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Redefining Indigenous

By: Richard Williams
Posted: June 4, 2008, from the February 2007 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

page 4 of 5

Embracing indigenous products and services does come at a price, and there are a few issues that should not be left ignored. For instance if your target market is from the West, there are certain standards and expectations one must meet. The standard of service must at least meet expectation, hopefully delivering something more memorable, and go beyond the expectation of a client. In Thailand, for instance, it is well-known that the service standard will be very high, particularly the warmth and care delivered. Communicating in English or in a foreign language often is the challenge, and a good business must offer support in regard to education and training.

Having indigenous products, especially those that can be ingested, also can cause concern if there is no authentification. A U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval may not be found here. But this is something that slowly is changing as tests and research are formalized and certification and warranty develop.

Service standards

Expatriate and Western clientele may not be accustomed to certain styles of body therapies. This means certain flexibility is needed in the spa environment as well as sensitivity to clients’ needs. Not every guest enjoys the pummelling and the stretching, and in your spa it may be that the therapists have no formal qualification. More spa educational institutions are opening throughout the region, and with the help of more formal universities in the West such as Stanford in California, Asia will see the bar being raised higher as spa therapists and management manpower graduate with international qualifications. This also means that indigenous services are appearing in spas with solid standard operating procedures, and in training institutions with governmental support.

Local and regional spa associations are actively working toward better standards of service, education and professionalism in their own chapters. Therefore, it would be most favorable to affiliate with an association and work together toward giving indigenous wellness programs and services more kudos to help raise the standard, and by doing so, maintain service delivery and client retention.

It’s always great to experience new cultures, each with its own cuisine, lifestyle, rituals and belief systems. What also is advantageous, particularly to destination resort spas, is that nature plays such an integral part of everyday life and spas may epitomize this with their ambiance and the indigenous products and services. Again, these originate from the local plants and natural resources. Using water features, natural environments, outdoor settings and organic materials such as local wood, stone, thatching, plants and flowers, spas can create a very special sanctuary in which to instill health and wellness to those who visit.