Over the past four decades, Gary Henkin has driven the development of WTS International – a consultancy which started life as a small US-centric tennis services enterprise and has grown to become a major player in the global spa industry. Today, the privately-owned company employs 2,000 people around the world with 65 per cent of its revenues generated through contract spa management and all aspects of consulting. High-profile clients include Ritz-Carlton, Wyndham Worldwide and Trump International. In late 2012, the company further strengthened its position with the acquisition of the leading spa design consultancy Blu Spas, Inc for an undisclosed sum.
What have been your biggest achievements in the past year?
WTS has continued its expansion internationally working on projects such as the pre-opening and management of La Stejarii Country Club & Spa – a multi-sports and spa facility in Bucharest, Romania; and the planning and design consulting for the Tianjin Guanghe Valley Hot Spring Resort in China. We have also materially improved our internal infrastructure, resources and support offered by the firm both for our clients and to our contracted spa directors in such areas as financial management, marketing and sales, education and staff training.
In addition, we have joined forces with Blu Spas to create a truly unique niche in the spa industry from vision and concept development through to design, pre-opening and management. We have also recently appointed Alfredo Carvajal as our chief operating officer. Alfredo was previously executive vice-president for industry supplier Universal Companies and his main goal at WTS will be to oversee all operations worldwide and to consistently upgrade our client systems, recourses and training.
What do you expect to come from your partnership with Blu Spas?
We have high expectations that it will provide significant impetus for growth in the coming months and years. Blu Spas has spent many years creating visionary concepts for luxury spas for hotels, resorts and real estate projects worldwide. Combined with WTS’ expertise in pre-opening and spa management, it ensures the broadest range of services.
What innovations are you working on?
Increased customisation for the guest experience and using cutting edge technology in treatments such as hydradermabrasion, microcurrent machines and incorporating music/sound into the massage table/cradle.
We think online accessibility is key to boosting a spa’s bottom line so we’re also working on this with our spas. We’re focusing on online booking channels via Facebook, the spa’s own website and third parties such as www.btreated.com to fill unused time/space.
What spa trend is gaining momentum?
We expect that consumers and spa patrons will gravitate more to the growing trend of improving lifestyle and wellbeing through wellness offerings and programmes. Those operators who can tap into existing resources without additional costs will have an increased opportunity to raise their revenues.
More spa-goers are concerned not only about receiving a relaxing experience but also about getting results from their spa treatments. We believe that they will want to continue receiving results long after they leave the hotel or resort. Thus, there is a trend to have consumers continue their protocols, lifestyle changes and product usage at home.
In addition, we predict more spas will have a wellness and/or medical component associated with them, and that medical doctors will begin to incorporate spa treatments into their practices and begin talking about the value of massage, yoga and stress reduction far more than they have in the past. All of this will impact the way that spas operate and how they are promoted to consumers.
What are the most important KPIs for spas?
We focus on the following: raw payroll, which should be under 50 per cent of your expenses; retail to service ratio which should be 20 per cent; and operating expenses which should be 15 per cent or under. Something often overlooked is the average ticket price – the average revenue spent by a customer on any spa service, retail product or membership, etc. This should factor on any operator’s radar screen, with a goal to improve it by at least 5 per cent a year. Even increasing it by that small percentage will generate substantial income for a spa without necessarily increasing traffic flow.
What are the barriers to growth in the industry?
The sluggish recovery of the economy (especially in the US), and the continued availability of consumer discount deal websites such as TravelZoo, Living Social and Groupon.
Is your life on track?
Yes! The company is growing in the right direction and in the right way. We are fortunate to have wonderful clients and to be surrounded by exceptional people and staff. On a personal level, I have a truly wonderful family and couldn’t be happier.
How would you describe yourself?
I’m a person who really enjoys setting out a goal and accomplishing it. I have a true entrepreneurial streak which has lead me to create and launch a number of successful enterprises and I’d like to think that will continue.
What drives you?
A desire to do my best, to succeed and to create a work atmosphere which will impact the lives of our associates, staff and their families. I enjoy, more than anything, the ability to mentor people as best I can, and it has been a real joy to see so many of our staff flourish at WTS and in other positions over time.
What advice would you give to someone coming into the spa industry?
Absorb as much as possible by reaching out to industry organisations and associations such as ISPA, and garner as much from conferences and literature as possible. However, nothing really beats practical experience, so for someone just entering the industry, it makes sense to join a team in a company like ours or gain experience by starting in a position at a spa which allows for growth – either from the ground up, or a management track.