How the ‘wellness industry’ is growing in Yorkshire

It’s two days before Yorkshire’s newest luxury country house hotel opens its doors following the multimillion-pound restoration of a dilapidated mansion and the pressure is on.

Lady Masham at Swinton Park Hotel Picture Tony Johnson.

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The spa at Swinton Park

Over the last three years, owner Valeria Sykes has overseen the transformation of Grade II* listed Grantley Hall in Ripon into a 47-bed country retreat and spa where rooms will start from £345 per night.

It’s been a labour of love for Sykes after she decided to buy the 18th-century property while driving past it one afternoon with her partner, Colin Little.

Now, with just hours to go until the first guests arrive, furniture is being unpacked and rooms are being dressed as everything finally comes together.

A key feature of the hotel is the Three Graces Spa – named after the goddesses of charm, beauty and creativity – and a luxury gym, including an 18-metre indoor swimming pool, indoor-to-outdoor hydrotherapy pool, sauna, steam room and snow room.

‘Wellness’ is a huge buzzword in the spa industry and the latest drive towards healthier living spells big opportunities for hotel spas like Grantley Hall.

Gone are the days when a spa meant hiding a sauna and steam room in the basement.

These days spas are evolving. The new wellness movement takes a holistic approach, embracing unusual therapies, meditation and nutrition.

The million-dollar question for businesses is whether pandering to some of today’s exotic and even bizarre trends will help your bottom line.

Although ‘wellness’ is at the centre of what Grantley Hall will offer, according to spa manager Jane McPherson, its offering is not about chasing the latest trends.

The philosophy behind the Three Graces Spa and the ELITE luxury gym is based on balance and achieving a unique state of equilibrium.

The experiences offered by the spa revolve around Greek mythology and ancient Indian and Chinese therapies.

“We’re not looking to run after the latest craze; we want to help people achieve healing and balance and make the best of themselves. At the end of the day if you look and feel your best, you perform your best,” says Ms McPherson.

While the spa is focused on the healing properties of the past, the gym is very much focused on the future.

As well as the usual gym equipment you would expect to find, it also features a cryotherapy chamber, altitude training facilities, underwater treadmill and 3D body scanners, taking thousands of individual measurements to help assess body-shape composition and health metrics.

“We cater for everyone, from those starting out to professional athletes,” says ELITE director Duncan Roy. Meanwhile, down the road, Rudding Park’s £9.5m spa in Harrogate is one of the front runners when it comes to offering the latest spa trends.

Sunlight therapy, an oxygen chamber, woodland glade treatment room and even cannabis treatments, its commitment to bringing new experiences to their guests have helped to make the spa a ‘phenomenal success’, according to spa director Matthew Mackaness.

“If you look at the extent of our facilities compared with other spas, we have set a bit of a trend,” he says. “When we opened we were one of the UK’s most forward-thinking luxury spas.”

The £9.5m venue, which opened with great fanfare in May 2017 and was promptly named the UK’s Best New Spa at the 2017 Good Spa Guide Awards, also features a roof-top experience, with herbal bath steam room, foot spas, saunas with panoramic views, an outdoor hot tub and infinity pool.

Earlier this year, it spent over £100,000 on its new sunlight therapy and oxygen rooms. “We are continually looking at new and exciting offerings,” adds Mr Mackaness.

Rudding Park is also one of the first spas in the UK to introduce a range of treatments using Cannabidiol products. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a naturally occurring constituent found in the cannabis plant, which can be used to treat anxiety and pain relief.

“We’ve had a fantastic response from guests since we launched it a few weeks ago,” says Mr Mackaness.

Further north, near Masham, Swinton Park, which opened a new £8m country club and spa, adjacent to its 32-bedroom hotel and cookery school in 2017, is tapping into the wellness market by using the outdoors to entice guests. It offers therapies such as ‘forest bathing’ – the Japanese practice of spending time in a forest to reduce stress and feel a sense of wellbeing, yoga retreats and complementary therapies.

The spa features an 18-metre indoor pool, a 10-metre outdoor natural pool, an outdoor hot-tub, indoor hydro pool, plus two saunas, steam rooms and foot spas and eight treatment rooms.

Owner Lady Masham – better known as Felicity Cunliffe-Lister – intends to tap into the “wellness” trend further and collaborate with the hotel’s cookery school.

“Wellbeing is a growing market and the spa market is constantly evolving. Hopefully, we have enough flexibility for the future,” she says

But with hotel spas competing to unveil ever more dramatic treatments, what is the potential return on your investment for owners?

Rudding Park Spa’s success has led to a £10 increase on the hotel’s average room rate and has improved its occupancy rate during the quieter months.

The spa has also led to double-digit growth. Rudding Park is expecting to top £20m in turnover this financial year, a 19 per cent rise, compared with single-digit increases before the spa was built.

Meanwhile, turnover at Swinton Park in Masham has grown by almost 30 per cent since the spa opened. Pre-spa, turnover was £3.56m. This year it hit £4.6m – a 29.6 per cent increase.

In its latest accounts, spa revenue was £900,000, 12.5 per cent growth on the previous year’s £800,000 figure. The hotel’s occupancy rate has risen slightly to 81 per cent and room rates have also increased.