UK spas reopen! What to expect…


Great news! Spas are finally set to reopen for some body treatments on Monday 13th July (22nd July in Scotland and 27th July in Wales).  Since all spas, gyms and wellbeing centres have been closed in the nationwide lockdown from March 23, most of us have been making do with home self-care, fitness routines and are chomping at the bit to get back to spas. Our recent survey of 5,000 spa goers found 80 percent of people want to return to spas asap. After the stress of recent months, we could all do with some luxury TLC and time to focus on our health and wellbeing.

Of course, things will be a little different to your last spa visit as strict measures are introduced to keep everyone safe: let’s not forget Covid-19 is a public health emergency. The priority is always to stop the spread of Covid-19 and avoid a second peak that would overwhelm the NHS.

The most effective way to stop the spread of Covid-19 remains social distancing and regular handwashing. Other measures – such as staff PPE, increased hygiene and ventilation – will be added so that customers feel safer and therefore more relaxed on their spa days.

So how will spas look in a post-lockdown world? Based on the latest government guidelines (published July 9 2020) and conversations with spa managers, this is what we think the spa journey could be like.

The Headlines
Pluses:
Less crowded, you can have body treatments, you can use pools, hydrotherapy pools, whirlpools and gyms. You can meet five friends in a spa garden (2m social distancing applies), or spa indoors with a family member. Spas will be well ventilated with fresh air.
Downsides: No facials, head massages, no thermal rooms, having to shower at home, shorter treatments, no magazines, restricted times in areas of spa.
What are spas doing? As much as possible! Ensuring far stricter hygiene levels, controlling numbers staff and client numbers, health checks for staff and guests, maintaining social distancing. Staff will be re-trained to increase cleanliness measures, especially between treatments; will wear visors or masks and be scrupulous about handwashing between treatments.
What do customers have to do? Regularly wash hands and use hand sanitiser, don’t touch your face, social distance (2m, or 1m with risk mitigation), wear masks, stay in your bubbles, do not touch door handles or wash hands after, bring your own towels.

Booking your appointment

When you book your appointment and arrive at reception, you will be given clear instructions and guidelines on what you need to do to stay safe and still enjoy your spa day. You may be emailed your health questionnaire beforehand to avoid unnecessary handling of forms. Expect to be asked a Covid-19 screening question: Have you a continuous cough, high temperature or noticed a loss of taste and smell? Then you will have to stay home and rebook.

“I would anticipate many spas like ours will be carefully managing capacity to ensure guests can enjoy treatments, classes and personal training with peace of mind – so I would recommend booking appointments in advance where possible,” recommends Rachel Roselt, Spa Director at the luxurious Bulgari Spa.

Spa mornings or afternoons are more likely than spa days and you will probably be expected to pay online or with cards on the day, adding your tip to the final bill.

What to bring

Ask your spa what their changing room policy is –  you'll want to know if you can shower, if you need to bring your own towel, robe and slippers etc. Some spas provide disposable robes and slippers where possible. If you can shower at your spa, bring your own shampoo, conditioner and body wash: unless your spa gives guests their own individual (sanitised) miniatures.

Bring your own face mask, tissues and hand sanitiser (we imagine some spas will provide disposable masks for guests, but you will need to check). Carry these around with you in a tote or robe pocket. You probably also will want to bring your own bottle of water and book/magazine as these are not likely to be available.

Who to bring

Since indoor gatherings are limited to members of two households (support bubbles) and outdoor gatherings are possible for six people from any number of households, arrange to meet a friend in the spa garden.

Arriving at your spa

Make sure you arrive at your allocated time, you may have to social-distance queue. Some spas will check your temperature on arrival. The receptionist may be behind a screen or wearing a visor. She may advise you on how to maintain hygiene and social distance while at the spa and answer any concerns you may have.

The building

“Spas have always been exceptionally clean environments, but guests should of course expect enhanced cleanliness and hygiene measures to meet COVID secure protocols,” says Roselt. Even before lockdown, spas have always had extremely high hygiene standards, but new guidelines from the government mean that extra precautions will be taken for the wellbeing of guests and therapists. Expect to see sanitisation stations throughout the spa and increased directional and social distancing signs – larger spas may have arrows on the floor to control directional flow.

According to government guidelines, ventilation in buildings will be optimised and increased to ensure there is plenty of fresh air circulating. Ventilation systems will have to provide 100 per cent fresh air and not simply recirculate air from one space to another, doors and windows will be kept open and filters will be changed more frequently. Some spas, such as Low Wood Bay, will use disinfectant fogging machines overnight.

Facilities

Changing rooms will need to be strictly managed, so expect to see lots of signs, markings on the floor to maintain social distancing, cleaning schedules and hand sanitisers. Try to minimise your time there as much as possible and be thoughtful around other guests.

Saunas, steam rooms and enclosed thermal facilities, including ice rooms, will remain closed until 1st August. Outdoor pools and indoor pools – including spa pools and hydrotherapy pools – will be open (from the 13th July and 25th July respectively) and are safe to use, but expect to have an allocated time slot for smaller pools. Chlorine levels will be increased in accordance with guidelines for Covid-19.

Loungers and relaxation spaces will be organised according to guidelines to reduce any risk of contamination. In relaxation rooms, this could mean wider spaces between loungers and time restrictions, it is unlikely there will be magazines, snacks or drinks.

Treatments

You can have treatments, but not those that involve “work in the highest risk zone (defined as the area in front of the face where splashes and droplets from the nose and mouth may be present).” (UK Gov, July 9). So, no facials, no face waxing, sugaring, threading, eyelash, make-up, eyebrow treatments or aesthetic treatments.

You can have body treatments within reason. Your spa may have a specially adapted treatment menu: we have already seen many creative ideas emerging. Many spas are adding essential oils with antiseptic properties and offering treatments designed to de-stress and relax.

Expect to wear a mask during your treatment. The government suggests keeping the activity time as short as possible and using screens, such as visors. Therapists delivering massages will maintain handwashing hygiene and will probably not need to wear gloves.


Remember it is early days, and some of these measures will be phased rather than instant, while more restrictions will be lifted hopefully in time. The success of this is as much down to us guests as the spa: let’s work together to make sure we can carry on spa-ing.

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Savant_Spa_Spy
  • Author

    Savant Spy

  • Age 46 (and now reversing)
  • Skin type Oily/sensitive

Spa Likes

"Clever, inspiring design, sublime views, a vast, clean and empty pool, solitary relaxation areas to read, write or commune with my muse."

Spa Dislikes

"Small talk, discussions about spirituality or astrology, any products containing tea tree oil or aloe (sadly am allergic), busy pools where you can’t do laps."