Eric Price, a publishing executive from New York, likes to get a facial or massage on his business trips.
“When you’re traveling and on long flights, you feel like your skin gets very dry,’’ Mr. Price, associate publisher and chief operating officer of Grove Atlantic, said. “It’s very nice to get a facial, you feel fresh and get energized for business meetings. And getting a massage after a long flight is really relaxing and helpful.”
Mr. Price represents a steadily rising number of executives — both male and female — who seek spa treatments on business trips. It is a group the hotel industry is now actively courting.
According to new research by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the consulting firm, a fifth of the top nonresort hotels in the United States now have spas. Of hotels in this category that are currently under construction or about to start construction, almost 40 percent will have spas, the survey found.
Bjorn Hanson, a consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers, said spas in business travel hotels were once “an unusual amenity, then became common and are now emerging as expected.’’
Top-tier urban hotels in the United States are building more spas, Mr. Hanson said, to respond to Americans’ growing interest in spa treatments.
According to research released last month by the International Spa Association, a trade group, more than a fourth of American adults have visited a spa; 15 percent began going within the last year. The study also found that 31 percent of those who go to spas were men.
Matthew Wiant, senior vice president of spa and new concepts for Starwood Hotels, said: “Historically, spa treatments were seen as a pampering routine for ladies who lunch. Now they’re part of a wellness routine.”
And Alexander Mirza, senior vice president of corporate development for the Hilton Hotels Corporation, said travelers were increasingly stressed out.
“It’s the BlackBerry generation,” he said. “They take one hour in a three-day trip and book a massage. That’s what’s driving demand for business.”
Spas can also be major moneymakers for hotels, Mr. Hanson and other industry experts say. Mr. Hanson estimated that spas have the second-highest profit margin in hotels, after rooms. Gordon Tareta, assistant vice president of spa operations at the Hyatt Corporation, says spas generate, on average, 10 percent of a Hyatt hotel’s revenue. He said that figure could jump to 20 percent at city hotels favored by business travelers.
Hotels also find spas lucrative in other ways. “If you have a 5 p.m. massage, you’re not as likely to leave the hotel to have dinner, you’ll stay for more services,” Susie Ellis, president of Spa Finder, a spa marketing company, said.
A number of hotel companies including Mandarin Oriental, Hyatt, Starwood, Four Seasons and, most recently, Hilton are investing hundreds of millions of dollars on spas. Mandarin Oriental so far has invested $150 million on spas worldwide and will spend another $150 million in the next four years, said Ingo Schweder, who oversee the company’s spas. Mr. Tareta said Hyatt was spending $80 million on spas globally through 2008; Four Seasons is investing more than $100 million worldwide through mid-2008, said Craig Reid, general manager of the Four Seasons Resort and Club in Dallas.
Starwood — which operates Bliss spas at W hotels and Remède spas at St. Regis hotels — will introduce new in-room spa treatments at Westin hotels this fall. The company, which also plans to open new spas at its Meridien and Sheraton hotels, now has spas at a fifth of its hotels. Hilton will offer spas at all Waldorf-Astoria and Conrad hotels, as well as at many Hilton hotels.
When they do opt for spa treatments, business travelers usually demand no-frills services, often offered in an expedited way.
“They’re going away from gimmicky treatments, with no rationale or physiological benefit,” said Susan Harmsworth, chief executive of Espa International, a global spa company based in Surrey, England.
At Hyatt, massages are the most requested treatment, Mr. Tareta said.
“Massage is seen as a tool of the trade,’’ he said. “It’s kind of like a power suit. It’s part of being on one’s best game. It can increase energy, get the blood circulating and insure that the person is not in a fog.’’
Mr. Reid of Four Seasons said he increasingly found that business travelers wanted spa treatments “on my time versus your time, on my schedule versus your schedule.” This means, he said, that the company is becoming flexible about the times and places services are available, with treatments offered both in the spa and in a guest’s room.
Hotels are also creating treatments that can be delivered quickly and efficiently. Many Four Seasons hotels in the United States offer 25- or 30-minute “mini-treatments” that feature a massage, a facial or a manicure. And the Ritz-Carlton Coconut Grove in Miami offers a “tandem” treatment with two therapists simultaneously performing a pedicure and facial, intended for “women and, increasingly, men who are short on time and who consistently requested two treatments, a pedicure and facial,” Michelle Payer, a spokeswoman, said.
Hyatt, at hotels in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Buenos Aires, has recently begun offering services at specific times of day, responding to a guest’s body clock. Ms. Ellis of Spa Finder said that concept was likely to become more popular among business travelers. “Spas always talk about nutrition and fitness, and I think you’ll see them talk a bit more about sleep,” she said.
No doubt there will always be business travelers like Jane Jentgen, a marketing consultant from Columbus, Ohio, who treats herself to a spa service at her hotel each time she finishes an assignment.
Interviewed before she had a pedicure at the Nob Hill Spa at the Huntington Hotel in San Francisco, she said: “I work nonstop when I come here, stay in the hotel and get my job done. The treatment helps me unwind and relax. It’s truly a reward for me. My client will always verbally reward me, but physically, I like to reward myself by getting a spa treatment.”