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‘Social Distancing’ – this term tore apart the very existence of the wellness and hospitality business by attacking its core of personalisation and interaction. Given the circumstance, letting anyone touch our face is a potential risk.

While it might seem like a pessimistic perspective of seeing the glass half empty, spa and salons have opted to take away something different. Mr. Yuki Kiyono, Group Director of Spa, Aman Resorts, said, “Lockdown has made us focus on the strengths of our brand which naturally fit with travel demands in the post-COVID 19 world. In numerous ways, our generosity of space and efforts to slow down time, has always been firmly ingrained our brand DNA, from the architecture and design of standalone pavilions with private pools, to the low room count and subtle service which now makes us a blueprint for the future of travel.”

Amanbagh India Swimming pool

In the light of these uncalled for events, resorts have increased the amount of outdoor spaces and private dining areas at each property as well as in-room spa treatments to make a start at a new way of hospitality.

Accepting the new reality

Whether we like it or not, there is an eminent change expected in the industry. Where touch and physical contact is the basis of the experience, procedures have to be altered to adjust and adapt to the new norm, the first being booking lesser appointments and following stringent health protocols. While that would be an additional cost to the business, it is necessary to survive. Reducing reception time and accepting digital platforms is now imperative. Businesses will need waitlist management, and also create smart waitlist technology that automatically informs clients if a spot opens up, by an automated text message for example.

Embracing digitalisation is imperative. But would a spa online be possible? Hilton Shillim’s spa, Dharana, has introduced online video consultations, personalised online sessions of Yoga, Ayurveda, mental wellbeing & dietetics. Though it may seem like lost business, but is instead loyalty creation.

Yoga at Dharana Hotel Shillim

On the other hand, Aman Resorts introduced in-room spa rituals with Aman Skincare range that guests can do themselves. Products are displayed with an accompanying card on how to apply each step in the privacy of their room. An example of this is the Korugi Facial, a five-minute ritual which comes with a detailed illustration.

The hospitality industry is considered to be the worst-hit industry due to the crisis. Many brands had to postpone or stall launches and introductions. The LifeScience programs at Dharana Retreat (by Hilton Shillim) had to been stalled in India as well as the UK.

Together we stand stronger

Jean Claude Biguine (JCB) India engaged its brand partners L’Oréal, Wella as well as the Beauty & Wellness Sector Skills Council (B&WSSC) to put together trainers and created planned calendars for 45 days that focused on attitudinal training by inviting retail and hospitality specialists. The entire workforce is now certified by the reputable B&WSSC on Safety, Health and Hygiene norms. Samir Srivastav, CEO of Jean Claude Biguine India said, “Distance, declutter and digitalise is our mantra at JCB Salons. We are only accepting pre-booked appointments and have scheduled it as per our safety guidelines to maintain social distancing. Besides reduced appointments to avoid over-crowding, we also do mandatory temperature/health checks along with a safety declaration form signed by all our clients.”

Aligning with the guidelines by the government, JCB actively worked to source efficacious single-use kits and innovative new services that reduce skin contact between clients and employee. An example – the newly sourced waterless manicure and pedicure from Brazil that comes with a single-use kit of disposable tools, cream-based moisturizing gloves and boots ideal for observing cleanliness and hygiene. Waxing services now use single-use cartridge wax and disposable service kits.

Jean Claude Biguine India

What to expect when you enter a spa post-COVID-19? Mr. Kiyono of Aman explained what the new version is: “We have implemented various measure in our Aman Spas including masks being worn by all therapists, with the option to wear gloves should the guest prefer. Therapists change all PPE between treatments and we are recommending guests to wear masks during their treatment. As per our usual brand standards, we have a minimum of 30 minute turnover time between treatment rooms to ensure proper cleaning and sanitization of treatment rooms.”

Reducing the number of people going in and out as well as restricting the number in common areas like swimming pools and saunas is also crucial. “Only one party is allowed at a time inside shared enclosed spaces such as a steam room or sauna – these times can be privately booked on the resort and we have removed facials from our menus. For added guest comfort, we have extended our in-room spa services as well as offering in-room wellness self-care kits,” Mr. Kiyono further added.

The rise of a new industry?

The pandemic has made us more aware of the importance of health and finding a work-life balance. This time has also given us a chance to reflect and find a new purpose in life (what the Japanese would call ‘Ikigai’) and learn what we should prioritize to feel fulfilled and happy. Like the bull and bear philosophy in the share market, experts predict a rise in the wellness and recreation industry, provided they make required alternations.

Meditation Cave at Dharana

The Wellness Economy, which is currently estimated at around US$4.5 trillion, is further expected to grow post-COVID-19. As the need for a healthy lifestyle leads to holistic changes and habits, the wellness industry would expand and enrich the existing offerings to accommodate the rising demand. Sectors like Wellness Tourism, Wellness Real Estate, Workplace Wellness, Spas, etc., are seen to create a formidable ecosystem as mental wellbeing will take the front seat. Dr. Arun Pillai, Wellness Director at Hilton Shillim Estate Retreat & Spa, explained, “Mental wellness becomes an even bigger focus. This experience has shifted what people need most and thrown into sharp relief how healthcare is failing us on this issue. But when you talk to people now, what matters more is all kinds of wellness. COVID-19 has made what’s important to people come into very sharp relief: physical and mental health and connection with family and friends. It has truly accelerated the mainstreaming of wellness.”

Dharana Retreat has also put together two unique Dharana Retreats which cater to the current demand of the situation that ranges from 5 to 14 nights. The first, Dharana Rasayana Retreat, is a tonic for immunity boosting that integrates quantum physics and traditional Ayurveda for enhanced immunity. The second, Dharana Resilience Retreat, resets mental wellbeing by focusing on healing and learning resilience techniques to ground and calm down the overwhelmed mind due to fear, anxiety and depression. Both retreats help combat stress and adopt a healthier lifestyle. “We are glad to be in one such location with a very naturally social distanced layout in a pristine 320 acres of a retreat space based within the larger eco-sustainable forest of 3500 acres in the Sahyadri. So these fortify the facts we are gearing up to welcome more guests as the relaxation of the lockdown begins,” Mr. Pillai said.

Apart from mental wellness, another important aspect in the proximity to nature. Amanbagh by Aman Resorts has enhanced its organic gardens for local produce which is used in their daily menus in the restaurant, while also introducing immunity-boosting spa therapies at Aman Spa. Aman has incorporated nature in almost every facet of the experience, for example, forest bathing (shirinyoku) at Amanemu, Japan or hiking at Amankora, Bhutan. This form of movement and mindfulness allows guests to reconnect with nature and improve their wellbeing.

Refreshment at Amanemu Japan

Lastly, for the ones that cannot or do not want to leave their haven of security, JCB is working on the commencement of Home Salon Service division, JCB Home. Observing utmost safety, hygiene and health measures, and using the finest tools, sanitization systems and protective gear for customer and employee safety, JCB plans to continue offering wellness irrespective of location.

The pandemic might have slowed us down but it has also given us an opportunity to be aware and be responsible and be better. While travel might not be the first thing on our to-do list, we are assured times are only going to get better, and more relaxing, from here!