ISPA Vice Chair Michelle Adams Somerville on what spa and wellness leaders are talking about right now

what spa and wellness leaders are talking

We wanted to know what topics were top of mind with spa and wellness leaders, so we asked ISPA Vice Chair, Michelle Adams Somerville, to share what people are talking about. Focus on community is what will get the industry through difficult times.

Do you ever wonder if your business worries are yours and yours alone? Do you wonder if the challenges you’re facing and the concerns that keep you up at night are exclusive to you or if they are shared by your peers? Wondering if others have answers and solutions you don’t can be stressful and lonely, and right now is a particularly difficult time for that. That’s why we decided to find out what leaders in the spa and wellness community are talking about right now.

We reached out to ISPA Vice Chair, Michelle Adams Somerville, to ask what conversations spa and wellness leaders are having and what solutions are being discussed to counter some of the unprecedented challenges we’re facing as a sector. 

These are the topics that Adams Somerville said are top-of-mind for leaders in the spa and wellness community.


Adams Somerville told us that leadership is key right now as spa and wellness leaders navigate the ever-changing safety protocols and how to meet the pent-up demand while ensuring the safety of teams and guests. She said, “The ISPA Spa Reopening Toolkit has been a lifesaver for so many spas. According to the August ISPA Snapshot Survey, 80% of spas are now open; however, two-thirds of that audience is operating at less than 55% capacity due to limitations and government mandates.”

Guests have been returning to spas and are looking for wellness solutions, she said, “but we are performing a balancing act with the number of people spas can have in their space at any given time, guest demands, and available therapists.”

 The solution? Adams Somerville says spas are creatively using their spaces in different ways than intended and looking for areas outside of the spa to use as spa rooms. “For example, outdoor treatment spaces and using hotel rooms as treatment rooms. We are also talking about renting out unused areas, like fitness rooms or steam rooms to small, private groups, for additional revenue streams.”

Another shutdown

Of course, the threat of a possible resurgence of the virus causing another potential shutdown is top of mind across the industry. “That’s a huge concern,” said Adams Somerville. “It’s the undertone of everything.”

Fortunately, she said, “ISPA, has done a fantastic job and has put together a step-by-step shutdown plan. So, if you have to shut your spa down tomorrow, there is a plan. As much as we hope we’re not going to need it, if we need it, we’re going to need it fast.”


Retail has been a lifeline for many spas, and Adams Somerville says it has also been a positive surprise.

“There has been a big increase in retail revenue and people have been saying, ‘Wow. My retail is flying off the shelves!’ This is great. But it raises the question of how we can have adequate supplies to sell and to function and operate our treatment rooms. I don’t want to order too much, because if I have a shut down, what am I going to do with all this product? I had to throw it away the last time.”

This is where the right resource partners come in, said Somerville. “The support from the resource partner community has been incredible as spas focus on how to source and obtain the adequate supplies needed to function with an unknown financial outlook as we prepare budgets for 2021.” 


Everything is unpredictable, Adams Somerville notes, and “nobody knows what our finances are going to look like in two months.” So, she says, people are turning to each other. 

“Everyone is asking everyone else what they are doing for their budgets. We need a crystal ball for our budgets!”

For now, the best solution is to try to envision different scenarios and create different budgets for them. “Most people are doing a couple of different budgets,” said Adams Somerville. “Some people are budgeting for three or six months at a time while others are creating best and worst-case scenario budgets. I think the best and worst-case scenario budgets is a great idea.”


Staffing is always an issue in spa and wellness and Adams Somerville says it’s even more of a challenge now. “Finding qualified service providers was an issue pre-COVID and has only exacerbated since the pandemic started. Industry leaders are challenged with having to schedule around safety concerns while many employees juggle new home-life issues, including childcare, virtual schooling and caring for high-risk family members.” 

Community solutions

Adams Somerville said that, overall, the spa industry is resilient and has always been innovative. “People are working together. ISPA has used the slogans, ‘all hands on the rope’ and ‘all flying in formation,’ and this is what is happening right now. It is huge.  People are supporting others, lifting them up and building the spa community up together.

“We will be hosting the ISPA Conference in May, in Phoenix, AZ, where we can all gather safely, learn together and support each other. 

“It’s incredible how supportive people in this industry are of one another. People are just talking freely and sharing plans and ideas with each other. It’s been great.”


Spa Executive is published by Book4Time, the leader in guest management, revenue and mobile solutions for the most exclusive spas, hotels, and resorts around the globe. Learn more at