It has been a testing time for hotels who have weathered the Covid-19 storm, but many have resurfaced with stringent new measures and welcoming smiles behind patterned face masks. While the Prime Minister hasn't confirmed when exactly UK spas will be able to reopen yet, the spa 'as we know it' will undoubtedly look different, and the new norm is slowly becoming more apparent as hotels across Europe awaken from lockdown. Here's an insight into what we can expect in spas post-pandemic.
Is it safe to use the pool?
In terms of swimming pools, thermal baths and wet areas such as steam rooms there is little evidence to suggest that coronavirus can be passed through water, and according to the World Health Organisation chlorine kills it. It is thought that thalassotherapy pools with a high concentration of magnesium chloride do not allow the virus to survive, as claimed by Forte Village in Sardinia (reopened on June 27).
The areas surrounding the pools and wet areas, however, present more of a challenge, especially if facilities are indoors. Changing rooms, wet floors and close proximity to other guests could be rife for transmission, but this is where good practice comes into play.
With strict new cleaning regimes, Covid-19 training programmes for staff, and effective distancing measures, it is clear that safety of guests and employees is the first and foremost priority for hotels. Expect socially distanced loungers and seating (in Sani, Greece, these will be placed at least six metres apart; reopens July 1), controlled numbers, and even pool bookings. The loungers will also be santisied between each guest's use, with Germany's Schloss Elmau going the extra mile to provide recliner sheets that will be laundered after each use (reopened May 30).
What about other shared facilities?
Again, social distancing and hygiene are key here. Many hotels now use hospital-grade disinfectant, practice strict and regular cleaning regimes and monitor daily hygiene procedures among staff. Expect more washing stations throughout properties too, as is the case at Hotel Quelle Nature Spa in Italy's South Tyrol, where hand sanitising dispensers will be provided in the wellness areas (and wider property; reopened June 11). So the outlook is reassuring for smaller facilities such as saunas, changing rooms and steam rooms, where damp floors and other guests are not as easily avoided.
Where possible, hotels will employ circuits to help with social distancing. In addition, for those that have the space, treatments could be taken outside, whether that's a shady spot under an olive tree (as is the case in Costa Navarino's two hotels) or overlooking Lake Como, like Grand Hotel Tremezzo which reopened on June 26. Swiss thermal resort Grand Resort Bad Ragaz, which reopened May 11, has even turned the sauna area into a private experience.
Gilpin Hotel & Lake House will reopen on July 4, and when spas are able to fully open, there will be a new Spa Lodge, one of five set to open this year. The private lodge will feature an open-plan lounge, large circular bath, walled garden with hot tub, steam room, sauna and treatment room equipped with infrared lounge beds, for the ultimate socially distanced spa trail experience.
At the Lake House, which sleeps 12, the private spa trails include a swimming pool, cedarwood hot tub, hydrotherapy hot tub, and indoor and outdoor saunas. While the team won’t be performing hands-on treatments just yet they will be coordinating the trails – which now include state-of-the-art automated massage chairs – and delivering champagne and cream tea.
And the other people?
There is nothing more infuriating than someone invading your personal space when you're trying to relax, but with many hotels reducing occupancy and capping spa guest numbers, this is good news for those that relish a quiet break. Bear in mind though, that while this means smaller queues and fewer groups, it could also mean longer waiting lists.
Those that do make it in can expect socially distanced seating, smaller classes for things like yoga (some hotels will require you to bring your own mat or buy one) and meditation, and in some cases, such as Longevity Cegonha Country Club which reopens on July 4 in the Algarve, guests will be served meals in their rooms without any additional cost to reduce overcrowding in restaurants.
To ensure a completely Covid-19-free environment, SHA Wellness Clinic in Spain (July 22) is requiring guests to undergo a Covid-19 test (PCR) before arriving at the property, and an antibody test plus medical examination when they get there.
So will I be able to get a treatment?
While some spas have temporarily eliminated treatment menus altogether, others have found ways to continue their services, or reduced their offerings. As most treatments are hands-on and involve close physical contact, gloves, face masks and other forms of personal protective equipment will be employed as part of many wider health and safety initiatives.
Therapists at Grand Resort Bad Ragaz will work with masks when giving massages and use additional face shields when doing facials, as will Longevity in the Algarve. At Pine Cliffs Resort, also in the Algarve, they plan to place 18 acrylic screens between guests and staff (reopened June 6). Contactless treatments could even become part of the new norm as Luxury Family Hotels is considering using machines and wands by Elemis to perform facials.
COMO Hotels and Resorts, whose flagship property is COMO Shambhala in Bali's Ubud, will have staggered treatment times and reduced numbers in fitness classes, gyms and pools (reopens September). These measures are already in place at COMO Uma Canggu (also n Bali) and COMO The Treasury in Perth. Similarly Ikos Olivia in Halkidiki, Greece will allocate 30-minute gaps between treatments to allow for extensive sanitation as part of its Infinite Care Protocol (reopens July 1).
We will also see a rise in immune-boosting therapies, as people look to their general wellbeing more than ever before. In more than 40 different spas in 20 locations Anantara has introduced a signature massage oil using clove oil, citrus aurantium peel extract, eucalyptus oil and rosemary, which are said to help boost the immune system and behold antibacterial qualities.
Maldives hotel Anantara Kihavah, in particular, which operates Cocoon Medi-spa and plans to reopen around the end of summer, is looking into extending its existing range of IV vitamin infusions. SHA Wellness Clinic is also offering an immunology booster, while Longevity is implementing new holistic practices within its wellness programmes.
Over in the UK, The Coach House Spa at Beaverbrook (July 4) has curated a series of new Wild Wellness experiences ahead of the spa's reopening, combining gentle movement, breathing and meditation. Immunity-nutrition workshops are offered to improve eating habits, which can be combined with treatments at The Coach House Spa – and guests will be able to book the thermal suites exclusively before and after.
Rockcliffe Hall near Darlington (taking bookings for stays from July 4), has created 'Spa in a Box’ skincare kits. Guests can perform a prescriptive facial or treatment from the comfort of their Rockliffe room, with all the products they need, through guided videos by the beauty experts. Spa day and treatment bookings are slated to commence from August 1.
When can I go?
Although lots of UK hotels have now reopened, the hospitality industry is still subject to the government's lockdown exit strategy and guidance, so they could be ordered to close again if coronavirus infections spike. For a comprehensive list of key dates for hotel openings in the UK, see here.
Further afield, lockdown restrictions are easing in Europe. For the low-down on the hotels springing back into action on the continent, see here.