As the number of fatigued executives who rush to spas for unwinding and rejuvenation goes up, the industry is bracing itself for a unique crisis: a shortage of trained personnel who can work the mind and body of tired souls.
Companies that run spas are taking the initiative to resolve the problem; in the process, they are creating a business opportunity from the shortage.
The New Delhi-based IHHR Hospitality Pvt. Ltd, the firm behind India’s first branded spa, Ananda in the Himalayas, is planning the country’s first spa training institute, which is expected to become operational by March 2008.
Special treatment: India’s first branded spa, Ananda in the Himalayas, is planning the country’s first spa training institute, which is expected to become operational by March 2008.
Mumbai-based luxury spa Rudra, which is where the city’s rich, famous and the well-heeled, including Raymond Group patriarch Vijaypat Singhania go for unwinding, is headed towards the cooler climes of Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh, where it is setting up a luxury boutique spa along with a spa training institute, where aspiring therapists will be taught every nuance and element of treatments. The 60-cottage spa property will offer a mix of traditional Indian therapies of Ayurveda and yoga, and other popular treatments from South-East Asia and Europe, according to Rudra Spa chief executive officer Dhharram Pratap. India’s spa industry, which began almost a decade ago, has been on a significant growth path over the last two years with foreigners coming in for the country’s traditional holistic therapies that combine Ayurvedic and aromatic massages and yoga.
In addition to the large number of Ayurvedic spas that have come up in the southern part of the country, which is home to therapies involving Ayurveda and massages, a number of such spas have been set up in large hotel chains such as ITC, Indian Hotels Ltd’s Taj Group and the Hyatt, among others.
“All over India, spas are facing a shortage of trained staff who can deliver quality services to guests. Massage and other therapies are not as simple as they look and require knowledge of physiology. It is very difficult to find the right kind of staff,” says Jaichandran Thampi, spa director, Sereno spa at the Hyatt, Goa. Thampi, whose family runs a traditional Ayurvedic medicine manufacturing unit and has massage and other therapy link ups with hospitals in Kerala, says he has to put staff who join the hotel through six months of rigorous training before they are even allowed to deliver basic therapies.
The courses offered at the IHHR Institute will include body treatments, Ayurveda and yoga, aromatherapy and reflexology among others. To ensure that its curriculum is in line with global standards, the institute has got the International Therapy Examination Council (ITEC), Confederation of International Beauty Therapy and Cosmetology (CIBTEC) and Comité International Desthétique Et De Cosmétologie (CIDESCO) to prescribe the curriculum for the courses on international treatments and give the required certification.
Indian cities, especially Mumbai and New Delhi, have seen a large number of day spas come up, which offer a variety of spa and beauty therapies to patrons who come in for a few hours to rejuvenate their body and mind. Spa menus at these day spas include a range of services from the basic massages to the more evolved shiatsu, Swedish, Balinese massages, reflexology, and hot and cold stone therapy, and can cost anything from Rs1,500 to Rs7,000. While increasing disposable incomes and stressed out urban lifestyles have meant that Indians are queuing up at these spas, the sharp growth in demand has caught spa owners and managements by surprise and short of trained staff. According to Pramod Mane, Ayurvedic physician at Ananda, “The spa is going to be a big industry in the near future. But the truth of the matter is that the sector faces a huge shortage of well-trained staff. If awareness levels are increased and people show interest in getting trained in spa therapy, then sky is the limit.”
Interestingly, spa industry leaders who gathered for the first ever global spa summit at New York’s Waldorf Astoria this May, said that the biggest problem facing the industry was the shortage of high quality staff with the right training.
“It takes at least three years for a trainee to get full-fledged knowledge of all therapy and treatments,” Thampi says. His centre calls in experts from Bangalore’s Vivekananda Institute to teach the staff yoga and other relaxation techniques that are applied on the spa guests. Rudra’s school will be run with support from the International Spa Consortium, which will mean that spa staff from other spas around the world, looking to update their skills, will be referred to it.
“Indians still confuse a traditional maalish with the massage therapy offered in spas and I want to ensure that this fallacy is eliminated and only the right kind of people get into the business,” says Pratap.
With health tourism now a big part of the tourism business, experts say that the government will soon have to step in to regulate the quality of services at Indian spas.