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Health Club Management

Health Club Management

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Local authority: Spa offerings in local authority leisure centres

Aromatherapy steam rooms and spas are traditionally considered to be high-end offerings, but more and more local authority leisure centres are now adding these luxury facilities to their services. Health Club Management investigates this trend

Published in Health Club Management 2017 issue 8
LOCAL LUXURY / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM
LOCAL LUXURY / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

As local authority leisure operators continue to improve the quality and breadth of their facilities, many are embracing a spa and wellness offering; installing premium wet side facilities, from salt rooms and luxury treatment rooms to relaxation areas. This allows them to deliver an enhanced service to members and enter the wellness market with a day-spa offering.

“More of our local authority partners are expressing an interest in spa facilities,” says Duncan Jefford, regional director of Everyone Active, which now operates eight spas across its 150 facilities. “There has been a consumer shift towards holistic wellbeing, and including spas in the facility mix reflects this. We’re constantly striving to deliver premium quality at affordable prices, and including a spa offering gives us another unique selling point in the local market. From a revenue perspective, it keeps members in the facility for longer and opens up a new income stream.”

A QUALITY OFFERING
For Everyone Active, the biggest challenge is overcoming the public perception that a spa in a leisure centre won’t deliver a premium experience. “We’ve worked hard to create a separate spa brand and deliver marketing that reflects the high-end facilities,” explains Jefford.

“We’ll continue to work towards closing the quality gap between private and public sector facilities, and by growing our premium spa brand, we hope that more of our facilities will surpass the local competition.”

Leisure solutions supplier The Pulse Group has also noticed a shift in interest from local authorities wanting to include spa facilities as part of a new build or refurbishment project.

“Local authorities are far more commercially savvy than they used to be,” says Warren Ormerod, director of football and fitness for the Pulse Group.

“Traditionally when we were tendering for leisure contracts it was all about what sporting facilities we could offer, but over the last five years they’ve become increasingly interested in creating a total package.

“The secondary spend opportunities of adding a spa are considerable, particularly through treatments and beauty. A spa can also bring a new audience into the facility, so there’s the chance for staff to cross-sell fitness memberships.”

We take a look at some of the local authority leisure centres enjoying the success of their spa facilities

Larkfield Leisure Centre Spa

Martin Guyton, Tonbridge and Malling Leisure Trust
Martin Guyton, Tonbridge and Malling Leisure Trust

Last year, Tonbridge and Malling Leisure Trust refurbished the spa at Larkfield Leisure Centre in Aylesford, Kent, which it operates on behalf of Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council.

Launched in 1986 with its last major refurbishment taking place a decade ago, the spa area was stripped back to its shell and redesigned. The £400,000 facility now includes a sauna, steam room, ice feature, showers and a spa bath that offers limited mobility access.

In 2016/17, the trust saw an increase in recorded visits to the spa from 5,000 to 22,000. Approximately 17,500 of these were made by people on health and fitness or annual memberships. Health and fitness membership at the centre grew by around 5.5 per cent in the same year.

“We refurbished the spa primarily to complete our health and fitness offering and provide added value, and it’s very clear that it has helped to increase our market and retain customers with attrition down to 2.6 per cent across the year,” says Martin Guyton, chief executive of Tonbridge and Malling Leisure Trust.

“We refurbished the spa to provide added value, and it’s very clear that it has helped to increase our market and retain customers” Martin Guyton, Tonbridge and Malling Leisure Trust

Many local leisure centres are adding saunas to their offering  / shutterstock
Many local leisure centres are adding saunas to their offering / shutterstock

The Thermal Spa at Waterlane Leisure Centre

Operated by the Sentinel Leisure Trust (SLT), Waterlane Leisure Centre in Suffolk re-opened in 2012 following a two-year redevelopment by Pulse, the strategic leisure development partner to Waveney District Council. The brief was to redevelop the centre to provide a futureproof, modern, family-friendly facility with health, fitness, leisure and social activities that would appeal to the whole community.

In 2015, the facility received a further £2m investment that included upgrades to the thermal spa facility. Since the first stage of the site redevelopment in 2012, Waterlane has received an increase in membership by a huge 495 per cent.

The centre’s thermal spa has proved popular with visitors and members alike. It includes a steam room, ice station, sauna, jacuzzi, experience shower, heated loungers, foot spa and a luxury relaxation zone. Eighty-six per cent of members pay for spa access and, of those who do not, over 1,000 bought single day passes for the spa this year.

Recognising the trend towards overall wellbeing, SLT has recently introduced a ‘Swim and Spa’ membership that has seen memberships grow by 60 per cent as a direct result.

The Thermal Spa includes a luxury relaxation zone
The Thermal Spa includes a luxury relaxation zone

Verulamium Spa at Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre

Victoria Batey, Everyone Active
Victoria Batey, Everyone Active

The Verulamium Spa at Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre, operated by Everyone Active in partnership with St. Alban’s District and City Council, first opened in 2012.

The spa consists of a Tepidarium (warm room), Laconium (hot room), sauna, steam room, aroma room, Hydrospa relaxation pool, relaxation area (with heated benches, loungers and poolside beds) as well as an outside relaxation terrace and treatment rooms. The spa also has dedicated changing rooms and its own bistro, and was fitted by Dalesauna.

The spa facilities were specified by the council before the tender process with the aim of attracting more people into St. Albans from London and surrounding areas while offering affordable wellbeing to local residents that rivals any private offering.

Five years on and the spa has gone from strength to strength, receiving 30,000 visitors per year.

“Having the Verulamium Spa within Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre means that we can offer everything under one roof,” says Victoria Batey, spa manager for Everyone Active.

“Having the Verulamium Spa within Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre means that we can offer everything under one roof” Victoria Batey, Everyone Active

Verulamium offers luxury facilities at affordable prices
Verulamium offers luxury facilities at affordable prices

Droitwich Spa Leisure Centre

Brian Thompson, Createability
Brian Thompson, Createability

As the oldest of Wychavon District Council’s three centres, Droitwich Spa Leisure Centre was in need of some TLC. A £1.1m redevelopment of the centre took place, funded by the council and Wychavon Leisure (Rivers), a not-for-profit company that manages the facility. As part of this, leisure design and build specialist Createability converted the dry side toilets and a storage garage into a health spa suite.

“We worked closely with Rivers across the two-phase redevelopment from both the design and construction aspects,” says Brian Thompson, commercial director at Createability. “This allowed us to manage the budget effectively and transform the facility into a modern, fresh environment with a quality finish; in stark contrast to the previous offering.

The new health spa suite features an aroma steam room, salt inhalation room, sauna ice feature, rain showers and heated benches to complement the Rivers Beauty treatment rooms.

Mark O’Shea, head of operations at Wychavon Leisure says: “Previously we had an old squash court converted into a health suite with sauna, steam room and a few loungers. But as part of the overall redevelopment, we created a totally new health suite. As a result, we’ve seen membership grow by 10 per cent and visits to the health suite are up by more than 650 per cent – we’ve gone from one customer a day to 18! Our treatment rooms have seen an increase in bookings too and there’s a 5 per cent growth in people using the centre.”

“We worked closely with Rivers across the two-phase redevelopment from both the design and construction aspects” Brian Thompson, Createability

Visits to Droitwich’s health suite have grown by 650 per cent
Visits to Droitwich’s health suite have grown by 650 per cent
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