Opened in 1933, The Hotel Hershey was built by American Chocolatier and philanthropist Milton S. Hershey—who provided nearly a thousand jobs for the local community during the Great Depression. In 1977, a new wing with an indoor pool and fitness center was added, and in 2001, The Spa at the Hotel Hershey debuted—putting chocolate-coated treatments on the map.
To say the spa was a success is an understatement—by December 2003, the spa had broken ground on an expansion project that would double its size (going from 17,000-square-feet to 30,000-square-feet). The expansion, which included a new lounge, restaurant, 23 new treatment rooms, three new wet rooms, four new facial rooms, and a hair and nail salon was directed by the one and only TAG Galyean.The opening spa director was Jennifer Wayland-Smith, a spa veteran who has since gone on to open a number of award-winning spas.
I visited the Spa at the Hotel Hershey shortly after the expansion, succumbing to chocolate wraps and whipped cocoa baths. I loved the old-school hydrotherapy experiences (thank you, TAG), walking the grounds steeped in history—and the fact that they had a dedicated Quiet Room. Around this same time period, I traveled to the Bahamas to check out the One&Only Ocean Club Spa, now operated by the Four Seasons (I know, tough job). The spa director there? Shian Wing. I recall being struck by two things: Shian’s optimism and her astute business sense—two qualities every spa director should possess.
Fast forward to 2012, when Shian took the reins at The Spa at The Hotel Hershey. We caught up recently, shortly after the spa had reopened. Here’s what we discussed.
Tell us a little bit about your spa background. What inspired you to go the spa route?
I have always been extremely passionate about health, wellness, and holistic therapies which inspired me to go into the spa industry at a young age. I opened my own day spa in Leeds, England, at the age of 19, and after several years, my desire to travel and seek new experiences led me to an exciting three years as a Spa Director on multiple cruise lines. In 2000, I joined Mandara Spa as Vice President of Shipboard Operations and helped launch Mandara Spas on the entire fleet of Norwegian Cruise Lines ships. In 2001, I moved to the resort division and opened One&Only Ocean Club, Bahamas, staying as Spa Director for two years before opening One&Only Palmilla, Los Cabos, and later several Mandara Spas in Hawaii and Fiji. After a period of consulting on multiple projects in the US, I joined the team at The Hotel Hershey as Spa Director, focusing on building the brand and expanding our footprint with the conceptualization and launch of MeltSpa by Hershey in September 2017.
You’ve been at the Hershey spa for eight years, what have been the most significant spa changes, pre-pandemic?
Through continuous strategy and applied innovation (as it relates to identifying emerging market trends and industry evolution), I have focused on the growth and development of my team, our menu of service offerings, and the quality of the product lines we partner with for treatments and retail selections, to ensure we provide our guests with an elevated and unique spa experience.
These projects also included the training and development of our technicians, from a technical skill level, to best practices in guest service. We expanded our available treatments and services, and created a new aromatherapy all-natural signature line of spa products in conjunction with Tara Spa Therapy. We upgraded the Chocolate, Cuban, and Noche Azul collections; and introduced coconut and lemongrass collections for all of our massage, body treatments, manicures and pedicures, plus retail.
In addition, after extensive market research, and product testing, I identified a new upgraded skincare line to perform our facials, and partnered with Sothys, which has been a great success for our business.
In 2012, upon joining the team, one of my initial projects was to conceptualize and research the viability of launching a new day spa in Hershey, which later, with great success, opened in 2017.
“Once we re-opened, we saw a strong desire for guests to return to a familiar place for relaxation and care.”
If the spa were a woman, how would you describe her?
The Spa At The Hotel Hershey is the picture of grace. She is a connoisseur of quality and intuitively knows how to take care of those around her and what they need. And, she recognizes the benefits of self-care, getting away from the stresses of daily life, and recharging the battery—which includes the occasional indulgence with family and friends. Finally, she recognizes that taking care of the body means nurturing the soul.
What is your most popular treatment?
The Spa At The Hotel Hershey is most popular for its signature chocolate treatments including the Cocoa Massage, Chocolate Fondue Wrap, Cocoa Facial Experience, Sweet Hands Manicure, Sweet Feet Pedicure, Chocolate Immersion, Whipped Cocoa Bath, Chocolate Sugar Scrub, and Chocolate Hydrotherapy.
Tell us a little bit more about the launch of the day spa.
The development of MeltSpa by Hershey grew out of the tremendous success and reputation of The Spa At The Hotel Hershey. Affectionately known as The Chocolate Spa, The Spa At The Hotel Hershey opened at The Hotel Hershey in 2001 and was an immediate success.
Not surprisingly, chocolate treatments are among the most popular at The Spa At The Hotel Hershey. During the development of MeltSpa by Hershey, we knew we needed and wanted to incorporate chocolate, but also wanted to create a unique experience for this brand. We partnered with The Hershey Company in creating exclusive Hershey’s Dark Chocolate Treatments at MeltSpa.
How have you dealt with the pandemic from closing to reopening to staff?
The Spa At The Hotel Hershey and MeltSpa by Hershey were temporarily closed March 17 to June 18, 2020, due to the mandatory closure order issued by the Governor of Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, the temporary closure of The Spa At The Hotel Hershey and MeltSpa by Hershey resulted in the elimination of available work for some of our team members. However, once our spas were permitted to reopen, we implemented phased call-backs for many of our team members, as determined by business levels.
The concerns around COVID-19 have required us to supplement our operational practices to provide additional protocols to fulfill our commitment to the health and safety of our team members and guests.
All of our team members have been thoroughly trained on the recommended precautionary steps from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pennsylvania Department of Health, and Pennsylvania Department of State to inhibit the spread of the virus. Our additional protocols include the following:
•All team members must wear face coverings and gloves where appropriate.
•All team members will change into clean and sanitized uniforms upon arriving at the spa.
•We have increased the number of hand sanitizer stations throughout the properties.
•Our team members are required to wash their hands after coming into contact with guests.
•Team members are also given frequent breaks for proper hand-washing.
•Team members are required to complete a COVID-19 screening, including temperature checks, to identify the presence of symptoms and reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure. In addition, team members have been instructed and are regularly reminded to not report to work if they have COVID-19 symptoms or if they come into contact with someone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or has a COVID-19 test pending result.
•Workspaces have been redesigned to enforce social distancing.
What are some of the changes you’ve made to your menu?
Following guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of Health and Pennsylvania Department of State, we are not currently permitted to offer facials, facial waxing or makeup services at both spas. Additionally, The Spa At The Hotel Hershey is not currently able to offer body scrubs; wet wraps; immersions; rain showers; hot stone messages; couples massages; Lomi-Lomi four-handed massages; and stone manicures and pedicures. However, we have adjusted our menu at The Spa At The Hotel Hershey to offer additional dry body wraps and new packages that highlight our available treatments and services.
How are you ensuring the safety of your staff and guests?
The health and safety of our guests, team members, and community members has been and will always be our top priority. Following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Pennsylvania Department of Health, Pennsylvania Department of State and the International Spa Association to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, our Spa operations have expanded and enhanced our already rigorous cleaning, sanitation, and disinfection procedures above our already high standards. We have increased the number of hand sanitizer machines throughout the properties and ensure social distancing is maintained between guests and team members. All guests over the age of two and employees must wear face coverings at our properties. We have also increased training for our team members to reinforce how we can take better care of our guests in the current environment.
We have shared our new health and safety enhancements to help keep our guests healthy and happy. We ask our guests to partner with us in following a few simple steps before and during their visit, all of which may be found in our safety guidelines on our site.
What does the future of hotel spas look like to you?
I’m very optimistic about our future. It will take a bit of time for full services to come back—but every indication we have to date shows a healthy consumer demand for spa services.
What do you think the future of our industry looks like?
We have a very strong industry that has successfully navigated through challenging times in the past. Like many spas, we have a well-developed guest base with a strong book or recurring business. Once we re-opened and we were able to reassure guests and team members of our commitment to safety through our enhanced heath protocols, we saw a strong desire for guests to return to a familiar place for relaxation and care. Importantly, this allows guests to separate themselves for a little while from the stresses of the day. In talking to our industry partners, we understand that many spas are seeing the same pent-up consumer demand—and we think that bodes well for the industry.
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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