When it’s time for some “me time,” a spa visit can be one of the best gifts you can give yourself. Or a best friend. It could be a blissful hour under the hands of a superb massage therapist, a refreshing weekend getaway with your best bud or a week-long retreat to jump-start a healthy lifestyle. What’s called for is a place where you can relax and experience a sense of well-being and where the treatments are, not only marvelous, but memorable.
“Sadly, not all spas offer services or products that deliver results,” says Liz Conway, registrar for 5-Star Spas of Canada. “And by the time you’ve checked in, donned what hopefully is a soft, fluffy robe, waiting for nirvana, you’re committed.”
It was precisely the lack of national standards and numerous won’t-go-there-again spa experiences that spurred Conway in 2013 to incorporate 5-Star Spas, a mandatory third-party inspection and quality-assurance criteria that would set new standards for excellence in the industry. With a marketing background and extensive experience in the spa sector, Conway was well positioned to develop the concept.
5-Star Spas accreditation is reserved for an exclusive group of top-notch properties that represent the ultimate combination of health and pleasure. These facilities are all about delivery of exceptional services, starting with highly trained and skilled professionals and including a comprehensive spa menu, first-rate facilities and amenities, unsurpassed sanitation and technologically-advanced skin care products. All this within serene surroundings. “Everything else flows from that,” says Liz Conway.
To qualify for certification, a spa must have been in business for at least two years and must be referred by an existing 5-Star Spa member or a key industry supplier
Accredited spas must meet or exceed exceptional sanitation policies regulated by the Provincial Ministry of Health and/or Health Canada; that service/treatment providers respect clients’ privacy, confidentiality, and health conditions; and that clients understand payment policies prior to starting treatment.
When you visit a 5-Star Spa, you are guaranteed that all services and treatments are provided exclusively by registered, certified, licensed or aesthetic-diploma personnel. Clients complete a comprehensive health assessment form relative to their treatment needs which is reviewed by the therapist or aesthetician, then discussed with the client. All of this insures that you are in professional hands, capable of dealing with any specific problems or health issues.
Prior to accreditation, mandatory spa inspections are conducted by an independent three-person inspection team. Two inspectors experience two treatments each and score over 300 components from the quality of the furnishings, right down to the fluffiness of the towels. They’re tough judges who don’t bat an eye at reporting on any missing or substandard detail. While they are undergoing treatments, the lead inspector conducts a technical audit that verifies staff credentials, training and sanitation protocols, business policies and practices and overall guest services.
Ten individual spa innovators, nine in Ontario and one in the province of Quebec, endorsed the criteria against which they and all future accredited spas would be measured. Within three months, the number had risen to 12. Going forward, Liz Conway plans to expand across Canada before looking to move into the U.S.
“It’s really gutsy for spa operators to invite such scrutiny,” says Conway, “especially when the majority of inspectors are reputable travel journalists who have experienced the best spas around the world. For spa-goers, these inspections provide the ultimate in quality assurance.”
For a list of accredited members, visit www.5-StarSpas.ca
What members have to say:
Despite the fact that Fayez Spa in London Ontario has been the go-to for more than 30 years, owner Fayez Tamba was one of the first to endorse the 5-Star concept and philosophy. “I want to be unique in my market,” he says. “This is the way I can be ahead of the crowd.”
Elizabeth Milan, owner of the Toronto spa at the Fairmont Royal York hotel that bears her name was concerned about the proliferation of spas with no standards and deep discounts. “Integrity and credibility are essential to me,” she says. “Adopting these standards provides consumer confidence that brings new customers and keeps existing ones.