Making the Spa Integral to Your Property

By Andres Araya Managing Director, Abadia Retuerta LeDomaine, Spain | July 03, 2016

In fall 2015, Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine – a 900-year-old abbey and winery that was converted in 2012 into one of Spain's most exclusive hotels – opened a stunning, state-of-the-art spa. Santuario LeDomaine Wellness & Spa was the final component to complete this extraordinary, historic property. It was also more than that: it reinforced and expanded the persona of a winery hotel, set among the vineyards, with a signature vinotherapy concept implemented by one-of-a-kind 'Spa Sommeliers.' The new spa embodies and furthers the hotel's theme, spirit and ethos – making it more relevant and deeply connected to the property, as well as helping build and drive usage.

It was a disheartening sight. An historic abbey, one of the few that had survived the advance of Napoleon's army in Spain, was in a state of complete disrepair and dilapidation. Its anecdotes and history had succumbed to centuries of neglect and apathy. Fast forward five years and today Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine is a leading hotel of Spain, and a rising star of Europe.

The metamorphosis was achieved by implementing a multi-dimensional master plan – from an award-winning restoration to bringing in a superstar chef. But the crowning component, that completed the metamorphosis and brought together the different aspects of the hotel, was the addition of the new spa and wellness center, which opened in 2015. Santuario LeDomaine Wellness & Spa was the last piece of this nearly millennium-old puzzle, completing the vision for the property as well as positioning it for a better future. To bring the spa project to fruition, LeDomaine collaborated with consummate professionals from Switzerland who have worked on major projects of the highest level: architects Diener & Diener and general contractor Burckhardt + Partner.

While history and wine are the foundation of LeDomaine, the spa was conceived as a new pillar supporting and adding a new dimension to the guest experience. The main challenge was to create a new spa structure that would not conflict with the historic buildings dating from the 12th century. Erecting a contemporary building in the medieval setting would have adversely affected the ambiance and style of the hotel – the diametric opposite of the spa's purpose – so it was determined that the best solution was to put the spa underground.

An underground venue, however, came with very complicated technical difficulties to resolve. The location is next to the Duero River and the moisture levels (from groundwater and steam) would have threatened the integrity of the structure. The architect, however, came up with an ingenious resolution: design an impermeable "shoe box" structure (what would be a watertight, concrete basin) and build the spa inside of it. The estate's former stables, which were located immediately contiguous to the main building, were the ideal choice: the spa would be located in what was one of the historic buildings, it was just steps from the hotel via a covered walkway, and it was large enough to allow the addition of eight additional guest rooms with direct spa access – increasing the number of rooms to 30 was also an important goal to create a sustainable financial base for the property. For heat, power and water, the spa would tap the area's naturally occurring thermal energy and use solar panels and groundwater pumps; geothermal storage systems would compensate for the seasonal fluctuations in energy demand; while a dedicated water-treatment plant would recycle water and apply it to irrigation of the vineyards. In addition, local materials were used for the entire construction. The project became an engineering work of art that created a naturally sustainable spa.

The most important aspect of the spa came next: develop a spa experience that would embody and enhance the theme and spirit of the hotel, giving the spa deep relevance and connection to the property, as well as laying the foundation for a strong, consistent revenue stream. The spa concept and implementation would be absolutely critical: LeDomaine has history and architecture, exquisite accommodations with views over the vineyards, location on an award-winning wine estate with sophisticated oenology, and superb Michelin Star cuisine; the spa needed to bring it all together. In addition, there was a huge opportunity to be different and unique – to truly standout – in a Spanish spa market that was not as developed or innovative as in some other European destinations.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.