To call her a powerhouse is putting it mildly. Those who know Tammy Pahel, aka “Tammy from Miami,” know that she is a spa force to be reckoned with. The Vice President of Spa & Wellness Operations at Carillon Miami Wellness Resort, Tammy is a true innovator who is credited with leading the charge for touchless technology, among other things. She has forged long-lasting partnerships and created one successful spa after another in her 30 years in the biz. I caught up with her recently to talk shop. Here’s what I gleaned.
On the Strength of Our Industry
“Every time something really bad happens–9/11, the 2008 financial turn down, covid–we learn more about what we need to change [in the spa industry]. I’m a big believer in ‘everything happens for a reason,’ and even though they may be very tragic, these are huge learning lessons. Difficult times give us an opportunity to look at what we’re doing–and make it better for our industry and for our teams.
“I’ve been teaching spa classes in New York for ten years, and one of the things I always tell people is that although our industry at times may appear fragile, it’s not! It snaps back, we snap back, and we learn hard lessons that actually make us better.”
“Spa has become a personal matter for people and what they’re personally going through.”
Post-Pandemic Desire for Spa & Wellness
“I saw a huge change with guests at Carillon. Prior to the pandemic, our average guest stay was three nights; after we reopened in November 2020, that jumped to five-night stays. Our rates have never been higher; people aren’t as cost-conscious–they’re desperate for wellness and want to learn how they can have a healthy and well-balanced life.”
Beyond Finding Balance
“I’m going to use my hotel reservation team, as they are the voice and they tell me that peoples’ ideas of balance have changed. Prior to the pandemic, people looked at Carillon as a wellness resort with a lot of options in which to pursue balance, like 250 fitness classes to choose from. But I will tell you that never before had we had people calling saying, ‘I’m struggling mentally, I need a break, I want to go somewhere. Can you recommend things I can do at your resort to help with my stress and anxiety?’
“People are now asking for mental and emotional help–that never happened prior to the pandemic. Spa has become a personal matter for people and what they’re personally going through. They asking our reservation team and actually telling them what they’re going through and want to know how we, via our spa and wellness programming, can help.”
That’s One Heck of a Good Reservation Team
“We have a great team. Our reservation manager, Brittany, is very involved with the spa. We’re a very tight team at Carillon; whatever we have going on, whether it’s integrative and functional medicine or Chinese medicine, or quantum energy science, or energy medicine–we invite our reservation team to experience what these services are. How we really stand apart from other hotels is that we have a one-stop shop. When you call to book your reservation, you book spa treatments and non-traditional treatments. Our reservation team is equipped to answer questions outside of the traditional spa services.”
On Services that Make You Most Proud
“I have over $1 million worth of touchless equipment, including Vemi and Prism. We also have cryotherapy and a salt float bath, among many other offerings.
“In 2020, when we first launched touchless, our traditional 55+ guests were excited about touchless. In 2021, it begins to evolve, and I create wellness circuits dealing with guests’ issues from the pandemic like struggles with sleep, with physical pain, with depression. The wellness circuits run two to two-and-a-half hours and are very popular.
“Now, 2022 comes along and we see people coupling the touchless with traditional spa services. So it evolved, as people became more comfortable about going back to traditional spa services–going back to touch. For example, people are combining salt float baths with massages and cryotherapy with facials.They weren’t really doing that before.”
Post-Pandemic Staffing Realities
“In Miami, we had 11 massage schools that produced 550 massage therapists. After covid, there were only three schools that survived financially–and we dropped down to 150 therapists coming from those three schools. We have probably 50 to 60 hotels that have a spa—they’re all vying for these 150 people, so the reason touchless helped financially was because we couldn’t get the therapists.”
On Services that Resonate Most with Guests
“Our number-one treatment is Vemi, the vibra-acoustic therapy with infrared. You can select 30 minutes for $99, or 60 minutes for $199. Because the world we live in is more about aesthetics, guests love the experience. When you walk into the room, the room’s blue, the beds are infrared but emit a blue color . . . people stand at the door and literally go, ‘ahhh.’ It’s nice and cozy. There’s a Zero Gravity chair, it has a big tv screen with a kaleidoscope in front. You put on a vibra-acoustic headset, and it’s vibrating, it’s infrared, and it takes you on a meditation journey. Guests just love how it makes them feel. We see a lot of couples doing that and then getting a massage.
“Our second most popular is Prism. It offers six different modalities you can choose from, but I will tell you that the “muscle and pain recovery” modality is number one. Cryotherapy and salt float baths are the next most booked services.
“Those are the top four out of about 20 different things we have.”
What’s Floating Her Boat
“One of the things I’m really excited about is having the biostation, an integrative and functional medicine group, on board. We can really help those people who are calling and wanting to be a healthier version of themselves. Biostation, founded by a cardiologist, has been a great partner for us; we have an MD to address issues and who can read bloodwork.
“I’m also excited about NAD IV therapy that supports your immune system and increases your energy.
“And because we’ve been a showroom for touchless tech, I now have brands calling me from far and wide, wanting us to be a global showroom.”
What Do You See in Your Spa Crystal Ball?
“The International Spa Association (ISPA) called it a long time ago with Price Waterhouse Cooper research it commissioned when I was on the Board. The research showed that spas would become the hospitals of the future–and that’s what I see happening. People have lost interest in traditional doctors–they’re tired of popping pills to feel better.”
Mary Bemis is Founder & Editorial Director of InsidersGuidetoSpas.com. She is a pioneering spa journalist, most recently honored as one of the "Top 30 Influential Voices Transforming Wellness." She is an inaugural recipient of Folio's Top Women in Media Award, and was honored by ISPA with its distinguished ISPA Dedicated Contributor Award. In 1997, she launched American Spa magazine, and in 2007, Mary co-founded Organic Spa magazine. A pioneer in the sustainable spa and beauty worlds, Mary is co-curator of Cosmoprof North America's Discover Green Pavilion. She is a Global Wellness Day Advisor, and a co-founder of the Washington Spa Alliance.
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