Carlos Calvo Rodriquez, Senior Spa Director at Four Seasons Toronto, the city’s only Forbes-Five star rated spa, talks staff training and habits of successful spa directors.
Carlos Calvo Rodriquez is the Senior Spa Director for Toronto’s only Forbes-Five star rated spa, the Spa at Four Seasons Toronto, located inside the brand’s global flagship, Four Seasons Hotel Toronto.
An expert in wellness, staff training, and business operations, originally from Costa Rica, Mr. Calvo Rodriguez is a physiotherapist by trade.
Explaining how he ended up in hospitality, he says, “When I did my master’s degree, I worked at the university teaching manual therapy and assessment. Maybe it was because a lot of my students were going to work there, that Four Seasons asked me to work for them. At first, I had no intention to do so because I was happy at the academy, but one day I accompanied my assistant for an interview and I’m the one who got hired (my assistant was hired as well, so it worked out). I started my hospitality career in 2007 with Four Seasons.
He started as a massage therapist, then moved up the ranks to become Assistant Spa Director.
He says, “I then joined an amazing program Four Seasons had to develop spa managers, in which we went to train at company spas in different countries. I went to Washington DC, Doha, Qatar; Maldives; Langkawi, Malaysia; Hong Kong; Bali; and Paris. After the program I found an opening at Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, the company’s flagship. That was synchronicity because I had applied for my permanent residency a few years earlier and I got it at the same time I applied for the job. They didn’t have a spa yet so I came and helped to open the spa as Manager with Todd Hewitt as Senior Director.”
In 2016, he moved into the corporate world with Shangri La in Hong Kong as Assistant Vice President, Training in Spa & Wellness, “but when COVID happened, we all got laid off from the wellness division. In 2021, I launched Kool for Men with Todd, wellness products for men, and I also became a certified human potential coach. I then came back to Toronto and the Four Seasons in 2022.”
Some of the Spa at Four Seasons Toronto’s success can probably be attributed to Calvo Rodriguez’s dedication to the cause of proper training in spa and wellness. “Wellness and education are interconnected,” he has said. “Whether it’s staff, students or guests, everybody needs coaching and direction to ensure a better well-being. The Spa has become a lifestyle necessity for the modern individual, and I am lucky to be at the forefront of that realization.”
We spoke with Carlos Calvo Rodriguez about that and about the habits of effective leaders in spa and wellness.
Tell us about your spa at Four Seasons Toronto
It’s very special because we opened this place – we literally ripped open the boxes. I was very happy to come back because a good portion of the team is still the same from 10 years ago. There are a lot of people that I hired myself. It’s the biggest city spa in the company at 30,000 square feet. We have 16 treatment rooms, 5 spa suites, a relaxation pool, outdoor terrace, nail and hair bar and 20 massage tables. Three more rooms will be developed into a wellness and biohacking center. It’s a busy place – we’re booked out up to two months in advance. The business is locally driven – ninety-five per cent of our customers are locals with the remaining Hotel guests and Residents. Our target has always been the local community. This has a bigger impact. When we opened, we had a business development manager who was out literally knocking on the doors of the community around us, inviting them to try the spa.
It was a new product for the city. Four Seasons had never had a spa in Toronto before. Expectations were high and we hired the best in the city. I remember I conducted 383 therapist interviews and hired 30 massage therapists. We wanted to be the best and have the best. I think that paid off because within the first year of opening, we went up to $2 million in revenue and we manage a budget of six or seven million a year. On weekdays we have 85 to 90 appointments per day, and on the weekends from 100 to 120.
What did you learn about running a spa while working as an AVP of Training? What did you take away from that?
Training is so important because the more time you spend on training, the better quality your service will be. I find sometimes we overlook that part. Communication is key and so is investing in enough training for everyone so that they feel like they are a part of things.
On the operations side, we need to improve communication with the rest of the team. We need to be specific and give reasons as to why we’re doing things, rather than saying “We’re going to do it this way, and that’s it.” Everyone wants to be part of things and everyone should understand why we do things the way we do.
What are some training gaps you see in the spa industry?
On the therapy side, I think the biggest gap is the balance between health and scientific knowledge and knowledge of hospitality. These things don’t always go together. Someone who comes from a very health and science-focused background will sometimes have to learn how to deliver the best customer service. We need to make sure our team merges these things. On the front-of-house side, I think it’s dealing with special requests. There’s always a little bit of fear and we should provide the tools to handle unexpected situations.
What are some habits of effective leaders in spa and wellness?
Mental health is very important because we are dealing with a lot of people and situations all at the same time. I think one of my life savers is daily meditation. Every morning I do 20 minutes of meditation, 20 minutes of journaling, and 20 minutes of exercise.
Another habit I really like getting into is getting on the floor and being with my team for a minimum of one hour a day doing what they’re doing; checking in guests, helping people get set up for the showers, cleaning up – not just being the manager.
And, of course, just communicate, communicate and communicate.
What’s your favorite thing about your job?
The people that I work with. That was easy.
What are you excited about?
I’m very excited about the expanding concept of wellness and about introducing the concept of biohacking into the hospitality industry. It’s important because people want to live longer and healthier. I’m excited about that and about how in spas we can bring not only the relaxation side of wellness but also expand into longevity and the biology of our bodies.
What are you excited about at Four Seasons?
We’re going to have a yacht collection! It was recently announced that the first Four Seasons Yacht will launch in the next couple of years. We already have a private jet that takes you around the world to our different locations and now we’re going to conquer the seas – and there will be a big wellness component. That is exciting.
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 book4time.com.