Global research
Pay day

How do the salaries, benefits and working environments for spa therapists differ around the world? Lisa Starr takes a look at Wynne Business’s survey of staff in 44 countries and gets some industry opinions on the findings


As the global pandemic recedes, spas continue to thrive and even assume a new importance for their guests. Many businesses have seen revenues rebound well beyond 2019 numbers, which was in itself a banner year. But concerns of a potential economic recession are tempering the outlook, as well as the fact that we now realise we never know what lies ahead. Eight years after Wynne Business’s last spa compensation survey, we revisit how therapist pay and employment conditions have fared through this challenging period.

The survey was conducted online in autumn 2022. We had 163 respondents from 44 countries and multiple types of spas from day spas to resort, medical and wellness destinations and have grouped the results by region. Area experts have provided specific commentary illuminating the findings.

Mexico & Latin America
The spa industry has witnessed significant growth in Mexico and Latin America recently. With the increasing awareness of the importance of personal health and wellness, more and more people are seeking spa services to alleviate stress and rejuvenate their minds and body. This has led to a surge in the region’s demand for skilled spa professionals.

Numerous career opportunities are available for aspiring spa therapists. Many spas in the region are actively hiring, but there is a definite shortage of spa professionals, from spa directors to spa attendants or hydrotherapy spa butlers. These roles require a blend of technical and interpersonal skills, including communication, English language, attention to detail and customer service.

Despite the positive trends in the Mexican and Latin American spa industry, some challenges need to be addressed, such as the need for standardised training and certification programmes and the availability of skilled professionals in remote regions. All spa therapists in Mexico are certified by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health. Spa therapists earn an average of 10 to 20 per cent commission, plus a minimum base salary, service charges or tips. Spa staff in Mexico work eight hours daily, six days a week.

There is ample room for new schools, institutions and universities all over Mexico and Latin America to offer various programmes and certifications for the spa and wellness industry. The prospect of spa employment in Mexico and Latin America remains bright with the growing interest in health and wellness.

– Diana Mestre, Mestre Wellness

Europe
Europe is a diverse region and even if there are many commonalities among the individual countries, what is considered normal in one country can be completely out of the question in a neighbouring country. Europe has an incredible variety of spas with different regulations and customs, historical backgrounds and values, so it’s difficult to draw conclusions from uniform figures, data and facts in this comparatively small geographical area in terms of working hours, salaries, or cost of living. But the benefits for employed therapists are largely uniform and compared with other regions in the world not entirely bad.

Only one thing is currently the same in all countries in Europe: there is a considerable shortage of workers. This has to do with demographic change as well as the comparatively low wage level in the spa sector. At present, changing to a four-day week (with full wage compensation) is a much-discussed topic. Therapists are in favour of it, but employers don’t know how to cover the shifts that will then be missing. The cost of living and the cost of running a spa are rising, but spa operators don’t dare to pass these increases on to their guests. As a result, working in a spa remains unattractive to many young people and the industry must find new ways to recruit and manage staff if it is not to suffer serious long-term revenue losses.

Which brings us to the good news: spa operators are starting to make a virtue out of necessity and are increasingly thinking about how they can positively influence the training and development of spa staff. In Germany, there are hoteliers who completely finance the training of career changers or lateral entrants to become spa managers, or who offer dual study places in cooperation with a university to convince young people to come into the service sector. Management methods are changing; there are seminars for managers in “appreciative leadership” and individualised bonus programmes for employees.

And something else is taking shape in the minds of spa operators: wellness is not just for guests. Spa employees, in particular, must be offered appropriate and effective opportunities to do something for their own personal wellbeing. And where better to do that than in a spa?

– Wilfried Dreckmann, Spa Project

Africa
The spa industry in developing countries in Africa such as South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Kenya and the Seychelles have witnessed very positive results of more than 30 per cent growth year-on-year. However, the economic revenue growth in spas is not uniform across sub-regions and countries in Africa; the average spend per capita in 5-star hotels is R2300 (US$130) but in commercial day spas it is closer to R1230 (US$70). Post-COVID, guests are seeking health, wellness and relaxation more than ever before.

The current weak economy, unfavourable exchange rates, power supply issues with continual blackouts and environmental challenges are taking their toll on the industry in South Africa. Consequently, ever-increasing operational running costs are affecting business profitability and continuity. New spa and hotel developments are slowly improving, but there is less investment into Africa due to its current political and economic risk.

Staffing and employment remain the biggest challenges for the African spa industry. Whilst education has always been of a very high standard in South Africa, we are noticing a reduction in student enrollments due to the lack of affordability and students preferring to do shorter courses, thus affecting long-term standards in our industry. Finding experienced and well-qualified staff in Africa is challenging and usually requires sourcing staff from South Africa and other countries. Senior managers earn from US$1,000 - $1,600 per month depending on the size of the spa and team. Housing is provided and often transport, meals, air tickets and visa costs are also included in the package. A senior therapist will earn US$650- $850 plus incentives and commission per month. Net salaries vary from US$1,300 - $2,600.

Experienced but not high-end performers will receive a basic salary of US$370 - $420 plus commission and incentives, with starting salaries for juniors between US$290 - $340.

At Camelot, we always try to upskill and train locals for continuity and community development. Normally their salaries are in line with their qualifications and local salary scales. Sourcing professional products and equipment is also challenging with high transport costs and duties. However, even with all of its challenges, Africa has a lot of opportunities and rewards.


– Debbie Merdjan, Camelot International

Oceania
Finding and retaining therapists continues to be the number one challenge for spa owners. Since emerging from the pandemic, a much higher proportion of therapists are engaged as contractors rather than employees and they’re being very selective about their hours, working only a few shifts per week and not wanting to work evenings, weekends or public holidays – despite salary loading (see below).

Therapists in Australia are typically covered by an agreement with the Hair & Beauty Award as follows:


● Minimum wage of AU$29.90 (US$20) per hour / AU$1,022 (US$685) per week for a full-time employee

● Casuals/contractors are paid a loading of at least 25 per cent: AU$33.63/hr (US$22.54)

● All employees are entitled to additional loading of 33 per cent for Saturdays, double time for Sundays and almost triple time (AU$67.25/hr) for public holidays

However, day spas are having to offer therapists well over the agreement wage to compete for talent, sometimes in excess of AU$45 (US$30) per hour. This has resulted in many small day spas reverting to solo owner-operator, open with reduced hours and/or by appointment only. Remedial massage therapists can command even higher rates, as much as AU$60+ (US$40) per hour, as many got used to working directly with consumers during the pandemic. Hotel spas find it a little easier to attract talent because of the luxury environment and additional benefits, such as uniforms, meals and (often) a greater investment in training.

As a result, we’re seeing some new and emerging business sectors. Among business owners, there has been fast-growing interest in high-tech wellness options that require low or no manpower, and also align well with growing consumer demand in biohacking-type services.

Australia is also experiencing tremendous growth in bathhouses and thermal spring concepts, driven at least in part by the desire to offer wellness in a low manpower model. Additionally, over the last 18 months, demand from the corporate sector has exploded as companies seek to offer a wide array of physical and mental wellbeing services as a means to attract talent back to the office. With the involvement of these corporates, plus the growing sector of wellness communities, there will be increasing need for a new category of employee: the wellness concierge, who can weave together programmes from a variety of inhouse, outsourced and online/telehealth offerings.

In New Zealand, therapist salaries are a little lower than Australia, ranging from NZ$50,000 - $78,000 per annum (US$31,225 - US$48,713). According to consultant Barry Warrington, “As borders have opened up, there has been strong consumer demand for both day spa and resort bookings. All types of spa employment are increasing (full-time, part-time, contractor) and there is a shortage of therapists, so upward pressure on salaries is expected despite a looming recession.” Consultant Ana Crawford adds that New Zealand is also experiencing tremendous growth in geothermal projects.

– Samantha Dunn, director, The Wellness Makers, president of ASWELL

United States & Canada
As businesses began to reopen in the summer of 2020, the response to the pandemic in the US was that clients came roaring back, despite the many cautions that were in place, creating an unprecedented demand. As a result, many spas raised their consumer pricing two and even three times over the period from 2020 to 2023. Since many therapists in the US are paid by commission, this has produced increased earnings. However, the increased earning potential has not resulted in more therapists working; as in most other regions of the world, all positions from front desk and support through to therapists have been understaffed for the current demand.

Many people found other ways to earn income while homebound and have decided to continue in a new direction, rather than returning to spa work.

Additionally, many therapists began making home calls to clients and have found that preferable to committing to shifts in a spa. In this respect, the pandemic only hastened a trend we were already seeing; with the ability to make and sell items in online marketplaces or engage in other creative work, more options became available with the onset of the gig economy. The need to be employed by a company for a set amount of hours per week was diminished or even eliminated. Happily, the spring of 2023 has seen a swelling in applicants for open positions, so we may see some improvement in staffing availability.

It’s worth noting that while the US therapists are among the highest paid globally, they consistently work the least hours per week. While many countries still have staff on a 40-hour workweek or more, and six days a week in some locations, US therapists are routinely in the 20-35 hour range. This is partly due to the fact that in the US, beauty therapists specialise in either aesthetics or massage and don’t often perform both. Beauty and wellness employment in the US is certified by boards in each of the 50 states and the two modalities are trained and licensed separately. Aestheticians are able to work a 40-hour week, but because of the physical demands, massage therapists tend to work 25 hours per week or under, which contributes to this disparity. So between this fact and the opportunity of multiple earning streams, we now need even more people to fill the demand for our services than we ever did.

– Lisa Starr, Wynne Business

• For a breakdown of average wages by country, please see the table on p162-163 of the digital edition of the Spa Business 2023 Handbook

There is a growing interest in wellness in Mexico Credit: shutterstock/DisobeyArt
Credit: shutterstock/Thiago Mangrich
Spas in many African countries have seen 30 per cent growth year-on-year Credit: shutterstock/Somphop Krittayaworagul
Finding therapists is the primary challenge for spas Credit: shutterstock/Volodymyr Maksymchuk
Australia is seeing tremendous growth in bathhouses Credit: shutterstock/fariasscg
Many therapists in the US are paid by commission Credit: shutterstock/Valmedia
 


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Leisure Management - Pay day

Global research

Pay day


How do the salaries, benefits and working environments for spa therapists differ around the world? Lisa Starr takes a look at Wynne Business’s survey of staff in 44 countries and gets some industry opinions on the findings

There is a growing interest in wellness in Mexico shutterstock/DisobeyArt
Europe has an incredible variety of spas with different customs shutterstock/Ekaterina Pokrovsky
shutterstock/Thiago Mangrich
Spas in many African countries have seen 30 per cent growth year-on-year shutterstock/Somphop Krittayaworagul
Finding therapists is the primary challenge for spas shutterstock/Volodymyr Maksymchuk
Australia is seeing tremendous growth in bathhouses shutterstock/fariasscg
Many therapists in the US are paid by commission shutterstock/Valmedia

As the global pandemic recedes, spas continue to thrive and even assume a new importance for their guests. Many businesses have seen revenues rebound well beyond 2019 numbers, which was in itself a banner year. But concerns of a potential economic recession are tempering the outlook, as well as the fact that we now realise we never know what lies ahead. Eight years after Wynne Business’s last spa compensation survey, we revisit how therapist pay and employment conditions have fared through this challenging period.

The survey was conducted online in autumn 2022. We had 163 respondents from 44 countries and multiple types of spas from day spas to resort, medical and wellness destinations and have grouped the results by region. Area experts have provided specific commentary illuminating the findings.

Mexico & Latin America
The spa industry has witnessed significant growth in Mexico and Latin America recently. With the increasing awareness of the importance of personal health and wellness, more and more people are seeking spa services to alleviate stress and rejuvenate their minds and body. This has led to a surge in the region’s demand for skilled spa professionals.

Numerous career opportunities are available for aspiring spa therapists. Many spas in the region are actively hiring, but there is a definite shortage of spa professionals, from spa directors to spa attendants or hydrotherapy spa butlers. These roles require a blend of technical and interpersonal skills, including communication, English language, attention to detail and customer service.

Despite the positive trends in the Mexican and Latin American spa industry, some challenges need to be addressed, such as the need for standardised training and certification programmes and the availability of skilled professionals in remote regions. All spa therapists in Mexico are certified by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health. Spa therapists earn an average of 10 to 20 per cent commission, plus a minimum base salary, service charges or tips. Spa staff in Mexico work eight hours daily, six days a week.

There is ample room for new schools, institutions and universities all over Mexico and Latin America to offer various programmes and certifications for the spa and wellness industry. The prospect of spa employment in Mexico and Latin America remains bright with the growing interest in health and wellness.

– Diana Mestre, Mestre Wellness

Europe
Europe is a diverse region and even if there are many commonalities among the individual countries, what is considered normal in one country can be completely out of the question in a neighbouring country. Europe has an incredible variety of spas with different regulations and customs, historical backgrounds and values, so it’s difficult to draw conclusions from uniform figures, data and facts in this comparatively small geographical area in terms of working hours, salaries, or cost of living. But the benefits for employed therapists are largely uniform and compared with other regions in the world not entirely bad.

Only one thing is currently the same in all countries in Europe: there is a considerable shortage of workers. This has to do with demographic change as well as the comparatively low wage level in the spa sector. At present, changing to a four-day week (with full wage compensation) is a much-discussed topic. Therapists are in favour of it, but employers don’t know how to cover the shifts that will then be missing. The cost of living and the cost of running a spa are rising, but spa operators don’t dare to pass these increases on to their guests. As a result, working in a spa remains unattractive to many young people and the industry must find new ways to recruit and manage staff if it is not to suffer serious long-term revenue losses.

Which brings us to the good news: spa operators are starting to make a virtue out of necessity and are increasingly thinking about how they can positively influence the training and development of spa staff. In Germany, there are hoteliers who completely finance the training of career changers or lateral entrants to become spa managers, or who offer dual study places in cooperation with a university to convince young people to come into the service sector. Management methods are changing; there are seminars for managers in “appreciative leadership” and individualised bonus programmes for employees.

And something else is taking shape in the minds of spa operators: wellness is not just for guests. Spa employees, in particular, must be offered appropriate and effective opportunities to do something for their own personal wellbeing. And where better to do that than in a spa?

– Wilfried Dreckmann, Spa Project

Africa
The spa industry in developing countries in Africa such as South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Kenya and the Seychelles have witnessed very positive results of more than 30 per cent growth year-on-year. However, the economic revenue growth in spas is not uniform across sub-regions and countries in Africa; the average spend per capita in 5-star hotels is R2300 (US$130) but in commercial day spas it is closer to R1230 (US$70). Post-COVID, guests are seeking health, wellness and relaxation more than ever before.

The current weak economy, unfavourable exchange rates, power supply issues with continual blackouts and environmental challenges are taking their toll on the industry in South Africa. Consequently, ever-increasing operational running costs are affecting business profitability and continuity. New spa and hotel developments are slowly improving, but there is less investment into Africa due to its current political and economic risk.

Staffing and employment remain the biggest challenges for the African spa industry. Whilst education has always been of a very high standard in South Africa, we are noticing a reduction in student enrollments due to the lack of affordability and students preferring to do shorter courses, thus affecting long-term standards in our industry. Finding experienced and well-qualified staff in Africa is challenging and usually requires sourcing staff from South Africa and other countries. Senior managers earn from US$1,000 - $1,600 per month depending on the size of the spa and team. Housing is provided and often transport, meals, air tickets and visa costs are also included in the package. A senior therapist will earn US$650- $850 plus incentives and commission per month. Net salaries vary from US$1,300 - $2,600.

Experienced but not high-end performers will receive a basic salary of US$370 - $420 plus commission and incentives, with starting salaries for juniors between US$290 - $340.

At Camelot, we always try to upskill and train locals for continuity and community development. Normally their salaries are in line with their qualifications and local salary scales. Sourcing professional products and equipment is also challenging with high transport costs and duties. However, even with all of its challenges, Africa has a lot of opportunities and rewards.


– Debbie Merdjan, Camelot International

Oceania
Finding and retaining therapists continues to be the number one challenge for spa owners. Since emerging from the pandemic, a much higher proportion of therapists are engaged as contractors rather than employees and they’re being very selective about their hours, working only a few shifts per week and not wanting to work evenings, weekends or public holidays – despite salary loading (see below).

Therapists in Australia are typically covered by an agreement with the Hair & Beauty Award as follows:


● Minimum wage of AU$29.90 (US$20) per hour / AU$1,022 (US$685) per week for a full-time employee

● Casuals/contractors are paid a loading of at least 25 per cent: AU$33.63/hr (US$22.54)

● All employees are entitled to additional loading of 33 per cent for Saturdays, double time for Sundays and almost triple time (AU$67.25/hr) for public holidays

However, day spas are having to offer therapists well over the agreement wage to compete for talent, sometimes in excess of AU$45 (US$30) per hour. This has resulted in many small day spas reverting to solo owner-operator, open with reduced hours and/or by appointment only. Remedial massage therapists can command even higher rates, as much as AU$60+ (US$40) per hour, as many got used to working directly with consumers during the pandemic. Hotel spas find it a little easier to attract talent because of the luxury environment and additional benefits, such as uniforms, meals and (often) a greater investment in training.

As a result, we’re seeing some new and emerging business sectors. Among business owners, there has been fast-growing interest in high-tech wellness options that require low or no manpower, and also align well with growing consumer demand in biohacking-type services.

Australia is also experiencing tremendous growth in bathhouses and thermal spring concepts, driven at least in part by the desire to offer wellness in a low manpower model. Additionally, over the last 18 months, demand from the corporate sector has exploded as companies seek to offer a wide array of physical and mental wellbeing services as a means to attract talent back to the office. With the involvement of these corporates, plus the growing sector of wellness communities, there will be increasing need for a new category of employee: the wellness concierge, who can weave together programmes from a variety of inhouse, outsourced and online/telehealth offerings.

In New Zealand, therapist salaries are a little lower than Australia, ranging from NZ$50,000 - $78,000 per annum (US$31,225 - US$48,713). According to consultant Barry Warrington, “As borders have opened up, there has been strong consumer demand for both day spa and resort bookings. All types of spa employment are increasing (full-time, part-time, contractor) and there is a shortage of therapists, so upward pressure on salaries is expected despite a looming recession.” Consultant Ana Crawford adds that New Zealand is also experiencing tremendous growth in geothermal projects.

– Samantha Dunn, director, The Wellness Makers, president of ASWELL

United States & Canada
As businesses began to reopen in the summer of 2020, the response to the pandemic in the US was that clients came roaring back, despite the many cautions that were in place, creating an unprecedented demand. As a result, many spas raised their consumer pricing two and even three times over the period from 2020 to 2023. Since many therapists in the US are paid by commission, this has produced increased earnings. However, the increased earning potential has not resulted in more therapists working; as in most other regions of the world, all positions from front desk and support through to therapists have been understaffed for the current demand.

Many people found other ways to earn income while homebound and have decided to continue in a new direction, rather than returning to spa work.

Additionally, many therapists began making home calls to clients and have found that preferable to committing to shifts in a spa. In this respect, the pandemic only hastened a trend we were already seeing; with the ability to make and sell items in online marketplaces or engage in other creative work, more options became available with the onset of the gig economy. The need to be employed by a company for a set amount of hours per week was diminished or even eliminated. Happily, the spring of 2023 has seen a swelling in applicants for open positions, so we may see some improvement in staffing availability.

It’s worth noting that while the US therapists are among the highest paid globally, they consistently work the least hours per week. While many countries still have staff on a 40-hour workweek or more, and six days a week in some locations, US therapists are routinely in the 20-35 hour range. This is partly due to the fact that in the US, beauty therapists specialise in either aesthetics or massage and don’t often perform both. Beauty and wellness employment in the US is certified by boards in each of the 50 states and the two modalities are trained and licensed separately. Aestheticians are able to work a 40-hour week, but because of the physical demands, massage therapists tend to work 25 hours per week or under, which contributes to this disparity. So between this fact and the opportunity of multiple earning streams, we now need even more people to fill the demand for our services than we ever did.

– Lisa Starr, Wynne Business

• For a breakdown of average wages by country, please see the table on p162-163 of the digital edition of the Spa Business 2023 Handbook


Originally published in Spa Business Handbook 2023 edition

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