01/08/2014 10:24 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Are Spas Ignoring the Needs of Ethnic Women?


2014 may mark the end of the grace period for day and destination spas. What do I mean by that? Increasingly more and more African-American, Hispanic, Asian, biracial and other ethnic women are asking a question prior to booking their facial appointment. The question is, "Do you have someone who knows how to work with my skin?"

Overall, even at Five-Star entities the responses have been disappointing. They include;

"Well, skin is skin."
"I don't understand what you mean."
"All of our people are good"
"No, we don't have anyone."
"Our people can work on anybody."
"We don't discriminate like that."

Recently Skin Inc Magazine listed Global Skin and Multicultural Beauty as top trends for 2014. I must agree. In the past few years a rapidly escalating mass of ethnic women have begun to make spa treatments part of their regular health, wellness and beauty maintenance. My own client list has grown exponentially with multi-ethnic women, many of whom will travel from New York City or D.C. to Philadelphia for their customized services. Ranging in age from 30 to 45 years old they are part of a new emerging market of affluent, well-traveled sophisticates who research, compare and critique their experiences on social media.

Casual conversations about their spa experiences with white girlfriends or acquaintances have generated increasing awareness of the service and knowledge gaps. These exist seemingly based upon the color of their skin despite the fact that everyone is paying the same price for the same treatment. Beauty blogs and reality shows which follow their stars having spa services are providing even more insight on what a client should expect. The spa industry is in full disclosure whether or not it chooses to be.

In 2014 hotels with fabulous spas may expect to be exposed on social media as less than credible if their therapists are unable to answer the most basic questions from this emerging market. After all, luxury is more about personalized customer service than decor. The failure of spa management to grasp this concept will prove to be not only a major embarrassment but a business failure of the worse kind to their shareholders. After all, the handwriting is on the wall.