Design for Profit

Robert Henry,, discusses his speech at the 9th Annual New York Spa Symposium conference, titled “Design for Profit.”The 9th Annual New York Spa Symposium conference, sponsored by the New York Sance and Mary Tabacchi of Cornell University, was held on May 21st at the High Line Hotel in New York City. I spoke on “Design for Profit,” as spas of all types have been somewhat challenged during this economic downturn.


How do we create a profitable spa in the current market conditions?


One of the initial projects I spoke about is the Vdara Spa,  part of the City Center Las Vegas. The design director for MGM allowed us to choose between a 50,000, 40,000, or 20,000 sqm spa, as there were three different spas to be built in the City Center complex. I opted for the smallest of the projects. Later, he asked me why and I said, “Bigger isn’t always better. If we work with a smaller project, we intend to create the jewel. If we create the most intimate and manageable project (manageable being the most important aspect), we’ll have a differentiator among large projects.”


As a result of being smaller, we had a project where we were able to articulate the guest circulation clearly. We opted for a signature treatment that was different from some of the large spas; a co-ed relaxation room. We were able to bring both genders together in one location versus duplicate locations. Since we were no longer competing with the expensive elements of large hydrotherapy treatment areas, we were able to design a distinctive area that still provided magazine editors with something special to write about regarding the spa.


That project received Spa of the Year by NEWH Las Vegas because it was popular with guests and locals. They liked its intimacy and smaller character, as opposed to larger spas where they just felt like they were a number. This became an exceptional and appreciated aspect.


Another project I presented was the Mandarin Oriental Miami project. When this project first opened, it was the talk of the town, but in the ten years since, many new hospitality venues have come up around it.


We focused on the check-in/ check-out experience, locating the check-out area in a retail boutique to increase retail exposure without being overtly aggressive about it.

When clients first enter, they check in at the front desk and then go to a seating area in the boutique, where they change their shoes and enjoy a tea ceremony. They are then brought to the treatment room, where the therapist introduces the products they will be using. As the client is checking out, they’re in the retail environment once again. They are exposed to the retail three times; when they first arrive, in the treatment room, and during check out. This has been very successful and increased revenues for this property three-fold.


Robert Henry