Skift Take

Every hotel wants to offer a spa, but not all of them know how to offer a consistent experience. Johnson's list should be taped to the break room wall.

As part of our ‘letting off steam’ series, spa expert Lisa Johnson lists the all-too-common errors that stress her out in high-end spas.

Irritating music

It might help therapists to get into the zone themselves, but bland arrangements of classical favourites, pan pipes and mating whales have the opposite effect on me. The best spa music is of ocean waves and birdsong, as at the Maia spa in the Seychelles. The Ila Music CD and Wah! by Savasana are also good. Alternatively, let clients plug in an iPod and listen to their own.

Paper pants

I’m not really sure which are worse – the cheese-cutter G-string variety, or the shapeless, shower-hat kind with no obvious back or front. The black ones are marginally preferable, but Mr Bean would still have a field day. Pray for deft towel management.

Feeble massages

It’s all very well for therapists to glide around tentatively like woodland sprites, but I prefer them to get stuck in. Insist on an experienced massage therapist with strong hands, such as Elaine Williams at Grayshott in Surrey, if you want your muscles manipulated rather than just stroked.

Giant towelling robes

Shuffling along in a voluminous tent – with a belt that does up around your knees, and arms that trail along the floor – certainly doesn’t make you feel serene. Can we just have a nice cotton robe that fits, please? Towels are for drying yourself, not for wearing.

Endless spa menus

Who has time to wade through page after page of non-surgical facelifts and triple detox wraps? We’re there for pleasure. So please keep the menu short, or invite us to book a time slot, as at Espa spas, and pick whatever we feel like when we get there.

OTT facilities

Everyone loves a sauna/steam-room/vitality pool, but do we really need several of each? It seems unnecessary, particularly given the number of times I’ve been the only person in an eerily quiet spa.

Half-length lockers

Thoughtful details such as little trays for storing jewellery are undermined by making us hang our coats in a jacket-length space, beside our muddy boots. Much better to relieve us of our coats and shoes at reception, as at the Mandarin Oriental in London. (It would be nice to have a spacious space to change in, too; just because a spa is bijou doesn’t mean its clients are pocket-size.)

Cultural incongruity

Tapping a dainty gong at the beginning and end of a treatment might work wonders in Asia, but it’s so out of place elsewhere, it’s hard not to laugh out loud. Stick to the aromatic footbath beforehand and the jasmine tea afterwards. By all means offer Thai massages outside Thailand, but please don’t make Western therapists masquerade as Thai masseuses – as on my last visit to London’s K Spa . They look as if they’re in fancy dress and probably feel like it.


The Daily Newsletter

Our daily coverage of the global travel industry. Written by editors and analysts from across Skift’s brands.

Have a confidential tip for Skift? Get in touch

Tags: health, spa

Up Next

Loading next stories