by Jonathan Vatner | November 01, 2004

illustrationA visit to a resort spa, once considered an extravagance, is now de rigueur for many guests. In the past two years alone, revenue from resort and hotel spas has almost doubled, to $4.5 billion, according to the Lexington, Ky.-based International Spa Association’s 2004 Spa Industry Study.
    Now that the masses are enjoying spa services, meeting planners might want to take the next step and add wellness activities to the meeting agenda, with the goal of easing stress and bolstering creativity.
    Anne McCall, Toronto-based general manager of Fairmont Spas and Willow Stream Spas, is busy working on adding non-treatment spa offerings to meeting menus. “It’s one of the things that we think about as a groups-oriented company,” she says. “I think we can make a bigger contribution.” 
    Following is a prototype agenda for the spa meeting of the future, full of wellness-oriented ideas culled from spa directors at meeting hotels. Try a few of them out at your next meeting, but be sure to ease attendees in. Especially when the themes get a little New Agey, let guests know they’re not obligated to take part in anything that pushes them past their comfort zone.

Day one:
A taste of the spa

3:00 p.m.:  Registration
Set up a spa table at registration to allow attendees to book and confirm their treatments or to ask questions. The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Orlando, Grande Lakes, plays a video of various treatments and offers a complimentary paraffin hand dip for waiting guests.   

7:00 p.m.: Welcome reception
Some properties will hold a reception in the spa, especially after hours. Otherwise, re-create the spa in the ballroom. Light candles, play soothing music and set up chair massage and mini facial stations around the room. Want to go even further? The Centre for Well-Being at the Phoenician in Scottsdale, Ariz., holds a spa fair with stations for everything from foot massage to tarot-card reading.

8:00 p.m.: Icebreaker
Theme the opening mixer around fitness. Instructors at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa in Phoenix use balance balls and weights to demonstrate exercises and stretches.

10:00 p.m.: Bedtime
Encourage an early bedtime. Leave a spa-themed turndown amenity in each guest room. David Devan, spa director at Sea Spa, the new offering at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort near San Diego, suggests setting up herbal tea service or leaving a small container of eye cream. Other spa goodies might be appreciated as well. (For tips on selecting items, see “Picking a Spa Product” here.)