• Cyril McAree

The Irish Spa Association is leading the way back from COVID closures

As we approach six weeks of business closures and restrictions, Europe's hardest-hit countries are beginning to report promising gains this week and governments around the world were beginning to peel back lockdown measures in a bid to restore normal life and resuscitate crippled economies.

How will the beauty, spa and wellness sector look post COVID? A service that involves sitting with the client, holding the client’s hands and general physical contact. The inherent health risks mean that the beauty, spa and wellness operators are preparing to reopen to a ‘new normal’.

The Irish Spa Association has published a blueprint for Irish Spas and Salons to assist business continuity ‘’The need will remain, but the interface will change’’ says Anita Murray Co-Founder ‘’Guests visiting the spa will expect autoclave- sterillised tools, medical linen sheets and towels, and surfaces that have been disinfected with hospital-grade solutions’’ Peigin Crowley Co- Founder adds. We will meet the new expectations of our guests and our communities while retaining our caring core of empathy and wellbeing. When we reopen the doors, we’ve got to think about it from the client’s perspective. Clients may ask themselves, ‘’Is this going to be a safe visit for me? And should I do it or should I wait? “Most importantly, we will have to fine tune our processes now so that when the doors re-open we are a well-oiled machine. We will have to look at the entire client journey, from sending email, managing client opt-ins and so on. I think owners should create a video for their clients that shows empathy and safety, outlining all we’re going to do to protect them when they visit us. These will include Perspex shields, PPE equipment and possible covid testing’’ Dr Patrick Treacy the Spa Association’s Chief Medical Officer explained. The Irish Spa Association has drawn on expert knowledge from international authorities, leaders and government agencies to create a reactivation plan for the sector. While any reopening will be contingent on evolving public health advice the organisation is committed to supporting the 25,800 people directly employed within their remit (CSO, labour market figures Q4 2019). The vast amount of these employees have joined the live register on the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment. The association has also been actively hosting very succesful virtual webinars which have attracted a large international audience. The last sold out event which hosted Niamh O’ Connell the Vice President of Wellness for the Rosewood Group shared fascinating insights from Hong Kong and how we can adopt similar approaches to restart Irelands beauty, spa and wellness economy. With ticket numbers already at 250+, guests are invited to join the second event in the series May 7th 11am for an outline of ‘The Blueprint’ and a conversation around the ‘New Normal’. Registration for the Virtual Event can be taken here https://www.eventbrite.ie/o/the-irish-spa-association-wwwirishspaassociationie-26590258947

While optimistic, The ISA is under no illusion and many challenges lie ahead, The association has written to Minister Heather Humphreys and has called for a number of supports • Provision of financial support to enable the sourcing of PPE and also to make whatever other structural changes may be needed within the businesses • Direct the Revenue Commissioners to introduce a moratorium on VAT payments; Introducing a reduction of the VAT rate from 13.5% to 9% for services to support the recovery thereafter • Direct the Department of Social Protection to halve the rate of Employer PRSI contributions; Irish Spa Association pr@caci.ie 012166693 • Support an interest-free holiday freeze on all loan repayments for those whose earnings have stalled; • Suspension of commercial mortgages, rents and rates to ensure liquidity for businesses. • Funded grants to ensure liquidity of companies.

It is essential government includes spas and the resource partners vital to their operation in all considerations. Irish people have become accustomed to visiting the spa as part of an overall approach to their health and wellness that includes stress reduction, mental well-being and therapeutic services such as massage. Our industry will play a vital role in the recovery process for Irish people and as the COVID-19 crisis has reminded us, the health of those in our country cannot be taken for granted. Thank you for taking the time to read and consider our letter


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