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Webinar highlights: reopening plans, online learning and halotherapy

20 May 2020
As spas around the world prepare to start operating once more, industry webinars focus on reopening strategies, the role of online learning and on treatments such as salt therapy which can aid respiratory health. Lisa Starr shares her takeaways from some of the latest sessions.

Cornell University’s ‘Learning strategies in a changing world’
Moderator: Allan Filipowicz, clinical professor of management and organisations at Cornell. Panellists: Laine Cohen of Citibank; AJ Duffy of Microsoft; and Chris Cimitile of Arkema

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the use of online learning in spas, especially between employees and resource partners. Many spa brands are indicating they’ll continue with live and pre-recorded sessions in the near term.

This webinar gave insights about virtual learning environments from large companies which have been using them for some years now. Cohen of Citibank commented that learning used to be considered a “nice to have,” but now it’s more connected to performance. As companies become more agile and can quickly produce relevant content, it will facilitate online learning as an ongoing practice.

But it’s important to listen to the needs of the workforce. Cimitile commented that “We know employees know what they ought to do, but we should ask them what skills and support they think they need more often.”

Watch the full session here.

WE Consulting’s ‘The science behind salt therapy’
Session host: Stephanie Rest of WE Consulting. Guest speakers: Leo Tonkin, CEO, Salt Chamber; and Allan Share, president of Spa Industry Association

This webinar touched on details about salt therapy, but was mostly geared towards critical issues around reopening spas.

Tonkin from Salt Chamber said he’s seeing an increase in the usage of salt products, even though the number of people in halotherapy rooms has decreased. His company is about to unveil a self-contained salt pod, complete with HVAC, which can be installed in the grounds of a hospital or shopping mall.

WE Consulting’s Stephanie Rest said 50 per cent of respondents from a poll she’d conducted are repurposing space in their spas to different uses including salt therapy, liquid IVs, counselling, infrared saunas, recovery rooms, and personal training spaces.

Rest commented that “We’ll lose the fourth wall in hospitality, people will want to see behind it. We’ve always been safe and sanitary but now they want to see it.”

In summation, Share from the Spa Industry Association said: “Trust is big in spas. Clients have faith that owners and managers are doing everything properly, but we don’t want to lose the essence of the spa experience.”

To access this session, click here.

Green Spa Network’s ‘Reopening open forum’
Moderators: Samantha Cooper, corporate spa director at Canyon Ranch on the spa side; and Adar Venyige, director of sales for Dazzle Dry, for the brand perspective

This week’s GSN webinar was an open conversation on reopening strategies. Cooper said that Canyon Ranch is planning to reopen 1 July in Arizona, but it would like to open sooner if possible. It’s planning to operate at 33 per cent capacity and will organise the staff into teams, so that if someone is exposed to coronavirus, only that team will be quarantined. Its biggest concern is making the staff feel safe.

Attendee Maggy Dunphy, a director of spa and wellness for Hyatt, commented that rather than shying away from use of locker rooms, perhaps spas should require guests to shower, since soap and hot water kills the virus, then we’ll know they’re clean.

It was suggested that if guests feel timid about being touched, perhaps they could be given pyjamas to wear as part of the service. Mixed opinions on this – some said guests would enjoy that because of body image issues, but others said, “having services with clothing on defies the point”.

Click here to watch the webinar.

Cornell University’s ‘Restarting the hospitality industry’
Moderator: Kate Walsh, dean, Cornell School of Hotel Administration. Panellists: Chip Rogers, president and CEO, American Hotel and Lodging Association; Raymond Martz, CFO, Pebblebrook Hotel Trust; and Roger Hill, chair and CEO, The Gettys Group

This presentation gave timely and relevant information. At the onset, all panellists agreed that the first hospitality segments to recover would be those that could be accessed by car, but that group demand will not return before the end of the year.

Rogers, from the American Hotel and Lodging Association, believes some employees will be hesitant to return. “Owners need to make sure they have plenty of PPE and create processes where physical interaction with guests is minimised.” He also cited enormous pent-up demand for leisure and hotels that have access to outdoor space.

Pebblebrook’s Martz feels that technology will play a larger role in hotel operations, such as mobile check-in and digital menus, and that food will be grab and go rather than buffets. Some of these aspects will allow hotels to operate with fewer staff and be more efficient.

Building on the technology theme, Hill from the Gettys Group suggested that the pandemic creates an opportunity for larger global brands to have updated health, safety and security standards. He mentioned an identification program called Clear, which uses biometrics to allow consumers a contactless route through security in some US airports as well as sporting venues, suggesting that hotels could offer something similar.

For meetings, Hill thinks hotels could partner with labs like Abbott for rapid testing kits, make them part of a meeting for an additional fee per attendee.

In closing, Martz noted: “We have to rethink everything but there is a ton of opportunity if we are creative and can re-envision the hospitality experience.”

Watch the full session here.

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