By Brian Jewell
If you’re looking to wind down after a full day on tour, the spa in your hotel may offer just what you need.
Traditional group tours are often exhausting affairs covering hundreds of miles and numerous attractions in a single day. And although sightseeing has its merits, many modern groups are starting to combine excursions with free time and luxurious experiences. For those travelers, spas around the country present a host of desirable opportunities.
Fueled by the popular “girlfriends getaways,” spas are developing techniques and strategies for taking care of groups. These options, in turn, help you to build more creative and contemporary travel menus for your travelers.
Here’s a look at how three different types of properties accommodate groups in their spas.
French Lick Resort
French Lick, Ind.
In southern Indiana, the staff at the Spa at French Lick — and sister property the Spa at West Baden — go out of their way to accommodate the needs of their groups, who may not be able to come in during regular hours.
“If I know that a group is coming in and that they’re interested in the spa, I designate one of my people to be the spa contact with the group leader,” said spa director Kim Allen. “On some occasions, I have opened the spa an hour or two earlier to accommodate a larger group that needs to be in or out by a particular time.
“Sometimes, if they’re coming during the week, I can readjust my therapist’s schedules to have them work at different times when the groups are there.
Allen said many groups like to have their treatments all together, so she’ll block out an entire morning or afternoon just for the group. During that time, they often enjoy champagne with pedicures or arrange to have a group lunch served in the spa’s tranquility rooms.
Sometimes, if a group is in a hurry, the spa staff can give 50-minute treatments in abbreviated 25-minute segments.
“Everyone wants a massage — they’re so popular,” Allen said, “so we try to have all of our massage therapists come in on that particular day, and then each person goes to their single treatment room.”
1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa
Eureka Springs, Ark.
Although the 1886 Crescent Hotel is a popular stop for groups touring Eureka Springs, the sales staff at the mountaintop resort and spa has a tough time convincing traditional tour groups to take time out to visit the spa. But a new kind of group takes full advantage of the spa’s services.
“We do a lot of girlfriend getaways — those are really big for us,” said Nicole Egan, director of sales and marketing at the hotel’s New Moon Spa. “Those can be just two to six people or friends and coworkers in groups of 10 to 20.”
Most popular with the girlfriend groups is a two-night package, which includes hotel accommodations and three hours of spa service. Often, they will schedule a 90-minute group massage for the first night and then a deluxe pedicure session for the second night.
“If we can get them all in and out together, we will,” Egan said. “We can do up to 14 people simultaneously. Ninety percent of our groups do all of their services together, in the same room.”
Many of the girlfriend groups stay in cottages on the property, where they can enjoy time together outside of scheduled activities. These groups, Egan said, are more likely to spend time together at the hotel and spa than to visit attractions in town.
Although older hotel customers are somewhat hesitant to use spa services, Egan expects that to change as baby boomers enter retirement.
“It’s a mind-set that has been difficult to break, but baby boomers are used to the luxury,” she said. “When they are older, they’re going to be loving the spa.”
Lake Austin Spa Resort
It’s all about relaxation, healthy activity and pampering at Lake Austin Spa Resort, a 40-room boutique property in the Texas Hill Country. With a whole menu of options such as cooking classes, hikes and boat outings, the staff lets group members set their own schedules.
“A spa experience is such a personal experience,” said general manager Tracy York, “so we try to tell groups that everyone needs a different experience. They should plan a time or two throughout the day to be together. The rest of the day, they should do as much or as little as they want.”
A group of 15 to 20 people — large by this property’s standards — will typically meet for lunch and dinner and often take their spa treatments at the same time. But members of the group can choose their desired treatments, from massages to facials, wraps and other therapies. Most group packages include at least one treatment per day; premium packages include multiple daily treatments.
“Most everybody has one treatment a day,” York said. “They might do a hair or salon service during the day, and then have a relaxing massage after dinner and fall into bed.”
The variety of spa treatments and outdoor activities makes Lake Austin Spa Resort appeal to more than just women’s groups. Twenty percent of the property’s guests are men, and men make up nearly half of the guest registry during holiday weekends.