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Jeremy McCarthy: “Spa will be a greater asset now than it's ever been”

21 May 2020
Industry figure and group director of spa and wellness for Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Jeremy McCarthy shares his thoughts with Spa Business on how the spa and wellness sector will recover in the wake of the global Coronavirus pandemic.

“In my opinion, it’s short-sighted thinking to be looking at spas as a liability right now,” said McCarthy.

“Perhaps I’m more optimistic than some, but I feel the spa is a greater asset now than it has ever been,” he explained. “Why? Because the first business to come back to hotels will be local spa business – it will be one of the first revenue streams to come back to a hotel while international travel remains restricted for some time.

“Once international travel opens up again, the next line of business to come back will be leisure travel – by people who have been cooped up and massively stressed for several months and have a new awareness of the importance of their own health and mortality.

“Spas that rely on hotel guests will be in trouble, but those that have a strong local following will bring some much-needed energy into hotels that are struggling with single-digit occupancy,” he continued. “I believe the last segment to return will be business and conferences which were the least likely to use the spa anyway.”

With lockdown easing through parts of Asia, Mandarin Oriental hotels and spas have begun to reopen in Hong Kong and are some of the first wellness destinations to face new kinds of consumers with new demands after the advent of the pandemic. McCarthy sheds more light on what consumer demand has been like so far.

“In markets where we have a strong local following we’ve been excited to see our guests returning to our spas with high demand,” said McCarthy, “it’s a good sign of resilience and also rewarding to see that guests value the services we provide and aren’t deterred by the current situation from visiting our facilities.

“We benefit from having a brand that is widely trusted and respected so our guests are confident that the service will be provided in a safe way by a trained professional in an immaculately clean environment.”

Mandarin Oriental prioritises stringent safety and cleaning standards, in part because as a Hong Kong-based company, it had previous experience with a viral outbreak during the SARS epidemic. McCarthy believes that the entire industry will have to implement heightened sanitisation standards to survive, in order to comfort consumers and build a sense of trust which will, in turn, drive revenue.

“I think Coronavirus is going to force the industry to be brought to a new standard in terms of health and cleanliness – the global wellness industry has got to examine their sanitisation procedures to create a safer experience for everyone,” he said.

During lockdown, Mandarin Oriental has stayed connected with guests by producing digital content such as live streaming fitness classes and video personal training sessions.

“I think these kinds of virtual connections with our guests are something we will continue doing even after COVID-19 has passed,” explained McCarthy.

He revealed to Spa Business that Mandarin Oriental will soon be launching a new campaign both for staff and guests – called “Inner Strength – Outer Strength” – which focuses on helping people develop healthy habits for a strong mind and body.

The staff programme is designed to help employees stay strong both physically and emotionally, to support them during the pandemic and to help them come back to work being at their best and ready to serve others.

The four-week course is split into four modules with the first week focusing on body, mind and character, week two is designed to provide strategies for managing stress mindfully, week three deep dives into self-compassion and loving-kindness while the fourth and final week will teach employees to bring strength to their personal mission.

Mandarin Oriental will also offer similar services developed for guests.

McCarthy is keen to emphasise that the pandemic has forced people to understand the importance of their own health and that the industry now has a responsibility to do everything possible to implore people to maintain this focus and also teach them how to look after their health.

“The crisis, by virtue of breaking us out of our routine ways of doing things, forces us to look at everything we do with a fresh perspective,” he concluded, “now we have a great opportunity to introduce new habits and activities to people who will be more motivated than ever to consider how their lifestyle contributes to their long-term health.

“Ultimately I think people will quickly settle into a new routine once the world returns to a new normal, so it’s important for people to use this time to establish a new goal for the kind of life they want to lead and we’re here to help them do that.”

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