Panelists weigh in on the issues impacting the efforts of spas in their pursuit of top talent and the things they can do to retain their expertise
Serving men, couples – and everyone else
Since Antony and Cleopatra, couples have indulged and shared in the experience of head-to-toe bliss to relax and unwind together. Not wanting to miss out on this potential growth opportunity, Canada’s spa owners and managers have tapped into the purchasing power of this market segment, offering services and treatments that meet the unique needs of couples, and men – who are gradually warming up to the idea of solo spa visits.
Among them, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts has partnered with several outstanding spas in Quebec, a province where male spa-goers outnumber those in other parts of Canada. The Fairmont owns the Fairmont Le Château Montebello Spa and partnered with Amerispa’s Moment Spa in its other four Quebec-based properties: Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu, Fairmont Tremblant and the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth Spa.
In addition to eight treatment rooms and three manicure and pedicure stations, Le Château Montebello Spa boasts a very popular couple’s suite, Salon La Source, a private spa retreat featuring a fireplace, a Japanese sunken tub for two, rain shower and side-by-side treatment tables. Making the decision to include couples and men’s treatments at the spa was largely driven by consumer demand, says Montebello’s Spa Director, Sylvie Legault, who has been with the award-winning establishment since 2006.
“We see an increase every year,” she explains, adding that managing demand means juggling available resources. “But the problem is that right now, we don’t have the facility to accommodate these growing numbers.” For example, currently there’s only one space to accommodate a 60-minute couple’s massage; to serve more guests, treatment times occasionally have been shortened. Legault says that plans are underway to add three more couple’s treatment facilities, something she anticipates will boost service demand by around 15 percent.
The couple’s suite gives clients time to spend together after a busy week, with a glass of sparkling wine and treatments that can be customized to meet their individual needs, Legault explains. “In our suite you can upgrade your massage from relaxation and gentle pressure to deep tissue. We also offer aromatherapy massage, reflexology and a range of other treatments.”
She says the spa created a couple’s package specifically for that room. “The first hour gives them time alone together. We prepare scrubs and they exfoliate one another in the rain shower. And then they can soak in the Japanese bath together, which we have readied with essential oil and sea salt.”
Asked if there are any “Montebello babies,” Legault giggles and explains there have been a few occasions when couples have returned to rejuvenate after giving birth, but she denies any direct links. Although there are strict protocols, the staff will make efforts to adapt to each guest – and that includes facilitating marriage proposals by arranging for rose petals and champagne, or pampering newlyweds after their hotel wedding reception.
After indulging in a shared treatment, many couples take advantage of sinking into deep, comfortable couches in front of the fieldstone fireplace adorning the adjacent spa lounge, where Legault will often find them fast asleep – accompanied in some cases by snoring men, who she says have become more in tune with self-care.
Caroline Mandréa, director of marketing for Amerispa’s Moment Spa in Quebec, also has seen a trend toward a more gender-neutral spa-goer, explaining that “it’s not just for women only.” Men represent around 35 percent of spa-goers, for whom massage remains the most popular treatment followed by pedicures, facials and body scrubs, according to Spafinder, an online retail hub.
“Throughout the last decade, wellness culture has become widespread,” Mandréa explains. “Once considered luxury, wellness today is accessible to everyone. We have seen an evolution in our clientele for the past years. Men are more likely to take spa time for themselves, so we offer a selection of treatments that are adapted to men’s habits and skin types.”
CATERING TO MEN, AND MORE
Manscape Spa, which launched 10 years ago in Victoria, B.C., is one of only a few in western Canada with services offered from a uniquely male perspective. Owner Doug Janczyn points out that his eco-certified spa is trans-friendly and explains, “As a true men’s spa, we are open to all sexualities – they are irrelevant to our work; we are inclusive to all humankind, regardless; and will professionally take on any client or challenge if able, and within the scope of our services and philosophy.”
The spa was thrust into the spotlight recently when its General Manager, Angie Barnetson, was asked by the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal to give expert testimony in a high-profile case; Jessica Yaniv, a transgender spa-goer, was denied waxing services (including Brazilian, or “brozilian”) by numerous estheticians, and took her case to court. Barnetson agreed that waxing the male genitalia, especially, is a specialized procedure; the case was dismissed, but it highlights an important distinction in client care and sensitivity to unique requests.
Janczyn sees attitudes changing towards the transgender community. “Personally, I enjoy the client relationship with both males and females,” he notes, adding, “This work has really opened my eyes to the sensitive needs of transgender guests.” He says that embracing the transgender community has helped the spa boost client numbers and its reputation, and has led to new service offerings.
The most sought-after services at Manscape include back waxing and male Brazilians (“brozilians”). The team pioneered a unique approach to permanent hair reduction, says Janczyn. “Through the use of waxing and skincare combined, this technique has revolutionized how we treat hair removal requests, especially for those of our clients that identify as transgender.”
Manscape offers its clients education and counselling on current trends and how to achieve a “look.” The current trend among male-identifying spa-goers is the natural look, with more guys opting to forgo traditional chest waxing for chest hair that is trimmed and neat.
Janczyn believes that men are becoming more aware of their health, personal care and grooming. “This awareness, and shift in mindfulness toward overall health and maintenance, skin and grooming is why we feel an overwhelming responsibility to educate both our clients and the community about the subject,” he explains. Janczyn says his staff are committed to building long-term relationships with their clients by listening, educating and following up. Making their male guests feel comfortable leads to better communication, he adds.
Among his staff, physiotherapist Mike Hundza, an expert in nerve rehabilitation, works with clients that are experiencing hair loss and the challenges of aging. In addition to prescribed homecare routines of exercises to “floss the nerve,” as Hundza says, the approach is combined with skincare advice and treatment plans aimed at compelling the skin to heal, repair and restore, while improving overall health.
For Janczyn, the ultimate value lies in helping people feel comfortable in their skin, which contributes to them feeling more confident in life.