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Why a Fitness Center Spa?

Offering spa services within a fitness center can be a way to raise the facility's average revenue per member, and a way to boost recruiting and retention numbers.

With fitness center membership enrollment growing, but attrition rates still more than 30 percent, facility owners are justifiably concerned about taking on anything that diverts resources away from maintaining and developing their core business. Spas and spa services are increasingly popular, and are appearing inside or alongside commercial fitness centers with greater frequency. Why might a facility owner give consideration to offering such services? There is good justification for viewing the fitness center spa as an appropriate (and profitable) part of the array of programs and services offered at fitness centers.

Not-so-guilty pleasure

Spa industry growth exploded in the late '90s, and proved to be remarkably strong despite a difficult economy. It continues to grow - albeit more modestly - right up to the present. Industry observers have speculated that this sustained growth is due to the recognition that services once considered an indulgence, or "guilty pleasure," are being seen increasingly as necessary to shake off the effects of stress and to slow the aging process. Some services are now viewed more as a necessity than a luxury. Research by the International Spa Association (ISPA) reports that two-thirds of day spa patrons who disclosed their household income earn between $45,000 and $100,000 annually. ISPA also reports that "convenience" is the No. 1 factor influencing a patron's choice of a day spa. In addition, the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) reports that between August 2004 and July 2005, 47 million Americans got a massage - up 4 percent from the previous year. Furthermore, AMTA found that 40 percent of American women and 17 percent of American men had a massage during the survey period. The figure for men was up 14 percent from the year before.

What a spa can do for you

What can a spa do for your fitness center? Properly planned and executed, a spa accomplishes two major purposes: a boost to member recruitment and an increase in revenue per member. There are also a number of lesser benefits to the facility. A spa can draw people to your location who are open to the benefits of exercise, but perhaps still uncertain or intimidated by the fitness center. The first concern of a prospective member is whether they will feel comfortable in the facility. Is it clean, well-equipped and friendly? A visit to your spa will give you a chance to showcase your fitness center, and give users an opportunity to see that others who go there are much like themselves. And, it provides you with a new prospect's name and contact information. Fitness center spas' customer list often includes as much as 45 to 50 percent non-members. Consistently successful fee-for-service programs in fitness centers are not numerous and are highly facility-specific. If your fitness center doesn't have tennis courts, racquetball courts, a high-volume retail operation or a well-managed personal training program, your program revenue might be limited to little more than locker rentals and vending sales. Massage, the "king" of services, is the entry-level spa experience, and its various types are still the industry's leading treatment. Massage accounts for approximately 60 percent of any spa's treatment business (even at large resort spas). A good massage in a properly designed fitness center spa can command a rate of $75 to $100 per hour, and can net the facility as much as half that fee. That compares quite favorably with net proceeds from personal training. In fact, spa services have an appeal similar to that of personal training, since they offer personalized service delivered one-on-one by appointment.

Where to put a spa

The ideal location for a fitness center spa is near the facility's entrance. Non-members can comfortably access the spa, but it remains convenient for members. If possible, it should also be located so that spa-goers can make use of the fitness center's showers and changing facilities. Otherwise, separate changing facilities will have to be provided. Consider a different name and a separate identity for the spa so it is more easily viewed as a different business from the fitness center (albeit related). Offering spa services within a fitness center can be a way to raise the facility's average revenue per member, and a way to boost recruiting and retention numbers.
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