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Industry insights

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One of the mistakes the industry makes is to not differentiate pay between experienced therapists and the young inexperienced ones

Managers need to understand therapies

country to country. We have shortages all the way through but, going forward, I think we’re really going to struggle with finding experts like nutritionists, naturopaths, osteopaths, wellness counsellors and mental health professionals.

The industry needs a much more graduated progression and salary should be linked to skill set. Advanced therapists, who have a number of different skills, should be empowered to create bespoke treatments, which can be charged at a premium rate.

through a therapy route. The problem with this is that too many therapists get pushed into management roles as it’s seen as a progression when they should stay as senior therapists, on a higher rate, or become a trainer.

Better salaries

Management support

Focus on training

Therapists used to come out of college, go to a salon for more training and wouldn’t go to a spa or on ships until they were 21, having amassed considerable experience, but since the global spa development explosion they’re not getting that core training. One of the mistakes the industry makes is to not differentiate pay between experienced therapists and the young inexperienced ones. It’s ridiculous that an experienced therapist is frequently paid on a level with someone without any training, such as waiting staff. Someone who has trained and then worked for several years will have more experience of bodies, anatomy, physiology, as well as life skills and empathy than an 18-year-old just out of school, yet there is no heightened salary or career progression and therefore little motivation for them to stay long term.

We also need better managers to support the team, who understand their skills as well as the emotional piece therapists get from clients. Managers often don’t understand the amount of emotional energy which goes into delivering a treatment and the negative energy which therapists take on from clients. For years the industry has debated whether spa directors need to understand therapies, with the consensus being that they just need to understand the business side. My view is they need to understand therapies too. When the client has contraindications, the manager needs to be able to answer questions and support the therapist. Historically, so many people with cancer were turned away in a negative way because the therapists weren’t trained in what to say. The best managers I know either do a short massage course, or come up

There is some good news. Diane Hey is running a fantastic apprentice scheme in the UK, which is new for the holistic part of the industry. It is a three year apprenticeship, where both the companies and the apprentices get paid. At level 4 the therapists can diversify. Added to this, the pandemic pushed the industry to embrace online training and this has improved globally, with many good companies now training online. l

n About the author: Susan Harmsworth has helped define the concept of the modern spa. Starting out writing on fashion and beauty for Vogue in London and New York, she later opened a salon in Toronto and then a thalassotherapy resort in France before going on to create the luxury skincare brand, ESPA. spa business HANDBOOK 2021 – 2022