Spa Manager

Who they are and what they do

They are among the more and more sought-after professional profiles in hotels and day spas. However, very few people know what a Spa Manager does. We’ve asked the question to Stefania Grisenti, Spa Manager at Centoundici Spa in the Hotel Lido Palace in Riva del Garda and external lecturer at the Opera Armida Barelli in Rovereto.

Stefania Grisenti

Stefania Grisenti, Spa Manager

“I am a craftswoman, every creation is a unique piece, a one-off. What do I create? Wellness. Every treatment is my work of art”.

Her career has a solid basis in management experience and in pre-opening activities, which make her grow both on a personal and professional level: in this way, she can take on the training of operators and the creation of protocols and rituals. She is not someone to be content, and thanks to the humanistic approach inherent to the work as a Spa Manager and to the relationship with others, she forwarded her education to obtain a high school diploma in humanities.

But what are the secrets of a Spa Manager? What are the strengths and weaknesses of this job? Let’s find out with her in this 10-question interview.

What is a Spa Manager?

“There’s a world behind this question. The direct and simple answer is: the heart and brain of a spa. A spa manager is someone who embraces and shares the mission and vision of a company, and who is determined to achieve goals with all the available means.”

What is the necessary education to become a Spa Manager?

“There are several ways to get into this business today. Traditionally, a Spa Manager is also a beautician. Training courses in spa management are quite recent, whereas people who work as Spa Managers have been doing this job for years. Nowadays, it is not necessary to be beauticians to become good Spa Managers. For instance, the management of the profit and loss account, the achievement of goals, the choice and monitoring of staff are common activities to several managerial areas, and do not require skills in the beauty sector. As for the professional training, on the other hand, it is desirable that a Spa Manager is also a beautician.”

What are the skills that a good Spa Manager must have?

“I’d like to draw a distinction between acquired and innate skills. Acquired skills are learned through training courses, schools, and experience in the field – namely, the specific and technical skills necessary for daily activities.

On the other hand, the innate skills – which, in my opinion, are even more important- are marked predisposition to leadership, problem-solving skills, empathy and communicative and relational abilities – that is, the basis of the job as Spa Manager. The Spa Manager is the one who encourages the staff, drives and engages the team, sets goals and assesses performance, all the while maintaining an active relationship with the clients.”

What are the usual tasks of your job?

“There is no such thing as a typical day, because each day is different, and I can only group my activities into different consecutive tasks. First of all, sharing the objectives with the staff, and talking and listening to them, who are my “hands” and my “eyes” inside the cabin with the customer. Then there is the collection of feedback from clients, problems, breakdowns, or situations that need to be sorted out as quickly as possible. I interact with all the departments, to talk about clients, needs, requests and problems that might occur.

I try to always be informed about all the clients when I can’t meet them personally during their stay. I deal with reports, statistics, consumption monitoring, inventories, suppliers, orders, and budget: this back-office activity is mostly a complement to the daily service for customers.”

Do you mainly work with clients or do back-office activities?

“It depends on the days and needs. The Spa Manager is often used as a beautician to increase the productivity of the department – if he or she has a diploma in beauty therapy. Fortunately for us, Lido Palace is organised in a such a way that I can focus on clients, on the research and development of new strategies and innovative offers, on the management of “special cases”, and on being an interface that is always active and present between the hotel direction, staff and the other departments. Last but not least, the training of staff, which I manage personally and thoroughly, with protocols, in-house training courses and monitoring.

What do you like most about your job?

“I love training for sure, as I get to pass on values and the passion for this job, and guide young professionals of this sector, helping them to solve daily problems and motivating them to constantly better themselves. Also, a few years ago I discovered the crucial role played by data collection and statistics, which allow me to make decisions – sometimes drastic ones – based on figures and not on my gut. In this way, I can manage all the activities within the Spa in a more objective way.”

Is it mandatory to have a spa manager in a spa?

“No, it’s not mandatory, especially for small companies – a manager is wasted if there aren’t at least three or four employees. However, it is undoubtedly an opportunity for every entrepreneur to increase turnover and give a definite direction to the spa.”

Are there differences regarding the presence of Spa Managers on a national and international level?

“In Italy, more and more schools and training courses are becoming available for people who are interested in this field. As it is not a purely managerial job, it is also necessary to embrace the passion for the wellness sector and to acquire thorough knowledge in this respect. This position is becoming more and more popular, although I believe that, in Italy, we’re still far from the achievement of the rightfully valued model of International Spa Manager”

Is the Spa Manager recommended in any spa or are there specific characteristics that define that need?

“All spas that have defined economic objectives need, in my opinion, a competent professional who can develop the right strategies to achieve these objectives. Smaller companies will, of course, need to assess the position of spa manager according to the fixed costs it involves.”

How much difference can a Spa Manager make on the turnover of a spa?

“This is a good question. I’d say that a prepared and competent spa manager can make the difference between failure and achievement of results. A ship without a captain can drift and sink fast, just as a ship with a careless and inexperienced captain. But with a captain who knows how to sail, well, a ship can land anywhere.”