Patrick Huey has just been elected the new chair of the International Spa Association (ISPA), having been a board member since 2016. He’s a valued member of the global spa community who’s been in the industry for over 15 years and served as group spa director for companies such as Viceroy, Sandals, Minor, and now Montage International. He shares insights with Spa Business about his new role, the Black Lives Matter campaign and the impact of coronavirus.
What does it mean to be elected as the new ISPA chair?
I’ve wanted to be a part of the association ever since my first ISPA conference in 2007. I’d just been promoted to spa director for Four Seasons Las Vegas and the energy of the floor with the resource partners, the keynotes and the quality of the educational seminars made me realise I had found my people. I was hooked. Being elected chair is such a wonderful experience and enables me to engage the new spa professional, at our next conference in Phoenix next May, to ensure they know ISPA is the place for them to develop from a first time attendee to a critical part of the ISPA family.
What are you hoping to achieve in the role?
We have a tremendous group of volunteer board members and our focus is to ensure the sustainability of our industry and the association through this extraordinary time. It’s that simple. We want to ensure our members (current and future) continue to look on the positive side of what’s happening. We should all be asking ‘what is the good that we can find today?’
A colleague recently reached out to me through ISPA’s virtual Town Hall series and even though we’ve been in the industry together for more than 20 years, she now feels she knows me and we’ve established a rapport. This is exactly what we need as an industry right now – that sense of positive and personal connection and engagement.
How successful has ISPA’s Town Hall series been? We launched them in June and every week the virtual, hour-long sessions see spa leaders who’ve reopened their business share observations around different topics – from prepping staff to revenue management. We’ve had very high engagement levels. The last time I checked we had over 18,000 participants on our various social platforms.
What are your takeaways from these sessions?
This pandemic has brought forth the best in our industry. Our spa operators and therapists are the unsung heroes of the hospitality. They’re not only brilliant business minds, but they’re navigating the complexities of human emotion of their associates and guests. It’s a phenomenal balancing act. In hotel operations, food and beverage gets a lot of attention. I encourage general managers to look at their spa directors closely. They will see examples of extraordinary leadership there.
I’ve also been impressed with how quickly resource partners have pivoted at this time. From drop shipping to virtual training platforms, they really are the engine of the industry.
ISPA’s Reopening Toolkit has been essential to the industry, how did you generate the content for it?
It was critical that the industry fly in formation to navigate these extraordinary times and I headed up ISPA’s COVID-19 Collaboration Group. So many wonderful and brilliant minds, from different parts of the globe, and dozens of companies, large and small, committed to freely sharing their knowledge with one another as it relates to the health and safety of our spa teams and guests.
ISPA then made the smart and compassionate decision to make the toolkit complimentary and customisable. This bold move has enabled spas around the world – as well as many other industries – to safely reopen and its been viewed over 150,000 times! The document is updated constantly as we all continue to learn more.
The Black Lives Matter movement is gaining traction… is racial discrimination an issue in the spa industry?
Our industry is open to all and ISPA issued a statement of #Healinghappenshere at the height of the protests affirming its support.
But there’s always room to grow and develop and I see the industry shifting and adjusting. Just last week Dr Bryan Williams, a celebrated speaker, author and hospitality veteran, featured on a new virtual series ISPA’s launching called Heart of the Matter. He talked about diversity and inclusion in the spa industry and his own experiences with discrimination. I believe the way we make change is through dialogue and education. When talking about these highly sensitive issues, we have to meet people where they are in their own journey and listen to understand, not just listen only to respond. This is how we effect change.
Are all Montage spas now up and running again?
Our decisions to reopen are guided by the laws and guidelines of each state and jurisdiction. We have six spas, five are now open and one remains closed. We’re also excited to be opening two more properties before the end of this year, Montage Healdsburg and Pendry West Hollywood, so we’ll have eight spas in total soon.
For those that are open again, how is business?
It’s strong and consistent for our spas. We have a loyal and dedicated following of guests who have graciously remained by our side and trusted in our Peace of Mind Commitment to their safety. I think we’ll continue to see strong levels. Now, more than ever, people need a safe and trusted place to heal themselves and we provide that. We’re still offering massages, facials, body services and salon services. Some states have specified that certain treatments cannot be done and in those cases we follow the established guidelines.
What strategies does Montage have in place to maintain revenue?
Retail is a key. We have to embrace technology and understand that guests want to purchase products online. So, it’s important to have active e-commerce bandwidth and programmes like drop shipping from your resource partners to your guests.
It’s also important to have smart booking procedures to ensure you’re maximising your therapists’ time. We want to reduce any unnecessary open blocks on the books. They represent lost revenue opportunities.
Lastly, it’s about refining the guest experience – it’s essential that what happens in the treatment room is exemplary and impactful. That’s when the guests will return.
How is the global spa industry is going to weather the impact of COVID-19?
Quite well, I think. The industry is committed to safety first. Safety and consistency are the new markers of luxury.
What’s key for businesses that do survive?
We as an industry have to remember that we succeed and stumble together. We have to execute consistently on the guidelines that we’ve put in place. If we don’t do that, we break trust with our teams and our guests. That trust is the key business driver.