January 15, 2015

Peninsula Hot Springs: In hot demand

In 1992, Charles Davidson was living in Japan enjoying their local hot springs when he heard that hot geothermal water had been discovered just 90 minutes from Melbourne. Today, his team at Peninsula Hot Springs welcomes on average more than 1,000 people a day, all year round.

Winner of the 2014 World Luxury Spa Award for Best Luxury Mineral Spring Spa, Peninsula Hot Springs in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula, is facing a serious challenge and one many businesses dream of – keeping pace with increasing demand.

The usual marketing response to being too popular is to keep raising your prices but that’s not something we want to do,” says Norm Cleland, General Manager of Peninsula Hot Springs.

“The other alternative is to expand and, with 16-hectares of natural bushland, we do have plenty of room to construct more pools and changing rooms, as well as a wellness centre where people can stay,” explains Cleland. “The problem is finding a time when the work won’t disturb either people enjoying the spa or our neighbours. We’re open from 7.30am to 10pm seven days a week and, because the Mornington Peninsula is such a quiet place – sound travels a long way at night, so it isn’t easy.”

Japanese inspiration

The Peninsula Hot Springs story began in 1992 when Charles Davidson was living in Japan. He’d been enjoying the local hot springs when he heard that hot geothermal water had been discovered just 90 minutes from Melbourne. Davidson and his brother Richard bought land over the spring and later, Cleland, who had also lived in Japan, joined the business. At the time, it was little more than a 637-metre-deep hole in the ground and a lot of hard work lay ahead. In June 2005 the spa was finally ready to open.

Today, Peninsula Hot Springs offers pools and private baths filled with natural, thermal mineral waters. Bathing experiences include a cave pool, reflexology walk, Turkish steam bath, sauna, cold plunge pools, a family bathing area and a hilltop pool with 360-degree views of the ocean and surrounding countryside. Guests can also enjoy pampering spa treatments including Australian Aboriginal-inspired kodo full body massages, facials and mud and salt wraps.

Year-round popularity

While traditionally a winter indulgence, Peninsula Hot Springs was originally busiest during the December/January school holidays – two months of the year when the area’s population grows by tens of thousands. Now, with an average of more than 1,000 visitors a day, it’s proving popular all year round.

“We’ve been surprised by how little people are affected by the temperature,” says Cleland. “And of course, they can enjoy the massages and treatments whatever the weather.”

Customers range from families with young children to retirees and everyone in between. The spa is proving particularly popular with groups of young women with as many as seven hen’s parties every Saturday. And now they can cater to tour buses, international tourism is also a growing market.

“People all around the world are awakening to the benefits of the kinds of treatments we offer,” says Cleland. “We’re becoming better-known internationally and are starting to get direct inquires.”

For three years in a row, Peninsula Hot Springs was named Victorian Tourism’s Tourist Attraction of the Year, which could well be helping to fuel the interest. “I think this kind of recognition provides a bit of extra reassurance for people who are planning a visit from overseas,” he adds.

Inspiring feedback

Cleland is very proud of the awards but even more proud of the feedback from visitors.

“We put out comment cards for people to fill in and an overwhelming number say what polite, helpful and pleasant staff we have,” he says. “That’s really important to us because recruiting and retaining the right people is another major challenge – we employ 60 massage therapists alone. We work very hard to make sure they’re well-trained, happy and enjoy their working environment, so it’s very reassuring to hear that we’re getting it right.”

He advises anyone who wants to take advantage of the rapidly-expanding wellness industry to make people their priority. “Customer service is taken to a completely different level when the services you’re providing are, quite literally, hands on,” he says. “However beautiful the scenery and luxurious the surroundings, the single most important memory your customers will take away is the relationship they had with the people who are providing a very intimate experience.”

This article was first published in Business View magazine (Summer 2014). For more articles and interactivity, download the iPad edition of Business View for free via our app, NAB Think.

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