Passion Points: Spa/Wellness
As spa consultants to such properties as the Cloisters at Sea Island and Vermont’s Topnotch, Ginny and John Lopis have decades worth of experience when it comes to spa, health and wellness. In 2006, they fulfilled a lifelong dream of opening their very own property: the Lodge at Woodloch in Pennsylvania’s lake region. The two spoke to Indagare about what makes a successful spa experience and about the current trends that are here to stay.
You have worked in the spa industry for a long time. What are some of the major changes you have observed in the industry since you started?
There’s a much greater variety of treatments. Twenty-five years ago, the entire treatment list consisted of a standard facial, a Swedish massage, a basic loofa or salt scrub, an herbal wrap and manicures and pedicures. There have also been significant increases in luxury accommodations. Spa facilities used to be more like YMCA locker rooms, but today, spa guests expect much more elegant and sophisticated facilities. Spas in the U.S. were once primarily just for women. Initial focus at spas was fitness, weight loss, detoxing from alcohol and nicotine, etc. Men rarely were seen. Now men are one of the fastest growing markets, and the program focus includes stress management, relaxation, and spiritual inspiration. Finally, there’s more sophisticated and delicious spa cuisine. Spas used to serve what many thought of as “rabbit food”, and we are now recognizing that food is one of the joys of life, and it should be delicious as well as healthy. We are shifting from a “deprivation” or “denial” mentality with regard to food, to a “moderation” and “mindful” approach to eating, focusing on portion size, awareness of our bodies and choosing what and how to eat based on our individual needs and preferences. There is no longer one prescription for everyone.
What are the major criteria that makes a successful spa experience?
Comfort is key and the ability to relax and put your feet up in an atmosphere that is not too stiff or formal. The facilities should flow comfortably and not be confusing, and there should be an appropriate separation between active and passive activities, such as fitness and treatments/relaxation areas. They also have to have warm, friendly, nurturing, personal service; technically skillful, well-trained staff; appropriate privacy, great food and a beautiful site with inspiring natural elements (mountains, lake or river, woods).
When you co-founded ISPA, the term “spa” barely registered but now there is a growing population of spa goers who are extremely sophisticated. How do you cater to this increasingly educated group?
There needs to be more staff training to satisfy the discerning spa-goer, as well as greater attention to detail in everything. For instance, guests are knowledgeable about sanitation and aesthetics need to be sophisticated, as guests are more well-traveled than ever before. There’s a continuous need for growth and expansion of the spa experience to match the growth of the consumer: their interest areas are constantly expanding, and we need to add new and exciting programs and offerings regularly, particularly as our knowledge and understanding about life evolves through science and other technologies.
What do you think the next major trends in the spa world will be and which ones will last?
Greater focus on cultivating the self as the “expert,” and less focus on external teachers and experts who appear to have all the right answers. We will shift to looking within ourselves for our personal truth, helped by guides and facilitators, rather than seeking gurus who hold all the “answers.” Also, the focus on green consciousness and strategies: guests will want to learn more at spas about good stewardship and saving the planet. We also see a push towards more spiritually oriented programming, including meditation, guided relaxation, mind/body fitness forms such as Tai Chi, Qi Gong, etc., for stress reduction and greater well being, as well as expansion in six-sensory training: developing greater psychic abilities, understanding and working with the chakras (energy centers of the body), etc. There’s a greater focus on self-healing techniques such as sound healing, color therapies, energy work, etc. as well as an exploration of psychological and social- emotional life issues, such as relationships, life purpose, creative expression, communication skills. Finally, there are more classes and experiences in the creative arts, like dancing, singing, painting and photography.
What should a potential spa-goer ask him or herself to figure out what place is right for him/her?
What do I want to accomplish or gain from my spa visit? What are my goals/objectives in going? (e.g., relaxation, specific type of guidance, outdoor adventures, socialization, privacy, etc.) What kind of atmosphere do I prefer? (luxury vs. simplicity, urban vs. nature; coed; intimate, peace and quiet vs. lots of people/high energy; structured vs. free to be on one’s own).
What are some other destination spas that you admire?
Rancho La Puerta, which offers wonderful classes and a genuine sense of community; Golden Door, the original luxury spa experience which still has superb guest service; Canyon Ranch for excellent quality, tremendous breadth of program and great staff training.
When creating the Lodge at Woodloch, how did you draw on your experience and past spa concepts?
There are numerous details at the Lodge that we had previously incorporated into some of our clients’ spa designs, and were very popular, such as our Hydromassage waterfalls and our private shower change rooms. We created new, updated versions of them at the Lodge. Of course, we learned so many things from our years of consulting, which helped us in creating something that really works.
Could you cite some specific examples of how the lodge is a compilation of the years you spent consulting?
We were fortunate to travel widely in the U.S. and internationally with our spa consulting company and worked with many of the finest resorts. We kept journals of all of our ideas and inspirations over our years of travel and integrated many of them in our design. We created boards for our architects and interior designer using photos from brochures and magazines for our interior spaces to convey the look and feel we were searching for. Our floor-to-ceiling windows, for instance, are inspired by the architecture of the Western Lodge in Colorado, and the intimacy of the interior spaces are reminiscent of an Adirondack lodge. We saw many spas that we were strongly feminine, so we chose a strong Lodge architectural style that would be comfortable for men. We felt that on an overcast winter day, zen-like interiors can feel a bit cold, so we chose a nature-inspired, color-rich palette. We wanted our guests to feel connected to nature, even when inside, with walls of windows in nearly every space. And we tried to create a floor plan that was uncomplicated and easy to remember. We often say how fortunate we are that it took us nearly thirty years to actualize this dream of our own destination spa resort, because had we been successful early on, it would have been a very different place.
What do you advise potential guests in terms of how they should structure their day with classes, treatments etc.?
Our advice to guests is to listen to their inner wisdom about what is best for them. Spas have traditionally been about “accomplishing” things: becoming more fit, losing weight, etc. But one of the greatest challenges in our world today is finding a moment of stillness—being present and at peace. For some guests, this is the greatest need, to just slow down, relax and listen to the whisper of wisdom that is always there, but often drowned out by the chatter of our minds. We designed the Lodge with a number of porches, verandas, and lounges for napping and reading, and we are finding that more and more of our guests are choosing to relax as an intentional part of their visit.
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