29 May 2024 World leisure: news, training & property
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Spa Business
2023 issue 2

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Leisure Management - Daniel Golby

Spa People

Daniel Golby

The Middle East has become a huge territory for health and wellness

Golby has been at the helm of ESPA for five years photo: ESPA Life
The Doha facility is only the second ESPA Life since the concept debuted in London 12 years ago photo: ESPA Life
Interiors have been inspired by the world of luxury yachting photo: ESPA Life
Tech-enabled treatments will soon be added photo: ESPA Life at
The 3,000sq m facility boasts 19 treatment rooms photo: ESPA Life
ESPA’s portfolio consists of 550 spa partners in 55 countries photo: ESPA Life

ESPA Life, the full-scope integrative wellness concept by ESPA International, has debuted in the Middle East, marking the beginning of an exclusive collection of destinations worldwide. Residing in Waldorf Astoria Lusail Doha in the most coveted area of Qatar’s capital, the impressive three-floor, 3,000sq m facility features 19 treatment rooms. It’s the second ESPA Life to open following the concept’s much-anticipated launch at Corinthia London 12 years ago.

“Drawing on a fusion of holistic and technological modalities to encourage optimum wellbeing and address our guests’ immediate and longer-term needs to future-proof their health, ESPA Life is about delivering transformational experiences,” says Daniel Golby, ESPA International’s managing director. “We want to keep this brand evolution limited to a small club, ideally around five globally.”

Middle East market
Designed by the renowned interiors’ luminary Pierre-Yves Rochon, Waldorf Astoria Lusail Doha has proven an ideal entry point into the Middle East for ESPA Life. “This territory has become a huge destination for health and wellness, with an increase in luxury clinics, spas and centres, especially following the global situation created by COVID,” confirms Golby.

For this pioneering concept in Doha, inspired by the world of luxury yachting, ESPA’s Design and Consultancy service worked to envision a contemporary, elegant spa, featuring a series of arches and 180˚ vista of the bay.

“ESPA Life at Waldorf Astoria is a sanctuary for physical and mindful regeneration that will feed into the growing interest among Middle Eastern customers for mindfulness, self-care, lifestyle enhancements and physical wellbeing,” Golby says.

With a spa menu curated around nutrition, exercise, movement, treatments and mindful practices, therapeutic experiences are named after states of being, for example, Resilience, Vitality or Nurture. Moments to pause, reflect and participate in guided breathwork are incorporated into many treatments too.

Spanning a range of ancient and modern healing techniques, hands-on touch, aesthetics and calming rituals, the menu is soon to be extended to medi-spa therapies and tech-enabled treatments, such as full-body cryotherapy.

Guests can also get a taste of healthy eating practices at Wyld Erth cafe, which serves smoothies, anti-inflammatory meals and nutritionally balanced bowls. To support exercise, movement and gentle detoxing, there are hot vitality pools, hammams and a state-of-the-art gym.

Regional readiness
For a market that has traditionally associated spa with pampering and aesthetics, how ready are regional clients for ESPA Life? “I think there’s a learning curve on both sides and we’ll be tweaking our approach in response to guest concerns,” Golby explains.

“From the types of questions they’re asking our staff, we can already report that there’s real interest in the tips and practices we provide, which can be incorporated into daily lifestyles outside of the spa environment.

“We’ve been intensively training the team on the best ways to impart this advice, whether on fitness routines or gut health.”

The hotel’s marketing outreach is also focused on raising awareness over the coming months, with promotional spa activities and cooking classes at Wyld Erth in the works as well as familiarisation wellness workshops planned for targeted groups of social influencers.

With the destination’s comprehensive resort facilities in mind, a local wellness membership programme is being considered in addition to the existing fitness membership.

Still an experience-led brand
Of course, ESPA is no stranger to the Middle East, with the brand well-established in Qatar, Dubai and Abu Dhabi, among other countries. This is a useful reminder that pre-COVID 80 per cent of its business came from spas and 20 per cent from online. This mix almost flipped during the pandemic – with 70 per cent weighted in favour of online – but where is the balance settling today? Golby is quick to quash any industry rumours suggesting the brand will continue this online pivot.

“We are still one of the only true turnkey operational brands in the industry, offering everything from architecture to management, and our spas will remain a core part of the business,” he notes. “As it stands, we have a healthy 50/50 split between spa treatments and in-spa retail revenues versus online.

“In fact, we bounced back quickly after the pandemic and are now exceeding pre-COVID levels of business for the exact reason that we are multifaceted and have several levers to pull. Our design consultancy is performing impressively, with double-digit growth in Europe, Asia and the UAE. While online platforms allow us to ensure maximum reach, the power of touch and service is key to our DNA.”

Big shoes to fill
Golby is well on course to shepherd the brand through its new era after founder Susan Harmsworth sold the brand in 2017 to The Hut Group. He stays in touch with Harmsworth, has the internal support of an “incredible” owner and can draw on the knowledge of long-standing team members who, on the design side, retain 60 years of experience between them.

He is humble and effusive in his praise of colleagues and how the brand weathered the COVID-19. Under his leadership, ESPA was the only fully operational spa business to retain its whole team during the pandemic.

While Golby himself is about to reach his five-year anniversary at ESPA, he still finds time to look after his own wellbeing, primarily by immersing himself in nature, particularly the North Yorkshire moors, where he now lives. “I’m surrounded by forests, so long walks with my springer spaniel, Rupert, are a fantastic opportunity to reset,” he says.

Growth potential
With much pride in ESPA’s “bricks and mortar estate”, which today consists of 550 spa partners across 55 countries, Golby is excited about two territories in particular: “Although it’s too early to reveal any specific details, there are two global regions that we believe will offer significant strategic growth opportunities and they are the Middle East and China.” Safe to say, the brand will be revealing more about this spa expansion soon.

Originally published in Spa Business 2023 issue 2

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