How Forbes Travel Guide ratings will change for spas

Spa Executive spoke with Amanda Frasier, of Forbes Travel Guide, about how FTG’s ratings criteria for spas might change in future because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The criteria for Forbes Travel Guide Ratings and other spa awards are a topic of speculation these days, as the industry works to adjust to a new normal. What will change, and what will remain the same? 

To help businesses adjust, FTG recently introduced a new set of Back-to-Work Best Practice Guidelines and a new virtual training program to support luxury hospitality establishments around the world with post-quarantine service changes. These resources are designed to assist hospitality professionals in reimagining luxury service as they reopen for business while adhering to national and local government policies related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

FTG has addressed elements of guest service in cleanliness and sanitation, communication, social distancing, food presentation safety, health and hygiene, and touchless and limited-contact services. The guidelines include helpful service hints that illustrate how best to apply the recommendations while maintaining an exceptional level of service. 

Forbes Travel Guide’s team of trainers will deliver the virtual program, just like Forbes Travel Guide’s existing and renowned in-person training sessions. The program covers all hospitality departments and levels of profession and there are 35 topics from which to choose, in a customizable virtual format with many interactive elements.

We spoke with Amanda Frasier, Forbes Travel Guide’s  Executive Vice President, Standards & Ratings, to get her insight on what the future of ratings might look like and how the new guidelines are intended to be used. Here is what she had to say.

Can we just remind ourselves what makes a Five-Star spa?

What makes a spa go from just an amazing facility to a Five-Star award winning spa is the service. A huge portion of what we look at is how the staff make the guests feel. That’s obviously important in the hotels and the restaurants we evaluate too, but it’s especially important in the spa because, for the most part, that’s specifically why people choose to go to the spa. There’s a variety of reasons why people might stay in a hotel, and of course relaxation is one, but general wellbeing, feeling better about yourself, and coming out refreshed is the whole point of the spa. Our standards are geared towards how the staff talk to you and how they treat you as an individual.

What is going to change and what will stay the same?

Nobody knows exactly what is going to change in the longer term, but I think many things will stay the same because people are still going to want that sense of relaxation, maybe even more than ever. What’s wonderful about our standards is they are quite timeless. People will still want to feel good, relaxed, and confident about their choice to visit a particular spa.

You can sense the anxiety in the initial reopening phase, but I think we’re going to see a lot more thoughtfulness come out of this. We do expect to see some changes in terms of elevated practises that will last into the longer term.

What will change in terms of cleanliness and hygiene criteria?

In our new best practices document we state that we do expect to see enhanced measures, especially in the opening weeks. This includes commitment to, for example, taking guest temperatures or reviewing additional questions on the intake form. None of that should interfere with what we traditionally look for in a guest experience. Guests will need to see these things. They should be visible and well communicated, even before the guest arrives, through the registration process and on the spa website. That confirmation will be very important, because it enhances the guest’s sense of confidence and comfort in what they’re about to experience, and then they can actually relax, and enjoy it. I also think we’ve got a lot to learn and watch as the opening weeks go by.

How did FTG go about creating these best practices, and what’s their intended application?

Companies around the world have come up with revised operating standards that are, quite rightly, very much health and hygiene focused. We wanted to put out a document that speaks to supporting these changes while not losing that very special sense of service that we look for at Forbes Travel Guide. So, while we have to take all these new precautionary measures – doing temperature checks, for example – we have to think about how we’re doing that to enhance the guest’s sense of comfort. If you’re going to remove items that the guests might need from the locker room in order to have a more sanitary service, make sure that your staff are extra vigilant about offering these items to the individual guests as they are needed. Our goal is to provide support and guidance when it comes to changes that properties are going through.

Do you think technology will play an increased role in the future?

I think even before the virus technology was doing that, but yes, I think technology will continue to provide an option for an enhanced level of service. For example, if we’re removing paper reading material from relaxation areas in order to maintain higher hygiene standards, we might consider offering something to read on a digital device instead. If you don’t have the capital to invest in a whole suite of new iPads or devices, there are ways to keep magazines and reading materials clean as well. It’s a good idea, if you’re removing something, to think about why you had that there in the first place and how you can still fill that need.

Are you optimistic?

I think everyone is being very adaptable and being extremely responsible. We are very optimistic.


Read about FTG’s new guidelines and learn more about what Forbes looks for in a Five Star Spa here:


How to get a Forbes Five-Star Rating for your spa