After a short stay at a hotel in Munich last week, the ever contemporary question ‘what is a spa?’ lingers in my head. 

Every Hotel needs a Spa! Really?

Is a Spa any place that has a massage table and some form of heat experience? Or can we only call a 3000 m2 wellness temple a proper spa?

And if we consider anything in between a spa, does every hotel need a spa?

Well, actually, to me the answer to the first question is easy: yes, I would consider many different variations of offers in product width and depth and sizes a spa. For me, there is no black-and-white only definition of spa (besides the technical definition of a spa being a mineral spring considered to have health-giving properties. This definition however does not apply to this article).

I say that many different types and kinds of spa facilities can foster health, wellbeing, beauty, fitness etc.

A smaller spa with only lets say a steam bath, a sauna, a pool and two treatment rooms, can be just as lovely a wellness temple with maybe 10 different saunas, indoor- and outdoor pools, natural bathing pond, 12 treatment rooms, yoga studio …. you get my point.

The real question here is: what is needed? These three simple words make or break the real deal.

Target Group

Is it only all about the target customer? The ‘persona’ of a business that is to be targeted? 

Definitely an important concept to be considered when designing a spa for a hotel:

  • who is the target traveler for my hotel?
  • what do these people expect?
  • what do they need?
  • how much time do they spent in my hotel, for which activities?
  • how much money on average do they spend during their stay and for what?

So this is really about what a business SHOULD offer, deriving from the expectations of guests.


Besides designing offers for your target group, I believe it is equally important for a business to consider what it is they CAN offer.

Yet it is not only about what a business can offer. Everyone can theoretically offer everything. But the real question is: what can we offer very well? 

Or better still, what can we (as in a business) do best?

Once a business defines their core competencies, the subsequent decision comes just natural: amongst the offer we can do best, which ones can we afford?

Too theoretical? Ok, let’s have a look at an example:

Le Méridien Munich

My husband and I decided on very short notice to spend a night in Munich (for which we paid ourselves). Since we were meeting an acquaintance coming from the airport and moving on by train the next day, we were looking for a convenient and easy location to meet.

The area around the main railway station in Munich looked suitable, as it offers easy access to both, the train to the airport as well as to long distance trains to Frankfurt.

We pre-selected three options online, all located within a few hundred meters around the station.

Between the Sofitel (I have written a spa review about their spa here), the 25hrs Hotel, and Le Meridien, we were only able to get a room at the Meridien.

As I did not know this particular hotel, I looked up the website, and was rather surprised to see pretty unfavourable guest reviews about cleanliness and service levels.

Something, by the way,  I cannot confirm after my visit.

every hotel needs a spa Anja Eva Keller Petruccelli TalkWellness

The Hotel Room

We were given a standard double in colours yellow and black (matching the overall artsy look of the hotel), which was generous in size. Clean, comfortable with the usual facilities like desk, TV, free wifi.

The hotel must have undergone some renovations, the overall ambience is modern and kind of artsy.

Only the bathroom was not to my liking, it was pretty tight with a small single sink, a shower, a bathtub (waste of space for my taste in a hotel room), and toilet (I prefer toilets separate from bathroom).

Since we were only staying one night we went by ok, but I would not have wanted to stay longer, having to manoeuvre around my husband brushing his teeth while I try to put my mascara on every morning.

every hotel needs a spa Anja Eva Keller Petruccelli TalkWellness

Overall Service

We had direct contact with hotel reception, the doorman, a lady at the coffee counter in the hotel lobby, a barman, and a spa receptionist. I am happy to confirm that they all were very friendly and efficient.

Only the bartender in the bar at night  – though very friendly once he served us – did not seem to have much interest in his guests and neglected us for longer period of times.

The Spa

The Spa is called ‘Emotion Spa Munich’, which I really found misleading.

It is located underground and has hence no day light. The lift opens right in front of the spa reception, which is nice, as you do not need to find your way.

every hotel needs a spa Anja Eva Keller Petruccelli TalkWellness

Besides (I counted 3, maybe there is one or two more) the simple treatment rooms with treatment table, I found a rather large Finnish Sauna, a steam room, a gym, and a surprisingly long indoor lap pool with a separate jacuzzi.

every hotel needs a spa Anja Eva Keller Petruccelli TalkWellness

Yet everything looked rather outdated to me, maybe you could say even a little neglected. 

every hotel needs a spa Anja Eva Keller Petruccelli TalkWellness

I went at 9 am, and besides a gentlemen working out at the gym (Technogym Equipment), I was by myself.

every hotel needs a spa Anja Eva Keller Petruccelli TalkWellness

And wondered. 

Why would you need a such a huge Sauna operating at this time of the day?

For whom is the large pool for? Children? Probably not primarily, as the hotel would most likely cater for business or city travellers.

Maintenance for these facilities must eat up any revenue generated by treatments.

If I were a business traveller staying at this hotel, which of the spa facilities would I use?

Definitely the gym. Maintenance for gym equipment is foreseeable. No extra staffing needed really. 

The Pool? Maybe. Yet I would certainly not lie by this pool side in a rather unattractive underground area. No view. No specific relaxing atmosphere. For a swim? Sure! Yet a smaller pool, maybe with a counter current jet would perfectly do for that reason.

Sauna and Steam Room? Yes, however I wondered why this kind of hotel would needs a Sauna that sits 10 people?

every hotel needs a spa Anja Eva Keller Petruccelli TalkWellness

Treatments? Maybe, if I needed a facial treatment or a massage after a long journey or a hard working day. So why not make the treatment rooms attractive? Or offer in-room treatments instead? Treatments offered at the Emotions Spa use solely Babor products. No second brand to choose from.

The Spa Menu seems to be a duplicate of other Babor Spa Menues, not a tailored Menu to the very place. Although the menu reads: ‘…the following treatments were exclusively created for Emotions Spa….’. Yet at a close look, packages containing of a body peeling, a body massage and a facial are not what I call ‘signature’, nor innovative, nor directed at a specific guest group.


What about specific treatments for travellers? New technology?

Self-administered services?

I have not seen any figures for this very spa, however wonder how much sense it makes from a business point of view to the provider… I guess the spa cannot be very successful financially, and resulting measures taken may likely to be cost cutting only.

My recommendation

Not every hotel needs a spa. And not every hotel needs all spa offers that the industry proposes.

And if a hotel feels the need to offer spa facilities, I can only highly recommend to hire an innovative spa consultant. Together you review objectives, philosophy, and offers that make sense to both, the business and the customer.

Anja Eva Keller Spa & Wellness Consulting