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  • Writer's pictureKathryn Dowthwaite-Blay

Benefits of Gaining a Spa Management Qualification

There are more educational institutions starting to offer spa management courses, but what are the benefits of gaining a spa management qualification and what is available?

Kathryn Dowthwaite-Blay MA spa educator, researcher and expert in spa management education has lectured spa management at LCBT, Champneys and University of Derby and has a Masters in Spa Management, she gives us an overview of spa education.

The spa industry has continued grow, even through the economic downturn, spas are now more accessible and as the industry expands, so too has the need for effective spa managers. The GWI research showed that the spa industry is now worth a massive £79 billion and that there will be a need for 70,000 more experienced spa managers/directors by 2020. With the spa industries continued growth there are now 16,000 more spas and as a result 230,000 more jobs. These industry developments pose significant challenges and opportunities, with a considerable shortage of experienced and qualified spa managers.

Spas are now more accessible to new markets with sites like Groupon and our new social media world. The baby boomer generation has more disposable income, spa consumers are more educated and concerned with wellness, both in and out of the workplace and both male and female Millennials are utilising social media to communicate their interest in appearance and social acceptance. Spas are now found in every new hotel and resort, although the word spa is utilised and defined differently worldwide, the growth and use of spas does mean that in the most part people have more of an understanding and knowledge of what a spa entails to a degree.

The growing spa industry needs educated spa managers but there is a lack of experienced and qualified professionals to fulfill the roles available. GSWS research evidenced that there are 180,000 spa manager positions but only 4,000 students training for those positions. This highlights the huge opportunity for a person with a spa management qualification, with high demand for erudite spa managers and even more opportunities with the global expansion of the spa and wellness industry which is forecast to continue to grow.

The spa managers/directors presently in spa management positions are either a therapist that worked their way up into management or specialists from another, similar discipline such as hospitality, tourism, hoteliers or finance. GSWS research demonstrated that both of these routes lack spa management skills in different areas. Therapists lack the business acumen, whilst hospitality/ finance professionals lack the essence of Spa empathy. How does it 'feel' to be a therapist. Kathryn gives the example of the output of a therapist in comparison to a chef stating how different they are to manage. 'If a therapist is not managed well the client will 'feel' the difference in the face to face and hands on treatment performed in close proximity. However, the food placed on a table from a mismanaged chef is not 'felt' by the consumer, the food output still looks and tastes good, the receiver has no idea if the person who made the food was unhappy at work'. Therefore managing a spa team, inherently mostly of women who are concerned about caring for others is just one issue that must be debated and discussed through spa management specific training and a reason why Spa Management should be taught by an industry specialist.

'It is reasons like this that spa specific education and qualifications are imperative' states Kathryn. Spa education needs to use theories, models, concepts and statistics from specialist spa sources.

There are lots of management qualifications available, however a person wishing to pursue a career in spa and wellness will stand in good stead if the qualification they gain specialises in spa.

Many spa management roles are now stating that a degree or spa qualification is mandatory in the job description. To be able to confidently apply for a leadership position many people are now seeking a spa management qualification to compete in the recruitment market and to close their skills gap.

Spa education is a growing phenomenon, however reputable specialists and qualifications are niche. The University of Derby, Buxton offer world renowned Spa Management Degree programs, however if you are in the south of England then LCBT or Champneys may be more accessible, offering a level 4 spa management Diploma that are attended once per month, the rest distance learning and completed in approximately 8-10 months. Loans and payment plans mean that gaining a qualification is now more accessible for a person wanting to progress their development and career, whilst working in the spa industry.

The spa industry suffers from a lack of investment in budgets for training staff so therapists and professionals should seek to invest in themselves to gain the necessary skills and qualifications to meet recruitment demands and achieve career progression.

Kathryn recommends researching who is teaching the course and their background experience and qualifications. There is a lack of qualified, experienced lecturers for spa management that are academically capable of being able to stretch and challenge learners and give real world examples of the industry from experience. Kathryn recommends to seek institutions whose staff are qualified a level above the level you are studying and ensure they have practical spa management experience to be able to give real life examples and explanations. Ask the provider what their point of difference is and how they ensure the course is current, commercial and scholarly.

Studying higher level management means that a student will then be in line with other management disciplines enabling the prospective spa manager to converse in meetings, with suppliers, colleagues and to be able to effectively network, communicate academically and give theoretical examples that peers are familiar with. If a spa manager is at a meeting with the hotel board of Directors they should be able to confidently commit to their opinions, back up their actions and represent themselves effectively, all aspects that are covered in a good spa management qualification.

Many spa specialists are struggling to meet the needs of their roles and need to invest in themselves and their career prospects to meet the growing demands of the lucrative spa business and be rewarded by successfully being employed in their dream job, on a better wage and be happy with their achievements.

Kathryn Dowthwaite-Blay is contactable on social media twitter LinkedIn Facebook or

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