Primary steps for a profitable spa development

Posted by on March 16, 2003 in Articles

Primary steps for a profitable spa development

Whether you employ professional guidance, or go it alone, structuring your approach to spa development can save you a bundle of time and money in the long run

By Vivienne O’Keeffe A.A.D., P.E.A., C.I.B.T.A.C.

Published in Spa Management magazine

With the current boom in the spa industry, competition on the street has become intense. If you are going to invest hard-earned money in a spa development that will match or exceed the standards already set by other spas in the area where you propose to locate, it is becoming ever more important to engage the services of experienced professionals. Specialised guidance and knowledge can make the difference between “just another spa” and a spa that will draw customers like a magnet.

Setting up any type of spa, whether it be day, medical, hotel, resort or a destination spa, entails understanding the logistics of what is basically a sophisticated, experience-delivery industry. The multi-faceted operational aspects of the spa business require an in-depth understanding of its complex dynamics in order to ensure a smooth operation – with profitability.

Beginning a spa business can at times be daunting to business people unseasoned or unfamiliar with the spa industry. The most common question I hear from clients through our consulting company is: “Where do we begin? How do we get started”? Occasionally we have encountered clients, who in their enthusiasm to get going, have “jumped the gun”- buying equipment before deciding on a location or running a set of appropriate financials – only to find out too late that they have too little space for it, or equipment that won’t last three years before it will need to be replaced. They may also have simply paid too much for their equipment and products. Admitting to yourself: “I don’t know what I don’t know”, can be the smartest thing you do in setting about developing your spa business.

Bearing in mind that every business is different (differentiation in this industry being the key to sustained success), whether it be with a congruent concept, philosophy, layout, or size – and that there is no such thing as a “manual for assembling a spa” – here then is an outline of the initial development processes.

Firstly, ask yourself why you want to open a spa. Is it because you are passionate about wellness and want to help people rediscover balance? Alternatively, envisioning healthy profit margins and a happy bank manager or investors could motivate you. Actually it is a lot of both – in practical terms, optimum results tend to flow from a combination of sincere belief in the good you wish to impart to people and the requirement of sustainable fiscal profitability rewarding your well-structured business initiative.

If you are starting a spa from a green-field situation or are moving into a pre-constructed area, the importance of getting good floor plans drawn up and acquiring professional, experienced and independent advice can’t be overemphasised. Spending money properly in the design and layout stages will quite literally save you thousands when the construction crews and contractors move in to install the electrical, plumbing and mechanical aspects of the spa. Never underestimate the value of a thorough set of plans. Since these plans will form the basis of contractors’ bids, incomplete drawings could distort those bids to your disadvantage. So draw everything up and get written estimates for every aspect of the spa. Every light switch, drain and tile should be accounted for prior to any element of the construction beginning. Reasonable overruns are common – even with solid floor, lighting, plumbing and mechanical plans, there are always the inevitable unforeseen elements – particularly when dealing with older buildings that have seen numerous internal changes over the years. Plan for this contingency – 5% to 10% of the quoted construction budget should usually suffice.

Concept aside, to a large extent your budget will determine the finished appearance of your spa. However, it is always preferable to invest a little bit more on quality hardware, which will give you years of trouble-free service. Inexpensive faucets and door handles that will degrade prematurely under the client traffic volumes you experience, may be a false economy and denigrate the look you have created.

The best spa operations are those which advocate sincerity and authenticity throughout the entire fabric of their spa operation. Being aware of the various nuances in the experience delivery, and the balance that must be achieved between this and making a profit, is the trick to understanding the appropriate primary steps in a profitable spa development.


Vivienne O’Keeffe, A.A.D., P.E.A., C.I.B.T.A.C., President of Spa Profits Consulting Inc., has earned an international reputation as an expert in designing successful spa concepts. She specializes in working with owners to create profitable spas. As an international consultant she is highly skilled in developing unique product and treatment lines, as well as training programs. Vivienne has studied and trained extensively in the beauty and well-being arena and is a member of ISPA, Leading Spas of Canada (for which she won an Outstanding Industry Service Award in 2001, 2005 and 2012) and the Institute of Management Consultants USA (IMC USA). She is also a published author, having written a wide range of articles on developing and running a successful spa. Spa Profits Consulting Inc. is the only SpaExcellence certified consultancy in North America, and is committed to setting the standard for quality, successful spas on a global level. For more information call 604.921.6245 or email


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