Experts on how spas, salons, and other wellness centres would look in the post- COVID-19 world

By Roma Arora

The post-COVID-19 world would see major changes in the designs and structures of various spaces. One of the most popular aspects of the retail sector is the salons and salons which would witness some major design overhaul. Along with the design changes, there would be strict sanitisation process in place. In the hospitality sector, most wellness facilities have started focussing more than before on hygiene and creating dedicated areas for sanitisation.

Mohammed Ibrahim, The Wellness

Mohammed Ibrahim, CEO at The Wellness, one of the leading companies in providing spa and pools consultancy services in the region, shares: “As the wellness specialists we always put hygiene as one of the most vital considerations that influence our design. However, this now gained additional importance due to the current situation and the pandemic that we are living. There would be dedicated areas focusing on sanitisation. Reference to such requirements can be found in medical facilities, of course, these requirements for a wellness facility will never be as extreme as a clinic, however, it provides clear directions for the future spa design in general.”

Ibrahim further explains: “Moreover, a design approach to fit the current situation is to create more of an independent room (en-suite solutions) including most of the facilities needed for individuals, to ensure proper social distancing is kept, however the space availability and the revenue generation spaces will be quite challenging. Additionally, we have been researching with various companies to find new wellness experiences, which could be done as self-service, by the use of technology. I can see private wellness concepts will see a spike, where people will be having their own private spa, gym, pool, and kids’ concepts in their private homes.”

En-suite treatment rooms by The Wellness

Good design has always been the marriage between aesthetic and functionality but it’s now more important than ever to create spaces that are safe and reliable apart from being stunningly designed. Mihir Sanganee, design director at Design Smith, says: “This is an exceptional challenge for a multitude of industries like retail and hospitality where spaces have conventionally been planned to capture and cajole all senses of the consumer – touch is as important as, if not more, than sight. For the wellness sector, I believe there is a ‘pent-up’ demand among consumers to book themselves a massage or aromatherapy session. However, safety and hygiene will be the key success factors for spas and salons to survive and thrive in this day and age.”

Mihir Sanganee, Design Smith

Front of such spaces should be de-cluttered to offer a stress-free check-in and check-out experience – this does translate to the exclusion of lounging areas used between appointments to avoid unnecessary exposure to other visitors. Extending the appointment of sessions completely online will also help minimise human contact between staff members and customers.

Now more than ever, spas and wellness centres need to showcase their hygiene practices to their clients – wiping down surfaces, sanitising tools and purifying the air have moved from ‘back-office’ functions to consumer-facing protocols. Consequently, spaces need to be designed that showcase this safe environment without looking too clinical or sterile.

“The lack of human touch or interaction shouldn’t make the trip to the spa any less indulgent or impersonal – it won’t be about the specific details of the treatment or the breath of your services. It will be about your brand’s story you’re bringing to life and who is behind these experiences that are safely being offered,” adds Sanganee.

COVID-19 has brought about transformational changes beyond human imagination. Like anything new and at a large scale, the virus’ roots have run deep into modern society. It has affected the understanding of social interaction, the economy, and is now pivoting the way industries operate.

Nisreen Kayyali from Nisreen Kayyali Consulting Engineer

Nisreen Kayyali, managing partner and lead architect at Nisreen Kayyali Consulting Engineers, says: “Wellness centres of tomorrow will need to incorporate health and hygiene as a key tenet of their blueprint. Form and function will meet with the incorporation of easy-to-clean materials like glass and metal, as opposed to traditional soft and porous materials like wallpaper, dry walls, acoustic ceiling tiles, carpets, and bricks. Walls will have a hygienic coating that makes them resistant to changes in temperature and insensitive to cleaning chemicals. Hygienic paint contains an antimicrobial treatment, which reduces the risk of space growing mold and fungus.” A traditionally calming design feature at spas and wellness centres, water features like static ponds will become less common, given their tendency to become a breeding ground for disease-causing mosquitoes and insects. “Technology and nature will collaborate for human health and happiness, in the near future. Touch and voice-activated technology will eliminate the need to come into contact with public door handles, elevator buttons, and more,” tells Kayyali. In the post-pandemic world, the consumer universe will have to focus on being strikingly visual – this doesn’t translate to using an overwhelming palette of colours, patterns, and textures. Ibrahim concludes: “It means using methods like VR, branding and in-store spatial flows to create boundaryless channel integrations. Another aspect I foresee changing is wayfinding. Signage will now innately include social-distance markers, one-way flows, and health regulatory guidelines.”

8th Element Spa in Radisson Blue, Media City