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How to open a spa business

By Kissa Castaneda |

Worldwide, the wellness industry is a booming business. At home, the 104-member Spa Association of the Philippines expects more players to come in as the number of stressed out urban denizens and relaxation-seeking tourists continues to grow. “The wellness industry is touted to be the next big thing,” says Catherine Brillantes-Turvill, owner of Nurture Spa, a destination spa in Tagaytay City.


Her British husband, chemistry doctor and spa specialist Mike Turvill, is equally optimistic about the future of the spa industry in the Philippines because he sees in the Filipinos everything that it takes to make this sector flourish – personal warmth, good service orientation, English language proficiency, and a leaning towards natural healing practices. “The Philippines has what it takes and can offer more than other spa destinations in the region, such as Thailand and Bali,” he says.


For those who are interested, health spas come in two types: Day spas, usually located in the metropolis, and destination spas, which offer more health services than do day spas. Nevertheless, it is your location, concept, and purpose – not the spa type – that determine how much capital you need to start the business.



Brillantes-Turvill says your would need between P4 million and P25 million to put up either a day or a destination spa, and expect a return on your investment in two to three years. Because the capital is not something to sneeze at, you have to put in a lot of time researching your market and competition, and analyzing your competitive edge and price points. You should also ask yourself why you want to go into the spa business. Is it to complement your gym, beauty parlor, or dermatology clinic? Is it to provide an additional service to your hotel or resort guest? Or is it to build a respite or getaway for harried housewives, distraught workers, or vacationing tourists?


Once the objectives are clear and you have decided on your concept, start mapping out a communications strategy to reach your target clients. In any case, remember that the interiors need to be as pleasing to the senses as it is revenue generating.



Take Nurture Spa for example. Brillantes-Turvill chose this business because she was in search of personal healing. Her purpose was what guided her in offering total wellness services that range from body wraps, aromatherapy massages to Qi gong sessions. She put up Nurture Spa in Tagaytay in 2001, spending P10 million to lend it an all-Filipino motif. The Filipino theme is actually reflected in the interiors and services that defined Nurture’s target market: the balikbayans and foreign tourists.


“We tried to target the international market because local political conditions were too fluid. Now our marketing efforts are aimed at 18- to 55-year-olds from the AB sector,” she says. Brillantes-Turvill hardly advertised, but feature articles in the Philippine Daily Inquirer and FHM magazine helped her reach her market. “The response is better than what we expected. The Department of Tourism’s Wellness Tourism campaign also helped a lot,” she adds.


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