You can take your hospitality skills into the most surprising places, and spas, golf clubs and leisure centres are just a few of them. Rosalind Mullen reports
Bet you can't think of many luxury hotels that don't have a spa nowadays. Most big hotel companies are investing millions in them - even if it's just a few therapy rooms. Those that have the space and the resources have been busy adding swimming pools, tennis courts, saunas, steam rooms and even golf courses.
That's right, leisure is big business. So you can be sure your customer service skills are in demand. It's not just beauticians and therapists who are being recruited, but also receptionists, managers and food and beverage staff.
Here we focus on jobs in hotel spas, but don't forget that you can carve your career in stand-alone spas or leisure clubs or even cruise ships and first-class airlines. Don't stress about it… go for it.
The Cluster Spa Manager Claire Caddick, 40
Where? Macdonald Hotels
Where did it all begin?
I qualified as a therapist 21 years ago, and besides running my own business for a while, I worked as a spa manager in a number of companies, for instance at Forte and De Vere. I've been at Macdonald Hotels for the past three years and I'm based at the Macdonald Holland House hotel, Cardiff.
What experience have you gained at this company?
We have about 64 hotels, 26 of which have spas, so I've been sent all over - particularly to oversee openings. I do a lot of product research and read a lot of trade mags. This is a way of life, not just a job. I've done extra training in holistics and Thai massage, as well as hotel training such as health and safety and manager programmes. I have to keep up to speed on the hotel side as I'm also the duty manager. I must be one of the few beauty therapists who can change a barrel of beer.
Any challenges ahead?
We're opening a Macdonald Holland House in Bristol in March, which will have a stand-alone spa. I've been working with designers and architects to make it workable. My main responsibility will then be Cardiff and Bristol.
What do you look for in recruits?
I get a lot of job satisfaction and I can tell those members of staff who will do well too. They're the ones who are motivated, ask questions and want to learn more. At Bristol we're looking for senior experience and specialists, say in nails or holistics. But we also want receptionists and food service staff and people who are newly qualified and want to learn their trade in a "happening" place.
Do you miss running your own place?
I'd never go back to working for myself. There are so many well-run places with backing that it's hard to compete. I'm on my own with two children, so it's nice to be part of a big company.
The Spa Manager
Helen Norman, 30
Where? Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London
Did you come from the hotel side?
No, I'm a therapist originally. I spent five years at college, starting out with a Btec in beauty therapy, moving on to aromatherapy and theatrical make-up and finishing with an HND in beauty management science, where I learnt all about setting up a business.
But they are transferable skills?
Yes, I've worked in all sorts of establishments with these skills - a high-street health and beauty shop, a sports centre.
What about this job?
I came to Mandarin Oriental in 2003 as assistant manager and was promoted the following year once I'd learned about five-star hotel service. I've done a lot of self-learning, and I've also taken courses in customer skills.
What hours do you work?
The same as the rest of the hotel. The spa is open from 7am to 10pm and I work the same sort of shifts as my staff, so I'm there at weekends and evenings, as and when I'm needed.
So the world is your oyster?
Absolutely. The spa industry is booming internationally, and Mandarin Oriental has exciting projects in Asia, Thailand and Hong Kong. This is a great company to work for. They really are committed to training and developing people.
The Head of F&B Operations
Martin Taylor, 30
Where? De Vere Belfry, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands
Do you have formal qualifications?
No. I worked for a hotel nearby when I finished my A levels and then moved here. I was planning to go to university but I decided I loved the hotel industry so I got on to the in-house management trainee programme that was run here in those days.
So you worked your way up?
Yes. I was promoted from within the business to take overall responsibility for F&B operations.
What are the challenges?
One of my first priorities has been to introduce a healthier menu in our Leisure café-bar, within the leisure and spa complex. I've got rid of heavy fried dishes and introduced fresh produce, a chargrill oven and upmarket products such as loose tea. The service style also has to be more relaxed.
And you grow your own vegetables?
Yes. I'm also responsible for our other outlets, including our French fine-dining restaurant, which is used extensively by the spa clientele. We've made changes to reflect the aspirations of our customers, such as cultivating culinary herbs, salads and vegetables on site for the first time to ensure maximum freshness and minimum food miles. The spa is focusing my mind on being greener - we've invested in a cardboard compactor and a paper shredder.
Have you lost any waiting staff to the spa? So far two members of staff have gone off to train at college and have come back as beauticians.
So how important is the leisure side to the hotel? It's very important. We're a four-star resort where customers park their car when they arrive for a leisure break and don't leave until they check out. There's no reason why they should, as we have the spa, gym, hair and beauty treatments, and the par-72 golf course of Ryder Cup fame.
What can I do?
OK, so you may be a hospitality professional through and through, but that doesn't preclude you from the spa and leisure sector. Here's a few jobs you could aim for:
- Leisure club manager.
- Spa manager.
- Regional manager.
- Café/bar supervisor.
- Café/bar staff.
- Catering/chef manager.
- Sales manager.