Forbes’ Executive VP of Ratings Amanda Frasier on what makes a well-managed spa

Forbes Travel Guide is the final word on luxury travel. Earning a Forbes Five Star rating for your spa ranks you among the finest in the world. It’s like the Nobel prize of hotels and spas.

It’s no small accomplishment — there are more than 200 service and facility standards in Forbes’ spa evaluation. And one of the most important people involved in this evaluation process is Amanda Frasier, Forbes Travel Guide’s Executive Vice President of Ratings.

Frasier, originally from London, UK, oversees the coordination of the global evaluation schedule and subsequent data analysis for all incognito ratings evaluations. She also serves as chair of the Forbes Travel Guide Standards Advisory Committee and supervises the continual refinement of Forbes Travel Guide’s service and facility standards.

Before she became the global authority on hospitality service standards, Frasier was the director of Executive Training for the Travel Guide’s consulting division and served as an inspector herself. And before that she spent 13 years in hospitality operations.

Frasier knows what makes all the difference between the mediocre, the good, and the great when it comes to spa service standards.

We wanted to talk about what role spa management plays in the overall quality of a spa’s operations, and how one can tell when a spa is well managed. This is because we believe that everything starts at the top. If your operations are failing, you have only to look to your leaders to find the problem. Great leadership will affect every aspect of a spa’s operations, just like bad leadership will.

Can a Forbes inspector tell when a spa is well managed? We asked Frasier this, and what the indictors are of a well-managed spa. Here’s what she had to say.

Are there indicators that a spa is well managed and what are these?

There absolutely are. You can sense straight away when a team is well managed, not only from the appearance of the spa in terms of design and aesthetics but also by how well it’s maintained, that there’s some consistency in how tidy the reception is, if there is someone there to greet you when you walk in, if the staff is consistently attentive without being intrusive throughout.

That doesn’t happen by happenstance or because people like each other or want to help each other; that happens because somebody has taken the time to instill a positive culture in that workplace, and it transcends down to how the staff conducts themselves on the floor, how they talk with each other, and how the guest ultimately experiences the staff.

What has to happen behind the scenes for this to happen?

It starts at the very, very top. You can tell the difference between an ownership that’s fully aligned with the mission and the culture they want to instill versus an owner who is disconnected from the experience, and doesn’t support the needs of the team. If you are managing a spa and you report to an owner, how the owner talks to you will reflect in your behavior towards your staff, and likewise in your staff’s behavior toward the guest.

Regarding the management that runs the spa on a day-to-day basis, the character of the individuals makes all the difference — whether they are respectful of each other and how they treat each other as colleagues.

When one feels respected, and that their ideas are valuable and their contribution is meaningful, that reflects in their attitude. When they see the return on the investment they make as an individual through a positive working environment, that all benefits the guest.

You can’t fake that. If there is this unspoken awkwardness in a spa, it will come through and the guest will feel it.

And how can the spa menu be indicative of good management?

When there’s a good level of open conversation between leadership management and ownership, that’s reflected in a great spa menu.

There was a point about seven or eight years ago, when spa menus were like encyclopedias. It was page after page after page… I think that was part of the drive to be different, to have something unique. I can’t say that this is fact but I suspect these lengthy menus were a leadership direction that just didn’t work.

More recently, we’ve seen spa menus become more comprehensive and refined. This demonstrates that spas really understand what they need to offer, what they need to be good at. and how to do that without overwhelming the guest.

You still want a variety. You still want to see something for women, something for men, something for children, too. Not in every spa, because that’s not every environment, but certainly those larger resorts.


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