WTS International

WTS International wellness

WTS International evolves with the demands of the hospitality industry

by continuing to introduce its services to new sectors.

By Janice Hoppe-Spiers

If WTS International – a premier leisure and lifestyle enterprise – does not sound familiar, it’s because the company is really good at what it does. However, its culture is to take a low profile. “We are the quintessential invisible, seamless enterprise that has become a brand in the spa, fitness and leisure industry to owners, developers and staff,” founder and President Gary Henkin says. “To the consumer, WTS is not a brand and that’s been purposeful. We purposely created this model of seamless integration into our client’s property so we don’t usurp their identity or control.”

In 1973, Henkin founded Washington Tennis Services in Washington D.C., as a tennis and racquet sports management company. The company began small and managed tennis programs; provided qualified personnel; developed the instructional, social and competitive programs; and executed those programs daily. “It was a brand-new concept,” Henkin says. “There was no model to go by and we were the first of its kind anywhere in the world.”

Washington Tennis Services began expanding its services from a focus on swim and tennis clubs in Washington, D.C., to include private golf and country clubs. In 1988, the company rebranded as WTS International and signed its first health and fitness management contract with a mixed-use real estate development in Washington, D.C.

WTS International WTS International went on to form distinct spa, fitness/wellness and lifestyle divisions and began providing consulting and management services in 1997 for its first spa client at a resort properties in St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands and in North Carolina. Today, the spa and fitness/wellness divisions represent the largest part of the WTS managed portfolio and produce about 70 percent of the firms’ revenue.

“The Lifestyle Division focuses on residential development properties that are not only interested in either a spa and/or fitness center, but may also have other leisure or lifestyle amenities such as a billiards room, business center, ceramics or photography studio, for example,” Henkin explains. “We create and manage a wide array of not only health, fitness, wellness and spa programs and services, but also recreational, educational and instructional activities, programs and events. Our clients in this area include many high-rise properties like condominiums and apartment complexes, as sell as single family home developments with a recreation or community clubhouse.”

Driving Results

WTS International specializes in planning/design consultancy pre-opening services and daily management. “A potential client may come to us for everything from a feasibility study to working with their architect and interior design firms on design issues, to pre-opening services and management. Everything a hotel, resort or restaurant does to open their doors, WTS does to open a spa, fitness or wellness complex,” Henkin says. “We hire and train the entire staff, create a spa or fitness menu, develop protocols and standard operating procedures. We do virtually anything needed to effectively open the doors through the grand opening.”

WTS International spaOnce the spa, fitness or wellness center is open, WTS International can also manage the facility on a turnkey basis. The company prides itself on operating these facilities under the radar for guests, members and/or residents. “We are, as a company, invisible to the consumer,” Henkin explains. “We become integrated into the fabric and culture of the entire hotel/resort, residential development or private club. To the consumer, WTS does not exist unless our client says they want us to take a high profile in promoting that their facility is professionally operated by our firm.”

WTS takes a team approach to the opening and operation of a leisure facility. This includes a wide infrastructure of resources, support, training and education, all of which is supportive of the spa, fitness or leisure facility staff. “We have a track record of proving that our infrastructure materially impacts three significant areas that are our clients are usually interested in: revenue generation, bottom line results and the quality, consistency and standards of the guest, member or resident experience,” Henkin says. “Clients want to know that in bringing our company to the table that the financial and operation results they can expect are going to be better than and greater than the results that they would produce themselves if they were to operate the facility internally.”

WTS charges as a fee-based consultant and operator, which Henkin says represents a moderate cost for clients. “The way we can earn additional income is by producing on the bottom line; our clients like that model because it not only incentivizes us to drive revenue in a spa or commercial/for-profit facility, but to manage expenses appropriately in order to produce positive net operating income on the bottom line,” he explains. “Driving revenue and bottom line results and producing a very high-end level of guest or member experience are the reasons our company is hired by clients throughout the world.”

Seamless Integration

WTS’s model does not take away its clients’ identity, control or authority. The company operates more than 125 properties throughout the world and is consulting at any given time on 30 to 50 projects on a global basis. “We offer à la carte services all the time,” Henkin notes, “So management is not a requisite for our company. That said, we are an operator fundamentally and facility opening and operations is what we come to the table to do.”

To ensure a seamless integration into its clients’ facilities, WTS’s more than 2,500 employees are trained to understand the ways in which they are to perform day-to-day duties and responsibilities. “Employees understand that although they are on the WTS payroll, they also report directly to the client or the client’s representative. They are themselves integrated as we are as a company seamlessly into the fabric of the property,” Henkin says.

WTS credits its five-star training and management program for the ease in which employees are able to understand the relationship between themselves, WTS and the property. “We are a one-stop shop for real estate developers, property firms, architects and owners who want diverse leisure and lifestyle services offered with the highest quality and standards at their sites,” Henkin says.

The company offers its employees a plethora of resources and support, including its proprietary Knowledge Ketwork. The WTS Knowledge Network allows its key management staff and facility managers to share new ideas, trends, marketing/promotional initiatives, recommendations and better ways to drive revenue and enhance guest experiences. WTS spent three years developing the Knowledge Network and is now in the second iteration of the system.

“The more we can do to educate our staff, the better they are prepared to launch and manage their facilities for success,” Henkin says. “We have received positive feedback from both staff and clients on the new system, which is just one of the many support, training and resource systems we bring to the table on their behalf.”

New Sector

For decades, WTS focused exclusively on building its reputation in the U.S. market. However, the company’s overseas business has grown exponentially in the past five years and currently WTS is capable of doing business anywhere in the world. “Right now 80 percent of our business still comes from the United States and about 20 percent is international,” Henkin notes. “However, the percentage of international business is growing about eight to 10 percent per annum and we expect in a few years the work we do overseas will equate to the work we do domestically.”

WTS International medispaOne of the major trends in the hospitality industry has been the embrace of wellness. “I’m not suggesting the word ‘spa’ is being phased out, but if you look at the Global Spa Summit, which is an annual gathering of professionals in the spa community, that conference has changed to the Global Wellness Summit,” Henkin says. “The market for wellness and lifestyle services is growing exponentially throughout the world not only in the hospitality sector, but also in residential, private club and real estate developments globally.”

To that end, WTS has become more involved in medi-spas and in the opening and operation for spas and multi-use leisure complexes skewed to wellness services, expects that sector to be an area of significant growth. The company is also planning to diversify into the golf world. “It’s likely in 2018 we will be launching a fifth division of the firm, a Golf Division that will have us fully capable of opening and operating golf courses and clubs,” Henkin says. “That business is now seeking our services in this area.”

In 2018, WTS will entertain more opportunities to create unique concepts and brands for clients while exploring an option to create its own branded spa and wellness concept. “The words ‘brand’ and ‘wellness’ are two relatively new words that have injected themselves into the lexicon and we are paying attention to that and are moving very swiftly to answer those questions that new and existing clients have about wellness,” Henkin notes. “Wellness, medi-spas, golf and the brand issues are the big discussions and initiatives that are evolving from 2017 to 2018.”

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