manage stress by enhancing attitude and increasing alertness. Aside from easing muscle tension and pain, spa-type therapies encourage creative thinking, improve problem-solving, lower anxiety and hostility and reduce fatigue. This healthful way of supporting and rewarding participation benefits both planner and attendee.
Spas come in many forms. Selecting a venue for your meeting and spa experience will depend on what role you want the spa to play – integral or extracurricular. The spa industry is adapting quickly to this opportunity. Destination spas provide all-inclusive programs, some even specializing in corporate wellness. Resorts and hotels often offer on-site spa facilities though these vary in capacity and style.
If your meeting space does not have its own spa service, you may be able to find something nearby or bring it in. Local day spas are ideal for leisure-time visits. Mobile spa services range from private guest room to group meeting room options. There are even airport spas to ensure that jetlagged travelers arrive fresh though there are none yet in Missouri.
The kinds of services suitable for meetings will depend on time, space and intention. Consulting with spa staff specializing in group programs is recommended. Scheduling is a key issue for all spas and early planning and pre-booking are essential. All of the spa venues interviewed for this article reported that corporate groups on incentive or reward trips were the most likely to book spa treatments, but there is much more to offer for those willing to explore.
Simple chair massages and elaborate body wraps require different settings. Manicures are less intimate than energy healings. Henna foot painting is fun, while smoking cessation hypnosis is serious. Choose personal touch over glitz and glamour if you want to benefit your guests as well as impress them.
In addition to servicing meeting breaks and enhancing appreciation events, spa concepts can be applied to the entire event. W Hotels is leading the way with its Sensory Meetings, where music, aromas, decor and refreshments are all detailed with care. Enhancements such as yoga or tai ch’i and inspirational talks are offered by some venues. Spa services can also be effective display booth traffic-builders, attracting interest and opening up opportunities for engaging less formally with people.
Spa parties are ice-breaking opportunities that can be enhanced by customized spa robes and slippers or gift bags. Also customized with logos and personalized messages, spa gift certificates are a novel and flexible way to motivate, reward and inspire attendees.
Another spa-meeting trend is on-site set-up of equipment, from massage tables to hot tubs, with aromatherapy, surround-sound music and the services of skilled facilitators and therapists.
Mobile services, such as ‘Day Spa Divas on the Go’ of St. Peters, offer this very flexible option for including spa services in your meeting program. Doria Schneider, esthetician and owner of Day Spa Divas, started her business three years ago after a friend asked her to come to her home to provide services, and inspired a career change. Doria is about to open a new salon headquarters for her mobile services which, until recently, have been mostly limited to private parties. Already this year, she has serviced six corporate events, including one for 187 people. Recognizing the potential in corporate business, she is planning to collaborate with an event coordinator.
Stephanie Dunlop of Service Metal used Day Spa Divas to treat the wives of her male staff during a meeting at a hotel. Plush robes, warm towels, candles and aromatherapy soon turned a hotel room into a luxury spa. Men now make up more than 30 percent of spa goers, and treatments created with men in mind are common.
Some spas are offering their own meeting spaces. Situated in an elegant mall close to the Frontenac Hilton Hotel in St. Louis, Stonewater is one of 30 spa-salons in the nationwide Premier Spa Collection. Each has its own unique style and this one offers the Sanctuary – a reception space for up to 60 people that is ideal for appreciation or team-building events and private celebrations. Guests can enjoy outside catering in relaxed surroundings while waiting for spa treatments. With careful scheduling of the 16 treatment rooms, a wide range of services, several designed specifically for men, is possible.
Meetings MidAmerica selected Spa Shiki at Lodge of Four Seasons in the Lake of the Ozarks as the 2006 winner of “best group spa” in its annual “Planners’ Best Bets” awards. Spa manager Ann Brown comments that spa usage by groups has doubled in the past couple of years and is expected to continue to increase as groups become more spa-savvy. Promoting this trend, Spa Shiki rewards convention sales teams for coordinating new group spa business by awarding Spa Bucks.
Groups and conventions account for 70 percent of the resort’s business; meeting facilities range up to 1,600 people. With 16 spa treatment rooms, Spa Shiki, a member of ISPA, can handle fifteen 50-minute massages per hour or six pedicures, 4 manicures and 4 facials per hour. Massages and pedicures are the most commonly booked treatments for groups. There are 50-minute group programs on wellness themes such as weight loss, skin care, and basic massage.
While Spa Shiki has adopted an exotic Japanese theme, Spa Chateau at Chateau on the Lake near Branson incorporates a pioneer lifestyle and local wildlife into its signature services, such as the Dogwood massage and the White River bathing ritual. Chateau on the Lake offers 43,500 square feet of meeting space and 14,000 square feet of spa. Tan-Tar-A Resort in Osage Beach boasts 93,000 square feet of meeting space and its Windjammer Spa has 9 treatment rooms.
The Elms Resort Spa & Conference Center in Excelsior Springs, MO., offers several meeting facilities with the largest accommodating about 300 guests. In addition, the Elms boasts a 10,000-square-foot spa that offers more than 60 services.
Finally, there is the Country Club Hotel and Spa in Lake Ozark. It has 20,000 square feet of meeting space and 30,000 square feet of exhibit space. In addition, it boasts a spa that offers 4 treatment rooms and can accommodate a variety of services, as well as chair massages for corporate clients.
City hotels often do not give emphasis to their spa facilities. For example, the recently and luxuriously renovated Chase Park Plaza Hotel in St Louis offers 45,000 square feet of meeting space, emphasizing its catering facilities, while its Aveda Concept Spa and Salon has only three treatment rooms. However, manager Katie Beall says the hotel has provided spa services for up to 25 people in groups of 5 (2 pedicures, 2 massages, 1 facial). Men and women appreciate the services, she reports. Aveda gift baskets are also offered.
Consider spa services as a stylish and professional addition to your next meeting plan.
(Sara Firman-Pitt is a contributor from the Willow Springs, Mo.)
Aveda Concept Spa and Salon at the Chase Park Plaza Hotel, St Louis
Country Club Hotel & Spa, Lake Ozark
Day Spa Divas on the Go, St. Peters
The Elms Resort and Spa, Excelsior Springs
Spa Chateau at Chateau on the Lake, Branson
Spa Shiki at Four Seasons Resort, Lake Ozark
Stonewater Spa and Boutique, St. Louis
Windjammer Spa at Tan-Tar-A Resort, Osage Beach