COVID-19 has made local markets more important than ever, says Emma Darby, Resense COO
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COVID-19 has made local markets more important than ever, says Emma Darby, Resense COO

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According to Resense COO, Emma Darby, domestic markets have always been a crucial target audience, but in the midst of COVID-19, their custom has become even more important.

With global lockdown putting travel on hold, Resense has been working to attract local guests to all its markets wherever possible.

Darby said the company has numerous spas between 60-70 per cent local interest and usually encourages about 30-40 per cent as a baseline, even before the pandemic.

Darby spoke to Spa Business about how she applied her 26 years’ experience to keep business moving in the face of COVID-19, reopening preparations for Resense’s 33 wellness destinations and how two Resense spas hit target in the depths of lockdown.

How is business going for reopened spas?

In Asia, China is doing well, however other regions are having to drive new business channels because they were previously more reliant on the tourist market.

In Europe, resorts are also progressing – achieving budget and showing improvements from the previous year. We even have a couple of city locations producing 60 per cent of their 2020 budget.

Overall, the company has reopened 22 destinations and I'm definitely pleased with progress, but I’d recommend taking a measured approach to ensure you don’t rush and make mistakes.

Can you explain how two Resense spas hit target in April?This refers to two individual Chinese spas which we’d fortunately already set up with a major online presence through the social media platform, WeChat.

Targets were hit purely through retail and selling advance day passes, as one spa was open and one was closed – the closed site actually only relied on online sales for revenue. The beauty of it was that things could be sold really quickly and then arranged using drop shipping.

Following this success, we’re investigating how to use this in post-opening to continue supporting revenue.

It’s about building our local client base up and our place within the market, and then holding onto those customers through schemes and opportunities like this.

Can you tell us how you plan to reach out to locals?

One of our main methods is social media and apps, but it varies between markets. In the Middle East you’ll find advertising deals via text message is a lot more successful, whereas in China we use WeChat for sales and in the UK, we use GroupOn.

The key is once we get those guests in – even though you may have to negotiate commission with the provider – we focus on incentivising them to come back. They’re a captive audience, and you’ve got to offer them something to capture their interest. This is what I think spas forget.

The trick is to do things that won’t really cost you but use it to pad the offer out and keep consumers intrigued.

What’s surprised you during reopening?In China, the revenue has been coming in steadily, however one spa is drawing revenue from a completely different place than I expected. We’ve seen a surge in couples treatments and facials – a treatment the whole industry seems to be expecting to put on hold until we get more of a grip on the pandemic!

Looking ahead, do you agree with the prediction of an upsurge in medical wellness following the pandemic?

I agree medi-wellness will be popular, especially because of the clinical appeal following COVID-19. But it was already gaining speed well before the pandemic, as it was becoming more mainstream and thus affordable and available. Combine this with the fact people are going to be more focused on their own health, and we’re set for a surge in demand.

Resense has some medi-wellness projects on the table and I’m excited to see how they take off and how this trend develops in future but, personally, I never want to pin myself down to something. Ultimately, my advice would be to remain positive, realistic and open to change.

To read the whole interview, stay posted for the next issue of Spa Business.

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According to Resense’s COO, Emma Darby, domestic markets have always been a crucial target audience, but in the midst of COVID-19, their custom has become even more important.
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