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Industry urgently requires official reopening guidelines from government

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If spa and wellness facilities aren’t supported to survive this crisis, the impact could be catastrophic

The spa industry urgently needs government guidance about reopening, according to the UK Spa Association’s (UKSA) recent survey findings.

Although progress has been made, the UK spa industry is still unclear as to what it should be demanding of consumers and staff alike, in order to welcome guests back safely.

According to the UKSA, there's a danger amid this confusion for individual spa businesses to interpret things for themselves, which could lead to inconsistency across spas, consumer confusion, and ultimately industry reputational damage.

Helena Grzesk, UKSA GM, explained the survey was conducted to establish the effectiveness of existing government support for the industry and to establish what reopening support will be required from government and the UKSA, post-COVID-19, as well as to investigate the short-term impacts of COVID-19 and lockdown on the industry and gather predictions of long-term impact.

The UKSA’s ‘What’s Next For Wellness’ survey received 380 responses from a combination of operators, consultants, therapists and suppliers.

Taking precautions - PPE and customer expectations

According to the findings, it’s evident the industry is specifically in need of clear guidelines around the use of PPE and how social distancing should be implemented.

Feedback indicated a widespread need in particular for instructions regarding what PPE products are necessary and where they should be sourced from.

respondents believe PPE will need to extend beyond the treatment room – with 78 per cent stating they think face masks are daily necessities – and should be used in some form throughout the front and back of house, laundry services and when staff are receiving deliveries.

76 per cent of participants also agreed that the entire treatment room will need to be sanitised between guests with a strong wish to receive government clarification on the level of sanitisation required.

In addition, the survey highlighted the need for clarification about what health checks are necessary when welcoming customers back.

When asked ‘Do you plan to perform temperature checks on staff/clients upon arrival to the spa?’, only 25 per cent of respondents said yes, while the remainder was split between answering with unsure (49 per cent) or no (26 per cent).

“If spa and wellness facilities aren’t supported to survive this crisis the impact could be catastrophic,” said Grzesk, “it could result in extreme hardship and the probable closure of many small and medium-size industry enterprises.”

In a move to encourage progress and receive official reopening guidance, the UKSA is partaking in sector-wide conversations with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Beauty, Aesthetics and Wellbeing (APPG).

It’s also part of the consultation group influencing the reopening guidelines for the spa, beauty and wellness industry with the UK government department for business, energy and industrial strategy.

In order to put pressure on the government, the wider industry is circulating a petition asking the government to provide the UK hair and beauty industry with clear government-approved guidelines to plan for a safe reopening.

Expectations for reopeningAccording to the survey, 54 per cent of all participants aim to re-open their spas immediately once guidelines allow – however only 13 per cent of all respondents anticipate opening in full.

At the time of writing, the UK government has not confirmed a reopening date for spa businesses but announced that the re-open date will be “no sooner than 4 July”.

Participants were asked about their occupancy level expectations following reopening, with 22 per cent anticipating 26-50 per cent occupancy, 14 per cent predicting 51-75 per cent occupancy, 12 per cent of respondents expecting 0-25 per cent occupancy and 2 per cent anticipating 76-100 per cent occupancy.

Results also highlighted a strong consensus (77 per cent) for spas to adapt consultation forms to ask additional COVID-19 related questions as well as 78 per cent of all respondents agreeing that spa should be providing remote consultation forms to be completed prior to arrival.

In addition, a majority of respondents believe that spas should operate advance bookings only when reopening (69 per cent).

Changing the menu

With regards to treatments, the survey indicated the industry expects that facials might need to be suspended temporarily – the UKSA believes the government will need to identify, and therefore state, which treatments might be suitable during reopening.

In response to this finding, the organisation warned the spa industry may have to get creative in how they’ll encourage clients to spend the same money as before – even though not all treatments may be available as before, such as facials.

Moreover, the survey found that 38 per cent of participants plan to restrict the use of thermal facilities with 22 per cent planning to phase the reopening of their pool areas, with restricted usage also.

This aligns with findings from the recent Good Spa Guide consumer survey which revealed that public opinion towards thermal facilities is divided, as only 44 per cent said they’d feel happy using thermal facilities after the pandemic.

The UKSA survey concluded by asking ‘What actions should spas be considering in light of COVID-19?’ – the most popular suggestions were contactless payments, updated terms and conditions in relation to COVID-19, restricted use of communal spaces, visible hygiene signage, limiting footfall and phased reopening.

“It will be difficult to restore this vital health and wellbeing infrastructure once the crisis is over if we do not provide the necessary financial support and correct guidance now,” said Grzesk.

“By understanding the government’s consideration we will then be able to assist in its exit strategy, ensuring any safeguarding can be put in place to ensure the safety of our teams and customers in our businesses.”

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The spa industry urgently needs government guidance about reopening, according to the UK Spa Association’s (UKSA) recent survey findings.