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SPA Guru: Susan Harmsworth

By Inese Timuka . 10.07.2009

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Bestriga.com had the chance to met the chief executive and founder of ESPA International, Susan Harmsworth, who has become one of the most respected global authorities on spas, to find out more.

 

The luxury "5-star" spa complex ESPA opened in central Riga at the beginning of April 2009. Located in a beautifully renovated 6-storey Art Nouveau building on Baznicas Street, built into the Reval Hotel Latvia's complex of buildings in the same block, this is the very first spa complex of such high quality in the Nordic and Baltic region. A relaxation zone with heated pools, saunas, 24 treatment rooms and a personal touch, with plenty of expensive furnishings, you have to see it to believe it

Could you tell us a bit about the development of ESPA?

I have been in this industry for 40 years. I started my career in medical services, at a time when the word spa didn’t even exist. There was physiotherapy and a cure. I started a design consultancy to 5-star hotels in 1988 and at that time we couldn’t find good products for treatments. It gave me the opportunity to develop the products that you can see now and I launched ESPA, the brand, in 1993. At the moment I do concepts, but my 10 project managers take on the projects. We have 50 projects under construction worldwide at the moment. ESPA has become well recognized and clients know what to expect, but the spa industry faces different problems at the moment – everything is called a spa now and it's important to find the difference between a real spa and a so-called spa. So we have a total spa company and at the moment we don’t design spas unless we get to manage them. We've got around 205 spas globally in 55 countries. But there are many projects that have gone on hold because of the economic downturn.

What is the target audience for ESPA?

We have almost half-and-half women and men, which you can tell by our design – it's quite unisex. You might think it is for young people, but it isn’t. The young market, I mean people aged 25-35, they do come, but not so frequently. Usually it's the money issue. The 45- 60 age group is really strong, I think because of the health issues and people at that age do have a bit more money. We have a strong fitness market too. I wish I could have a fitness centre like this one in Riga in my home town! All our spas we make according to international standards. I think this spa centre is important for Riga. I’ve been talking to the British, Finnish and Spanish media and they are all really interested in Riga as a destination. Here you can stay at a reasonable hotel for a good price, and you can go to a 5-star spa. Treatments here are bit less expensive than in London, Hong Kong or Tokyo, so it's really good value for those who come to Riga.

Why did you choose Riga as the first place in the Baltics to unveil such a large spa complex?

Actually they choose me! But we really look for the right partners. We have made huge investments in building and training, we've hit the economic bad times, but we are looking at it in the long term. I really like Lithuania, but the right project hasn’t come yet. We currently have a project in Russia. Latvia was interesting for us as there are people willing to work there, the attitude is good, and I’ve noticed that a lot of people are fashion conscious. We felt it was great location as there is a lot of interest from Europe in Latvia.

Who will be the main client base – locals or foreigners?

I think it will be fifty-fifty, both locals and foreigners. It's important to show it to the locals and once they get to know it they will keep coming back. Then I think people from other hotels will come here too, once they know it's here. I really want to make it like a destination, no matter which hotel they're staying in. You know, for example in France it is common – people can stay at any hotel they want to, but visit the great spa for a day or more. The place is great – we just need to make it popular! Riga needs it and Riga is ready for it!

What's your personal favorite spa treatment?

I like one we have specially created here – the amber crystal chakra balancing treatment. It covers all aspects, whatever you need, relaxing or energizing. I really like all kinds of body treatments.

h8da91Mg8KEL 26.10.2015 07:39

Alexander from Netherlands, August 28, 2012 at 7:25 PM Idyllisch hotel in een oude
villa in een mooi park met prachtig uiczhtit over het . Mooi terras waar je kunt borrelen, dineren en ontbijten. Goed,
professioneel en vriendelijk personeel. Niet groot maar wel mooi zwenbad, tennisbaan. Unieke ervaring.

Reply

Rqnj2RNdhPY 26.10.2015 07:42

Markus from Switzerland, September 24, 2012 at 11:21 AM Besonders gefallen hat uns die
thrmuaafte Lage oberhalb des Gardasees mit beeindruckender Aussicht, die wunderbare grosszfcgige Terrasse, die herrliche
Vegetation und der gepflegte Pool. Hervorzuheben sind der ausgezeichnete Service und das hilfsbereite Personal.

Reply




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