Business meetings at spas — from wellness to manicures

Beth J. Harpaz
Associated Press

Visiting a spa might sound like an indulgence incompatible with a business meeting. But spas get plenty of bookings these days from corporate clients and organizations, whether for team-building, wellness education or even “manicure meetings.”

Some groups send employees for guided meditation classes in hotel spas, or to tackle outdoor challenge courses at destination spas. Other companies offer staff spa credits for a private massage or sauna time. An automotive group meeting in Florida at Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort enlisted the spa to provide 25-minute services during meeting breaks like facials, massages and manicures.

Spafinder Wellness 365 Research Director Beth McGroarty estimates that corporate meetings and executive retreats account for 4 percent of day spa revenue and 11 percent of revenue at resort, hotel and destination spas.

Eve Salon and Haven Spa in Manhattan have hosted “manicure meetings,” including one at Eve for Jenee Naquin’s staff. Naquin, a handbag designer and branding consultant, recalls working in places in the past where people “would cut out for a quick pedi when things were slow. So I thought, just make work more productive by combining the two. I also think working moms, like myself, can really appreciate this,” so they don’t have to arrange for child care to get their nails done.

Sara Daly, who owns a wellness company in Vermont called a’chromatherapy, has taken her staff of eight women for spa days a number of times.

“When we put on robes together, we create a uniformity to our ideas,” Daly said.

She said the shared experience bolsters creativity and problem-solving in a stress-free environment where her employees have “moments of quiet and reflection and then moments of brainstorming all in the same day. You can accomplish much more this way.”

Miraval Resort & Spa, north of Tucson, Arizona, has hosted groups ranging from an outdoor clothing company to a financial insurance company.

“Recently, we had a group of 22 from AllSource Global Management come in for a couple of days to do team-building exercises on our low-ropes course and with our equine program,” said Miraval’s general manager Laura McIver.

Miraval’s leisure guests skew 80 percent female, but corporate groups are a more even mix of men and women. A three-day group stay, depending on the season, can range from $400 per person per day to up to $700. Typically, corporate bookings give each participant $150 credit toward individual spa services or activities to be done on their free time.

Other activities that Miraval’s corporate guests sign up for range from guided hikes, fitness classes and meditation sessions to lectures on improving communication.

Dena Roche, editor of and a wellness speaker, attended a program at Miraval a few years back for entrepreneurs that explored how to “create your business as part of a healthy lifestyle.” She says it’s a misconception to regard spas as a place where people go to get pampered. Today, she says, it’s more about stress relief and promoting wellness, goals that many employers actively promote for their workforce.

At the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, Cheryl Smith is manager for health and wellness tourism, which includes assisting meeting planners who want to incorporate spa, fitness and outdoor options into group itineraries. Las Vegas is home to 50 spas, with options ranging from a rock-climbing wall at Canyon Ranch to candlelight yoga at the Mandarin Oriental.

“If you’re a large organization depending on what your industry is, chances are you’re already talking about health and wellness in some way,” said Cheryl Smith. “It stands to reason they’d want to incorporate some of those attributes into their meetings.”

Pamela Haack, whose company, Off the Beaten Strada, organizes custom small-group tours in Italy, recently designed a trip for a women’s organization called Femfessionals that included a half-day at a thermal spa in Tuscany. The visit was designed to “dovetail with the retreat’s focus on creativity, inspiration and collaboration,” she said.